What happened to Italian art and artists in Paris after Modigliani’s death in 1921?
(You can also see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/picasso-and-modigliani-two-unmissable-exhibitions-near-lucca/ on Modi’s exhibition in Pisa and also his house at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/legging-it-in-leghorn/ ).
.These questions were answered in large part by an exhibition held at Lu.C.C.A (Lucca centre for contemporary art).
If you missed it (it finished last Saturday, sorry!) you missed the answer to the enigma (such a favourite word among those Italian artists who strayed into inter-war Paris, especially Giorgio De Chirico, and, while not always exhibiting together, forming a close alliance).
Gone were the iconoclastic declarations of war-mongering futurist poets and artists like Marinetti. Italy was now pledged by the new wave of artists to return to its classical roots. (I thought of a Stravinskyan change from the mystical highly-coloured and wildly rhythmical declarations of le Sacre du Printemps to the serene, cool calm of Apollo.)
A similar thing happened to painting, especially to such artists as Picasso. At the same time, surrealism reared its oneiric head and somehow became combined in De Chirico’s mannequin busts with neo-classicism to form a ‘metaphysical’ school of painting. Inspired by the colonnades of Turin, the vast Italian squares, the belching of smoke from factory chimneys, the crossing of trains across distant viaducts, the empty long-shadowed streetscapes, the obsessive presence of clocks, De Chirico’s pictures from this period have a strange sensation of calm and tension.
(The disquieting muses – recognize Ferrara castle in the background, the town where de Chirico – and Sandra’s dad – did his military service?)
De Chirico later abandoned his ‘metaphysical’ phase in favour of a return to a kind of neo-baroque, a move which displeased many of his previous admirers. These De Chirico baroque equines, (horse with zebra), however, are wonderfully energetic:
Here is a selection from the exhibition. No photography was allowed so I’m taking these photos from the palace’s web site at http://www.luccamuseum.com/it/museo
De Chirico was born in Greece and there are strong childhood reminiscences of temple columns and empty landscapes in his paintings. If one goes to the EUR quarter in Rome early on a Sunday morning one can perhaps recapture the same strange feeling of a lost classicising melancholia for today, alas, it would be rare to find a Turin square or colonnade emptied of humans.
We got the same ‘Chirico Feel’ when we visited Carbonia in Sardegna in 2009, a place where Sandra’s mum used to work in a family-run business.
Every exhibition brings at least one startling discovery to the visitor and for me it was the encounter that the painter I knew as Alberto Savinio, the one whose ‘Papera’ places a duck’s head and beak on top of an extravagantly dressed woman, (Una Papera in Italian doesn’t just mean ‘duck’ but also a goof or mix-up) was actually Giorgio de Chirico’s brother Andrea De Chirico. They were really close to each other and called themselves Castor and Pollux. Andrea changed his name in 1914 to regain his artistic independence. The extraordinary thing is that Savinio wasn’t just a painter. He was a composer (tutored by Max Reger) whose music won acclaim in Germany and wrote five operas. Savinio also wrote at least forty seven books including novels and autobiographies as well! After years of neglect there has been revived interest in Alberto Savinio.
You can hear some of Savinio’s music on youtube. For example at:
Lu.C.C.A. is located in the Palazzo Boccella, an ancient and beautifully restored palace near Lucca’s famed amphitheatre square. Besides the exhibition space it has a good art bookshop (if you were unfortunate enough to miss the exhibition there’s a fine and reasonably priced catalogue on it), an intimate dining and drinks area and a cellar which includes these amazing sixteenth century frescoes of Lucchese citizens in their latest fashions.
Always check up on what’s happening at Lu.C.C.A. when you’re in town. You’ll be rarely disappointed!