Obituary: Cecil Gould
Friday 03 June 1994
CECIL GOULD was an art historian whose reputation will go on increasing. During a working life devoted to the National Gallery, high office and honours eluded him. Nor during his lifetime did his published work receive the recognition it deserved. Two kinds of writing will however ensure he is not forgotten.
Detailed scholarship, as definitive as it is meticulous, is the leitmotiv of his catalogue of the 16th- century Italian schools in the National Gallery, first published in two volumes in 1959 and 1962, and then reissued as a single revised volume in 1975, the year which also saw the publication of his Leonardo. His first important work, An Introduction to Italian Renaissance Painting (1957), was very different. Though equally careful in its use of facts, it went beyond its title, for Gould not only had a feeling for the relationship between painting and sculpture and the other arts, but also conveyed intimations of the sensibilities of the Renaissance.
Gould's breadth of understanding was rooted in his preoccupations. He was an insatiable traveller, above all in Italy, and had a passionate love of music, particularly of opera. Gould was a familiar sight at both Covent Garden and Glyndebourne.
The other place where he was often to be found was the Reform Club, in London. After his retirement from the National Gallery in 1978, where for the last five years he had been Keeper and Deputy Director, he moved to the country, but he continued until the end of his life to have a wide circle of friends in London.
He was also well known in academic circles, and one of the few honours that came his way, at the very end of his life, was when he was made a 'correspondant' (foreign associate) of tne Institut de France. Earlier he had contributed to the Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, and, in 1981, wrote Bernini in France. It had been preceded by Trophy of Conquest: the Musee Napoleon and the creation of the Louvre (1965), a study of Napoleon's acquisition of works of art.
Italy was, though, the main focus of his art-historical studies. In particular he turned to Parma, and his most important book published during his lifetime was The Paintings of Correggio (1976). It was the first major work on Correggio to appear in any language for over 40 years and will last much longer. Apart from the light this book throws upon Correggio's work, and no student of the Renaissance can ignore Gould's monograph, art historians will continue to turn to it as a model of how these things should be done.
Yet it is not being unduly optimistic to expect that an as yet unpublished book will come to be regarded as Gould's magnum opus. This is his monograph on another artist from Parma, Parmigianino, which he completed before his death, and which is due out later this year. Gould was perfectly suited to unravelling the complexities and contradictions inherent in the work of one of the most influential of Italian artists.
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