May 2021 | 2640-8511
The fifth issue of Italian Modern Art – edited by Michele Amedei, Claudia Daniotti, and Nicol Mocchi – examines the importance of Marino Marini’s oeuvre in the history of modern Italian sculpture. Marino Marini (1901-1980) was the subject of CIMA’s 2019-2020 exhibition, Marino Marini: Arcadian Nudes, curated by Flavio Fergonzi.
Methodologies of Exchange: MoMA’s “Twentieth-Century Italian Art” (1949)
January 2020 | 2640-8511
This essay examines the crucial role that photography played in the affirmation and critical interpretation of Marino Marini (1901-1980) and Giacomo Manzù (1908-1991), two of Italy’s foremost modernist sculptors. Through a close comparison of photographs published in books, art journals, and magazines, the author demonstrates how the choices that photographers make when portraying sculpture greatly influence the legibility of a work. The importance of photographic reproduction became particularly evident in Italy during the 1940s: given the constraints that World War II imposed on the travel of artworks and the organization of art exhibitions, the circulation of photographs was a pivotal instrument in establishing the reception of Marini’s and Manzù’s sculptures, with significant reverberations in the postwar era. The photographers’ choices in terms of angle, cropping, backgrounds, and lighting thus provided a first, critical reading that is here thoroughly studied over the course of three decades.
The relationships between Italian pittura metafisica and German Neue Sachlichkeit have mostly been described in two ways: as the “history of an influence,” referring to the knowledge of De Chirico and Carrà among Grosz and other painters working in Munich and Berlin in 1919; or as “similar paths,” pointing out the autonomy of German early objectivity of Davringhausen or Schrimpf. The aim of this paper is to show that the relationship between these two modes of expression is, in fact, biunivocal, underlining figurative intercourses on both sides of their transnational encounter. I will consider the reception of the exhibition “Das Junge Italien” (1921) that showed postwar Italian art in Germany. Theodor Däubler’s writings and the early contributions by Franz Roh recognized how Valori Plastici group was linked to the rising idea of “objectivity” in Germany. Then I will focus on the category of Magic Realism elaborated by Roh in his important 1925 book Nach-Expressionismus, in which Metaphysical artworks play a central role as the roots of many features of the new painting. Many Italian artists were fascinated by metafisica as well as by contemporary German art. This mutual relationship can explain the internal coherence of Roh’s Magischer Realismus, shedding light to the lasting value of Metaphysical international language.
Metaphysics into Everyday Life: Traces of Metaphysical Painting in Italian Decorative Arts of the 1920s
This study addresses the process through which, during the 1920s, Metaphysical painting was appropriated by some Italian decorators. I assume that they actively responded to the novelties that were introduced by artists such as Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Carrà, Mario Sironi, and Giorgio Morandi, reflecting upon them and, when considered effective, adapting them for their own purposes. By doing so, they contributed to the definition of a particular Italian visual culture, which today we associate with the interwar period, and which had Metaphysical painting as one of its main references.
“Positively the only person who is really interested in the show”: Romeo Toninelli, Collector and Cultural Diplomat Between Milan and New York
Romeo Toninelli was a key figure in the organization of Twentieth-Century Italian Art, and given the official title of Executive Secretary for the Exhibition in Italy. An Italian art dealer, editor, and collector with an early career as a textile industrialist, Toninelli was not part of the artistic and cultural establishment during the Fascist ventennio. This was an asset in the eyes of the James Thrall Soby and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., who wanted the exhibition to signal the rebirth of Italian art after the presumed break represented by the Fascist regime. Whether Toninelli agreed with this approach we do not know, but he played a major part in the tortuous transatlantic organization of the show. He acted as the intermediary between MoMA curators and Italian dealers, collectors, and artists, securing loans and paying for the shipping of the artworks. He also lent several works from his collection, and arranged for the printing of the catalogue. A recent collector and gallery owner, Toninelli was mistrusted by many Italian critics and collectors, who suspected him of having commercial motives. Yet he arranged the practical side of the operations while intervening little in the decision-making about which artists to include – exactly as MoMA wanted.
Analyzing Toninelli’s role in organizing the pioneering display of Italian modernism at MoMA provides important insights into transatlantic cultural exchanges between Italy and the U.S. in the postwar period, and illuminates critical fractures of the Italian art system in the aftermath of Fascism. Were native-born critics and artists obliged to hand the narrative of modern Italian art over to outsiders who had not been compromised by the Fascist regime, or were they entitled to an account independent from the modernist vulgate promoted by MoMA?
Collecting art is usually seen as an individual occupation, motivated by personal passion, desire to possess, and economic investment. This paper suggests that there are social aspects of collecting that need to be considered as well. These aspects can lead to a form of “friendly competition” among local collectors. This is evident in the case of St. Louis and the collecting of postwar Italian art. Through interviews with family members and research into archival materials, this paper traces the identities of collectors (Pulitzer, Weil, Shoenberg, May, and Bernoudy) and examines the mechanisms through which productive rivalries arose. It concentrates on the collections of the Kemper Art Museum and the Saint Louis Art Museum, where one finds similar-looking works by Alberto Burri, Afro, and Marino Marini, made in the same years and bought by local collectors in the same period.
What were the relationships and connections that developed between St. Louis collectors of postwar art? How did this web develop into a community or social group, and how did this lead to donations of works to local museums? What were the relationships between these collectors and the 1949 MoMA exhibition Twentieth-Century Italian Art and its organizers? How did MoMA shows, prepackaged for further exhibition in the Midwest, influence collectors’ tastes? How did travel abroad to exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale affect acquisition habits? Whose opinion did the collectors trust and which dealers did they buy from? Such questions and their ramifications are discussed before the paper concludes with a consideration of the process through which St. Louis collectors were identified in Harold Rosenberg’s 1965 Esquire article on tastemakers in the field of contemporary art.
“Retourner le rêve à la manière d’une chaussette que l’on retire.” Alberto Savinio and French Surrealism
Although Savinio defined himself as a non-Surrealist painter, and the artist’s relationship with French surrealism has, in part, already been studied, this paper aims shed new light on Savinio’s relationship with the French movement during his second Parisian period (1926–33). This relationship will be analyzed both in terms of the artist’s participation in surrealist group initiatives and shared stylistic influences, focusing particularly on works from the same period by René Magritte and Max Ernst. Additionally, as the surrealists were also collectors, this presentation will address Savinio’s reception within the surrealist group—both as a painter and as a writer.
This paper analyzes one of the most ambiguous and enigmatic themes within the poetics of Alberto Savinio: that of the double, which continually resurfaces in the author’s work, taking on different meanings – from the concept of hermaphroditism to that of half-death, and from those of the mask to the shadow. Through a brief historical-theoretical excursus, the presentation will retrace chronologically the evolution of this fascinating topic in the vast musical, pictorial, literary and theatrical production of the minor of the “Dioscuri.”
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 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.