Biography & Bibliography, December 2022
JOHN THOMAS SPIKE(New York, NY, 1951) è uno studioso storico e critico d’arte tra i più conosciuti a livello internazionale; vive a Firenze, si è addottorato ad Harvard con studi su Mattia Preti di cui ha redatto il catalogo generale delle opere; è autore di determinanti ricerche e pubblicazioni oltre che sul mondo del barocco, su artisti del Rinascimento fiorentino quali Masaccio e Beato Angelico; ha firmato una importante monografia su Caravaggio che è stata più volte ristampata; ha diretto la Biennale d’Arte contemporanea di Firenze; collabora con numerose riviste italiane ed internazionali ed ha insegnato nelle più prestigiose università statunitensi; è consulente di varie istituzioni museali; ha organizzato e partecipato a mostre, convegni ed iniziative editoriali, con una vastissima attività nel campo della storia dell’arte.
-- Pietro di Loreto, https://www.aboutartonline.com, maggio 2019
Nel giugno 2022, in riconoscimento dei studi di storia dell'arte italiana e dei contributi passati e futuri all'istituzione della città di Taverna come centro internazionale di ricerca e valorizzazione dell'arte di Mattia e Gregorio Preti nonché del arte e della cultura del Sud Italia, il Consiglio Comunale di Taverna ha eletto Spike Presidente Onorario dell'Archivio Pretiano con sede nel Palazzo Gironda Veraldi, Taverna.
JOHN THOMAS SPIKE (born November 8, 1951, in New York City) is an eminent American art critic, art historian, museum curator and author known for his focus on Italian artists before 1800 (Old Masters) and a wide range of contemporary artists. Spike has balanced his career between residences in the United States and Florence, Italy.
John Thomas Spike earned his B.A. at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His doctoral dissertation was a ground-breaking study of the important Caravaggist painter, Mattia Preti (1613-1699). For his many books on Mattia Preti, including the Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings (1999), Spike is recognized as the world’s leading authority on the artist.
In 1997, the Comune di Taverna, Italy, awarded an honorary citizenship to John T. Spike, “for his fundamental contribution to the knowledge of Mattia Preti in the world”. Taverna is the birthplace of Mattia Preti who sent seventeen altarpieces from Malta to the churches of San Domenico and Santa Barbara in Taverna thus creating a museum of his art.
In June 2022, in recognition of his scholarship and past and future contributions to the establishment of Taverna as an international center for research and appreciation of the art of Mattia and Gregorio Preti as well as of the history of art and culture of Southern Italy, the Consiglio Comunale del Taverna unanimously appointed John T. Spike as the Honorary President of the Archivio Pretiano with offices in the Palazzo with Giuseppe Valentino, director of the Museo Civico of Taverna, the exhibition Gregorio Preti, “Pittore di buon nome”: Storia di una riscoperta.
During his career Spike has curated numerous exhibitions as guest curator for museums worldwide. Italian Baroque Paintings in Private Collections, at Princeton University in 1980 was quickly followed by Italian Still Life Paintings from Three Centuries, National Academy of Art, New York, NY, 1983; Baroque Portraiture in Italy, The Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida, 1984; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, 1985; Giuseppe Maria Crespi and the Emergence of Genre Painting in Italy, Kimbell Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1986. Soon after his transfer to Florence he was asked to catalogue the collection of drawings by Giuseppe Maria Crespi at the Uffizi, 1993.
In 1994 Spike began a multi-year productive consultancy with the historic Biblioteca e Civico Museo of Urbania which resulted in more than ten exhibitions and publications in collaboration with Feliciano Paoli, director, including Federico Barocci, Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri Domenico Peruzzini: Tre Disegnatori delle Marche nella Collezione Ubaldini. This relationship is continuing with the exhibitions in the Palazzo Ducale of Urbania, of Il Ritratto di Francesco Maria della Rovere di Tiziano (2019) and Il Cardinal Bessarione Abate a Casteldurante e Federico da Montefelto (2022).
Spike’s numerous international recognitions for his research in Italian art and culture include an honorary citizenship awarded by the town of Taverna, Italy, in 1997; the Premio Anthurium, 1998, the Annual Medal of the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Messina, 2001, the Premio Anassilaos, 2002, and Man of the Year by the Tuscan-American Foundation in Florence, Italy 2005; and the appointment by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2013 to the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, in recognition of his studies of Caravaggio and Mattia Preti, both knights of the Order of St. John.
John Spike currently lives in Florence, Italy, and Williamsburg, Virginia, with his wife, Michèle Kahn Spike, a lawyer and biographer of Matilda of Canossa. Their son, Nicholas, lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Marcela de la Vega, and their son, Santiago Spike.
For a complete list of Spike’s Italian and Contemporary Art publications, click here.
Spike is the author of more than twenty culturally significant books which have been translated and distributed worldwide. He was a contributing columnist to The Burlington Magazine, Storia dell’arte and Art & Antiques, a member of the editorial board of FMR, and, for more than twenty years, general editor of The Illustrated Bartsch.
For the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Spike wrote Europe in the Age of Monarchy (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY, 1987, reprinted in several languages) and, with Paul Magriel, A Connoisseur’s Guide to the Met (NY, Random House, 1988).
Beginning in 1996, Spike wrote a series of major monographs on Masaccio (1996, Italian, French, and English), Fra Angelico (1997, Italian, French, German, and English), and Caravaggio New York: (2000, 2d edition 2010). In 2003-2004, Spike co-authored with Edmund Capon the catalogue for the exhibition, Darkness and Light: Caravaggio and his World Art, Gallery of New South Wales and National Gallery of Victoria, Australia.
In 2010, his biography, Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine (New York, 2010; London and Italian eds) was widely reviewed. “The Florence-based American is an immensely flexible writer who has produced a book of alternating pans and zooms…No art historian has got closer to Michelangelo than John T. Spike,” (The London Telegraph).
During his tenure as Chief Curator at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary, from 2012 until his retirement in February 2019, Spike curated and authored the catalogues for, major international loan exhibitions under the auspices of the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C.: Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti and A Brush with Passion: Mattia Preti (1613-1699) was part of the “2013 Year of Italian Culture” in the United States in cooperation with the Italian foreign ministry; Caravaggio Connoisseurship: Saint Francis in Meditation and the Capitoline Fortune Teller in 2014; Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty in 2015; Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting between the Medici and the Bonfire of the Vanities, with Alessandro Cecchi, in 2017 and In the Light of Caravaggio: Dutch and Flemish Paintings from Southeastern Museums in 2018. The Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli exhibitions traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Leonardo da Vinci y la Idea de la belleza also traveled to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, where it was visited by more than 200,000 people and called “a cultural phenomenon.”
Spike’s biography, Fairfield Porter: An American Classic (NY: Harry N. Abrams, 1992) drew acclaim for its discussion of this important figurative painter who struggled to achieve recognition in the post-war decades dominated by Abstract Expressionism. Spike has written numerous essays about contemporary artists, including “The Spirit of the Place”, in Richard England: Architect as Artist, ed. Joseph Borg, Maria Frendo (Malta: Midsea Books, 2022); “Fifty Years of Looking Good”, in Carole A. Feuerman: Fifty Years of Looking Good (Zurich: Scheidegger & Speiss, 2019); John Spike, Fred Eversley: 50 Years an Artist: Light Space and Energy, exh. cat. Williamsburg, VA, September 2 - December 10, 2017; “Richard Anuszkiewicz: Color Precisionist” in Anuszkiewicz: Paintings and Sculptures 1945-2001: Catalogue Raisonné, by David Madden and Nicholas Spike (Florence: Centro Di, 2010).
Spike directed the International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Florence, Italy between 1999 and 2005, which featured appearances by David Hockney and Christo and his wife, Jean-Claude. In 2005 the Lalit Kala Academy of Arts named Spike a juror for the Trienniale of India held in New Delhi, India. In 2016, on the occasion of its 10th anniversary, the Concilio Europeo dell’Arte in Venice, Italy, awarded Spike the Premio Paradiso for his essay on “Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty.”