Home Memorial Address
Memorial Address PDF Print E-mail
Article Index
Memorial Address
Page #
Page #
Page #
Page #

As is clear, I knew Michael not in the context of his family, but in the world of his professional life - at that stage the Courtauld Institute, later the Mellon Centre and Yale. And in that world, it has long been part of conventional wisdom that Michael Kitson was a phenomenon doubly rare: rare as the outstanding scholar critic of his generation, perhaps indeed of this century, who could explore a great work of art and never forget it was a great work of art. Rarer still - for we are a world notorious for our divisions and acerbities - he was a man not just respected but loved. For all - of whatever faction - were struck and disarmed by that unfailing courtesy of manner and that seemingly inexhaustible generosity of spirit. They are words one would want to use at any memorial service. We, all of us, know that this morning they can be spoken in truth.

It was no doubt in part Michael’s extraordinary range of interests - the bibliography now being compiled by the Mellon Centre shows him regularly writing over thirty years on topics from the Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century - that enabled him to win affection and find common ground with people of such diverse convictions. Art historians new or old, attributionists and Marxists, those beguiled by taxonomy or dallying with Lacan, all found it easy and enjoyable to work with Michael, and the Mellon Centre, in particular, benefited much from his capacity to bring disparate groups together in harmony. At times, this range of sympathy could appear ingenuous, almost naïve, but I believe it was the fruit of a profound moral discipline and continuous effort, although I would never have dared tell Michael that. Like George Herbert’s seventeenth-century Country Parson, confronting those in his Parish that held strange doctrines, Michael would 'make a very loving and sweet usage of them, both in going to and sending for them often, and in finding out courtesies to place on them…’ being himself always 'unmoved in arguing and void of all contentiousness’. In Michael’s conception of the art-historical church, everybody had a place.