I’d been an undergraduate at the Courtauld for all of a month when the Arno burst its banks and flooded Florence on 4 November 1966. A few days later, all students were encouraged to gather in the glorious Adam room that masqueraded as our lecture hall. With its plaster ceiling roundels and monochrome wall decoration, it felt like an elegant drawing-room fallen on hard times. The speaker that day bore little resemblance to our usual lecturers. He was a heavily handsome, determined figure – about the same age as some of the younger staff but with an air of chutzpah that no junior art historian could muster. He strode down the central aisle, inveighing on recent events in Italy which were, he said, as much of a cataclysm to us as the Spanish Civil War had been to a previous generation of students. I was puzzled by the analogy – I still am – but from then on, Robert Hughes, who died earlier this month, was surfing on our attention.