IntroductionAlberto Savinio, Issue 2, July 2019
A brief overview of the second issue of Italian Modern Art dedicated to Alberto Savinio.
The second issue of Italian Modern Art offers in-depth analysis and new research on the life and work of Alberto Savinio (1891–1952), the subject of CIMA’s fifth exhibition season. All the essays were presented during the Alberto Savinio Study Days (27–28 April 2018), a two-days conference organized by CIMA fellows Serena Alessi, Alice Ensabella, Elena Salza, and Giulia Tulino.
Savinio, together with his brother Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978; on the relationship between the de Chirico siblings and the theme of the double see Nicol M. Mocchi, The Enigma of the Double: Sources and Symbols in Alberto Savinio’s Poetics), was one of the key founders of metaphysical painting. Hailed by Guillaume Apollinaire as the paragon of a Renaissance man, Savinio was a gifted pianist, composer, musicologist, critic, writer, and painter (for a glimpse of Savinio’s ability as “alchemist of the word” see Paola Italia, Alberto Savinio: A Creative “Power Station”). The success of Savinio’s first solo show in Paris brought him a commission for the private apartments of famed art dealer Léonce Rosenberg, where his work hung alongside that of Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, and Francis Picabia, among others. Despite his international training and the fact that Savinio spent most of his life outside of Italy — in Athens, Munich, and Paris — he remains today a relatively unexamined figure, especially outside of Italy and particularly in regard to his work as a visual artist.
Fulfilling CIMA’s mission to bring new attention and scholarship to underrepresented artists, Alberto Savinio (October 6, 2017 to June 23, 2018) showcased his genius in all of his complexity and myriad interests (a significative example is discussed by Nicole Gercke, Alberto Savinio’s Hybrid Bodies: Incorporating Science and Techne). In particular, the exhibition highlighted paintings Savinio produced after his 1926 move to Paris, when he put his other creative pursuits on hold in order to devote himself fully to visual arts (the most significant and experimental of his early literary works is the topic of Franco Baldasso, Impossible Homecoming: Alberto Savinio and his Hermaphrodito) and where he was soon immersed in the city’s avant-garde (on the artist’s relationship with French surrealism see Alice Ensabella, “Retourner la rêve à la manière d’une chaussette que l’on retire.” Alberto Savinio and French Surrealism).
CIMA’s exhibition and this issue of Italian Modern Art pay particular attention to Savinio’s flirtation with Surrealism and how his work was received in Europe and the USA (see Giulia Tulino, Alberto Savinio, Critic and Artist: A New Reading of Fantastic Art and Post-Metafisica Art in Relation to Surrealism Between Rome and New York (1943–46)). The exhibited works at CIMA were characterized by Savinio’s vivid color palette, his fantastical interpretation of mythology (on Savinio’s use of mythological themes see Serena Alessi, De-heroizing Myths: Some Insights into Capitano Ulisse) and voyage, and his eccentric vision of landscape.
This deeply engaging issue presents an opportunity to share new art historical narratives and findings around Alberto Savinio’s art, made possible by the research stemming from CIMA’s exhibition and Study Days. It also explores many other aspects of Savinio’s multi-faceted career, from his music and literature (see Martin Weidlich, “Drammaticità di Leopardi” (1938): A Stage on Alberto Savinio’s Route to a More “Romantic” Italy), to his work for television (see Chiara Mari, Alberto Savinio’s Life and Work on Television: Programs by the Italian Public Broadcaster RAI Between the Late Seventies and Early Eighties), from his art-making to his active role as promoter of Italian culture (see Lucilla Lijoi, Alberto Savinio and the “Years of Consent:” The Experience of Colonna (1933–34)). Finally, it proves Alberto Savinio’s profound influence on the work of his contemporaries outside of Europe (in particular, Carlos Segoviano focuses his essay on Alberto Savinio: A Bridge between Metaphysical Painting and Mexican Modern Art) as well as the impact of his artistic imagery on Italian artists of the seventies and eighties (see Elena Salza, Francesco Clemente and Alberto Savinio: Dilettantes Among Symbols).
CIMA wishes to acknowledge Nicole Boyd, Emma Lewis, Deirdre O’Dwyer, and Chiara Trebaiocchi for their dedication and commitment to the publication of this issue.
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