National Gallery, in the Louvre, or in the Friek in New York,rnmany of his greatest works remain in small Tuscan towns,rnhenee the need for a pilgrimage.rnI don’t know what the motives of these pilgrims mightrnbe—the desire to eommemoratc an anniversary or to performrnhomage to fashion or even to see beautiful pictures—but lastrnSeptember I ran into quiet and serious people—German, forrnthe most part, but also English and Italian. My own “pilgrimage”rnwas sheer aecident. A friend insisted upon takingrnme to see the Madonna del Parto in Monterehi. Monterchirnwas the hometown of Fiero’s mother, and it is typical of thisrnpainter that one of his most interesting works was stuck off inrna rustic chapel. The painting—whose poor state of preservationrnis the result of its exposure to the weather for man-rnlong years—is a very unusual depiction of the pregnantrnMadonna under a sort of pailion. Two angels pulling backrnthe curtains suggest a revelation, a theme that seems to bernechoed by the Virgin herself, fingering a sort of slash or gussetrnin the froirt of her dress that hints at the mystery swelling beneathrnthe folds. The painting is now housed in a separaternbuilding, where studies are being conducted toward an eventualrnrestoration. From Monterchi, I went to Borgo Sansepolcro,rnPiero’s native town, where the local museo civico—in additionrnto its fine permanent collection of his ownrnworks—featured the works of his students and colleagues.rnAt one poirrt in my travels I spoke with a sullen young ladvrnwho stood ostentatiously outside a museum, displaying a contemptrnfor art that was tiresome in Mark Twain 100 years ago.rnAs a good American college kid, she found all this reverencernfor pictures vaguely disgusting and did not hesitate to say so.rnSo much for the liberal arts education.rnIn a nutshell, here was the conflict between the old bourgeoisiernand the new middle class, which in North Americarnpasses for an aristocracy. The American elite and its childrenrnare pampered barbarians who lack the patience and disciplinernthat are needed to do anything for its own sake; they are whiterntrash with six figure incomes, and four years at Harvard orrnYale or St. John’s do little to wean them from the culture ofrnjeans, fast food, and commercial music. They have the moneyrnto afford two weeks in Paris at a hotel where they neverrnneed to hear a word of French spoken, and when they return,rnthey can only bring back purchases, not experiences. Earlierrnempires trained imperial classes to enjoy, while administering,rnthe provinces. Ours cannot write standard English, learn arnforeign language, or keep their trousers zipped.rnA week or so later I found myself, for no good reason, inrnArezzo, which happens to be home to the church of SanrnFrancesco, whose walls arc adorned with the greatest frescoesrnpainted by Piero della Franccsca or, indeed, by anyone. Itrnwas only in Arezzo that I realized that 1 had become, like sornmany others, a pilgrim eager to seek out the odd places wherernPiero’s works are found. I even intend to accept the next invitationrnto New York in order to see his paintings in the Friek,rnone of the most pleasant museums in the United States.rnI realize in looking back oer the years that I have most enjoyedrnmy time in small museums, particularly the jumbledrncollections of local antiquities in which the visitor has to playrnexplorer in an uncharted wilderness. I have never acquired arntaste for Etruscan art, but the museum in Chiusi is a wonderfulrnplace to appreciate that race of gloonw hedonists. ThernAshmolcan in Oxford is justly famous for its Attic vases, and Irnthink I enjoyed the mediocre collection in Orvicto even more.rnHere in the States my faxorite museums include the Taft inrnCincinnati, the old Taft mansion that holds the family’s collectionrnof furniture and paintings. (It has been years, but I rememberrnSargent’s beautiful portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson.)rnOn a grander scale, the Freer in Washington, with itsrnWhistler room and collection of Chinese art, is a wonderfulrnplace to waste a rainy day, and when I lived in San Francisco Irnused to spend hours in the Legion of Honor, as much for thernlocation and grounds as for the collection. (Grudgingly, Irnhave to concede that on weekday mornings, there is a quietrndignity to the old section of the National Gallery in VVashington.)rnThe best museums, howex’er, are quirky, local, and unplanned,rnnaively reflecting the taste of generations of collectors.rnApart from the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican is worth arnvisit. Despite the pretense of organization, the Vatican’s museumsrnare the papacy’s vast lumber room. There are miles ofrnsecond-rate Roman copies of Greek sculpture that impressrnus with the tedium of empire, while arousing our envy for thernhigh level of mediocrity the Romans achieved in their commercialrnart.rnThe fact remains that no one interested in art can avoid thernLouvre or the Met or even the Ufhzi. These museums, however,rnfunction like textbooks. You go there to study, to learn,rnto make notes, and if by accident vou find yourself in a cjuietrnroom on an off day, you might even be able to enjoy looking atrna few pictures. The real pleasures of art, however, lie elsewhere:rnin churches and private collections, in small local museumsrnand public squares where sculptures arc pitted by wind,rnrain, and the poisonous exhaust of millions of automobiles.rnOne cannot program pleasure or design delight. The morernwe anticipate a pleasure, the more it eludes our grasp. I havernheard many brilliant performances b’ fine musicians, but Irnhave never enjoyed anything more than a Brahms First playedrnby the Pittsburgh Symphony, because I did not know I was goingrnuntil IS minutes before the performance.rnI have a drop of sympathy for the sullen young lady whornopenly declared her contempt for pictures. At least she wasrnnot one of those unctuous and false-hearted connoisseursrnwho drool over paintings like so many New Yorker ads. It isrnbetter to be an honest vandal, whose greatest pleasure is tornsmash the Portland Vase or spray-paint the Sistine Chapelrnwith obscenities.rnTake no classes in literature or music appreciation, if you canrnaoid them; attend no lectures and read no interpretive books.rnLearn to draw or play the piano; write vers de societe, if yournlike, if you want to understand technique. Talk to unpretentiousrnfriends, but do not, for heaven’s sake, try to acquire culturernthe way vou adopt a “lifestyle” or learn accounting, ‘lbrnpractice an art seriously requires a commitment as demandingrnas marriage, but to enjoy poetry or painting is like falling inrnlove. It is stupid; it should not happen, and it cannot be explained,rnbut there you arc one daw listening to Mozart or seeingrnthe face of a young girl in church, and you are never thernsame for it. To plan for such an cxperieirce, to induce it artificiallyrnand to cultivate it with stimulants betrays a depth ofrne’il and corruption that has only been plumbed in the modernrnwodd, where the pursuit of innocence is the apotheosis ofrnvice. crn14/CHRONICLESrnrnrn