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Charles H. Cecil Studios

Borgo San Frediano, 68, Firenze, Italy

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Charles H. Cecil Studios offers a thorough training in the classical techniques of drawing and oil painting. The curriculum stems directly from the leading ateliers of nineteenth-century Paris. Cecil was first trained in these methods by R. H. Ives Gammell of Boston, whose teacher William Paxton studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The tradition extends back through the French and British Schools to masters such as Titian, Van Dyck, and Velazquez.

Fundamental to the teaching is the practice of drawing and painting from life with no recourse to photography. Using the sight-size method, students are taught to stand back from the easel and depict the subject in a proportion true to life; in this way they learn to see the image as a whole from the start. When properly understood, sight-size is not merely a measuring technique, but a philosophy of seeing.

Weekly lectures and seminars trace the evolution of painting technically and aesthetically from the Renaissance. Students learn to perceive nature in light of the masters and through the humanistic values that underlie figurative art. They are also taught to prepare canvas and grounds, the hand-grinding of oil paints, and the making and use of mediums based on the analysis of historical accounts. The full academic year runs from October through June with breaks at Christmas and Easter.

July Intensive Course

The July Intensive Course is designed for those seeking an introduction to the classical techniques of the masters. Charles Cecil supervises the students individual progress with the help of studio assistants; he gives weekly lectures tracing the history of the figurative tradition. The following two courses are offered:

Figure and Cast Drawing Course. Students draw daily from the life model and plaster casts using the sight-size method. Poses are long enough to allow ample time for guidance as students develop their understanding of line and form, chiaroscuro and modeling. The aim is to concentrate a termís training into one month.

Portrait Drawing and Painting Course. The sight-size method has been used by portrait painters of the first rank like Reynolds, Lawrence and Sargent. Students are first introduced to sight size portraiture through charcoal drawing and then advance to oil painting. They learn to key their work to nature with the limited palette and are taught to use the studio medium for glazing techniques.


Charles H. Cecil Studios occupies the most historic Florentine atelier still in active use. Located near the medieval Porta San Frediano, the Chiesa di San Raffaello Archangelo was adapted as a studio complex by Lorenzo Bartolini in the early nineteenth century, and it has since witnessed generations of artistic activity.

Classes are held from 9 am. to 12 am. and 1 pm. to 4 pm. Monday through Friday.


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Charles H. Cecil Studios

Borgo San Frediano, 68

Firenze, Italy

Portrait of Zoe by Charles Cecil

Charcoal Drawing by Lynn Krol

Charcoal Drawing by Lynn Krol