January 2019 | 2640-8511
The first issue of Italian Modern Art is devoted to Fortunato Depero – the subject of CIMA’s inaugural installation in 2014.
This study compares the activities of Fortunato Depero in New York to his fictional account of them. Depero’s first stay in New York in 1928–1930 was far from successful: in the midst of the Wall Street crash and its aftermath, his paintings failed to sell and his commercial enterprise in the city, the Futurist House, did not survive longer than a couple of months. The artist, however, created a myth out of his experience when he went back to Italy. For more than ten years, he wrote extensively about his American experience and dedicated several works to New York, in a variety of mediums. These expressed extreme enthusiasm about the city, as well as antagonism and even anger against it. After the fall of Mussolini, Depero returned to the ‘New Babel’ for two more years (1947–1949), which, again, proved a fiasco. Paradoxically for a Futurist, he was ultimately happy to leave the metropolis for a bucolic retreat in the suburbs of Connecticut. Depero’s ambivalent love affair with New York was part of the changing debate on Americanism that took place in Italy during the 1930s and, then, in the reconstruction years after World War II. This was a major avenue for Italians to define and re-define their own modernity, and Depero – in his idiosyncratic way – played a central part in this pursuit.
This paper juxtaposes the work of Mario Sironi and Fortunato Depero, investigating the contribution that Depero made to Italian painting during a critical time period (the year 1919 that followed the end of World War I), and discussing some of his visual references to the artistic tradition.
This study aims to understand Depero’s painting technique through the results of a broad process of multispectral imaging, performed on about fifteen paintings and various works on paper, including watercolor and tempera sketches, as well as drawings. It is the first investigation of this kind to focus on Depero and the largest one ever dedicated to a Futurist artist. A greater comprehension of Depero’s painting strategies can aid in the identification of forgeries – which, unfortunately, emerge frequently in his œuvre – and the dating of works that were post-dated by the artist. After analyzing the results of this study, we ascertained that some of the works examined were restored by the artist, partially re-painted, modified, and then re-signed. This paper focuses specifically on ten paintings that once belonged to the Mattioli collection, some of which are considered to be Depero’s masterpieces; new findings regarding other works examined are summarized in the last paragraph.