Have you ever heard of the Grand Tour? If you haven’t, you’ve certainly benefited from it – in the 18th and 19th centuries young artists, composers and aristocrats from northern Europe, most especially England and Germany, used to tour the great cities of Renaissance Italy, adventuring in all sorts of dissolute ways but also learning the Classics along the way, not to mention witnessing the great art of Venice, Florence and Rome, and bringing this Enlightenment firmly into our modern consciousness. Byron, the Shelleys, Goethe – all found their muse on the Grand Tour. We would have no Frankenstein, no Childe Harold, no Faust if their authors had not had their artistic world view split wide open in the Uffizi, the Vatican and The Grand Canal Even Mark Twain, that great alderman of American letters, was by his own admission greatly affected in his writing by having made this rite of passage.
Today, a small British outfit with the succinctly appropriate name of Art History Abroad is helping people self-actualize by making the Grand Tour in our post-modern age. Can this old aristocratic tradition be democratized? Could deep immersion into the realm of art and beauty still be part of making a young (or indeed any age) person, a more rounded, more effective, indeed more empathetic individual, better able to tackle the vicissitudes of our own times?
Nick Ross, our guest on this edition of Live Free Ride Free, has demonstrated that yes, art, beauty, the Grand Tour can indeed set us free, Despite battling an early paralysis, endless setbacks and the perhaps inevitable – you cant make a living doing something so old fashioned – nay-sayers, has spent the past thirty five years dramatically opening up the world view of countless Brits, Americans and others, helping them find themselves through art – and its timeless, peerless wonder. Nick Ross has, one could say, self-actualized through helping others do the same. The arts, it seems, can connect us with the divine with ourselves. Listen on, for in many ways Nick has, frankly, pulled off the impossible.
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