Friday, March 13, 2009

Kirk von Durer, Art Historian: A Memorial

These past few years I've come to notice that just about anybody and anything can be found on the Internet. Conversely, it now seems that if something or somebody can't be found on the Web, it's as if they've never existed at all.

In my post of March 8th, I reproduce a travel journal entry of late December 1988, wherein I write of being in Florence, Italy, and going to a lecture on early Renaissance art given by an American art historian and gallery owner named Kirk von Durer. I had thought it would be nice to link to something about him. But when I Googled his name, nothing came up other than a reference to a poster on his lectures tipped into a book on art in the Uffizi that some dealer has for sale.

True, I hadn't expected anything current. Maybe six or seven years ago I was reading that entry in my handwritten journal and did a Web search for Mr. von Durer. But I came up with only a remembrance written by a friend of his: he had died suddenly, of cancer or some other disease, in the early or mid-1990s.

But by now, even that webpage has disappeared.

So in my small way on my small blog, I'm going to perpetuate the memory and existence of a unique person.

I know of Kirk von Durer little more than I put in my last entry. He was an American national resident in Florence for I don't know how long. Certainly long enough to become an institution. He was thoroughly trained in the history and aesthetics of Italian Renaissance art. He pitched his lectures to the interested amateur, using humor and liveliness as his vehicle, so that, when the visitor stood in front of the actual work of art the next day, she would know and appreciate what she was looking at.

Kirk von Durer loved his subject and he loved to communicate on it. Constantly, in the best sense of the term-- with constancy. His effort and energy were astounding. As I recall, he gave his lectures on Italian Renaissance art every single night at 8:30 PM. Maybe not on weekends, but even so, every single weekday night any interested English-speaking visitor could climb the stairs to his flat at the top of No. 20 Borgo San Lorenzo and for little or no charge could drink his Chianti, admire his view of the Duomo, and partake of his slides and his knowledge.

Kirk von Durer was a fixture in Florence in the late 1980s, and could have been for many more years, had he been spared to us. I doubt he could have been older than his late 40s when I met him; I certainly was shocked when I read that he'd died.

I haven't returned to Florence these past twenty years, but if in the future I do, it will be odd knowing that Mr. von Durer is not still there giving his witty and informative lectures.

Though maybe, like so many other things that linger in the atmosphere of that ancient and storied city, in some ghostly way he still is, and he still does.

Kirk von Durer, requiescat in pacem. And if any others who knew you or your work should come across this inadequate memorial, I urge them to post their own fuller, more accurate accounts, and keep your name alive in cyberspace. Because these days, that seems to be the place it really matters.


whiskers said...

I thought you might want to see this!


Daniel Lorenzetti said...

I knew Kirk well. Spent a lot of time with him in Florence in the late 1980's. Stayed with him...stood in at lectures for him...did walking tours of the Uffizi and the Pitti and Florence with him and for him and his clients. I even travelled in Italy with him. Went to many Siena Palios with him. When he died I was offered his business and his entire Scala slide collection by his friends in Italy. I was just married and could not move to Florence at that time. His name, address and phone number still remain in my outlook phone book all these years. He was a truly great man and very important to me in my younger years...Daniel Lorenzetti

KVS said...

I first went to several of Kirk's talks in 1983. They added so much to my appreciation of Florence and its art! Then in 1989 I went to Florence on my honeymoon and was delighted to see that Kirk was still giving talks. I told my wife we absolutely had to go and we went three nights in a row - it was one of the highlights of our trip. We are about to go back to Florence and I thought I'd see if Kirk was still giving talks. I'm sad to learn that he was taken from us so young. RIP Kirk.

Anonymous said...

I know Kirk von Durer from roughly`79 Munich, where he was before Florence. I visited him in Florence in `81 and `82. His real name was Herman Rudolph Pirchner III. He was from Cleveland, Ohio. Me and my buddies were friends with him for a while, but lost side more or less after `82.