Umberto Boccioni, Self-portrait, 1908. Oil on canvas. Brera ‘s picture gallery
Parma – There are still ten days left to visit Boccioni. Before Futurism, among the most interesting events of the autumn exhibition season in Italy. Almost two hundred works by the great twentieth-century artist will be exhibited until 10 December at the Magnani Rocca Foundation in Mamiano di Traversetolo: famous masterpieces such as Backlight, The Seamstress’s Novel, Roman countryside o l’Self-portrait of 1908, but also paintings and drawings little known to the general public, capable of revealing unexpected curiosities about their author, and then the works of masters and traveling companions of the young Boccioni, from Gino Severini to Giacomo Balla, from Gaetano Previati to Giovanni Segantini, Mario Sironi, Carlo Carrà, Galileo Chini.
Curated by Francesco Parisi, Virginia Baradel and Niccolò D’Agati, the exhibition is the result of important research and illustrates clearly and precisely how the art of one of the most original innovators of the 20th century was born. Rome, Venice, Milan are the theaters of his evolution: stage after stage, the exhibition itinerary retraces the painter’s steps, reconstructing for each city the meetings, interactions and influences that enriched his artistic language between 1900 and 1910.
Umberto Boccioni, The novel of a seamstress, 1908, Oil on canvas, Barilla Collection of Modern Art
The installation is introduced by the documentary FORMIDABLE BOCCIONI by Eleonora Zamparutti and Piero Muscarà, directed by Franco Rado, produced by ARTE.it Originals in collaboration with ItsArt and Rai Cultura, to be watched in a video room at the museum entrance. An opportunity to learn more about the protagonist of the exhibition, with contributions from experts such as James Bradburne, director of the Pinacoteca di Brera; by Giordano Bruno Guerri, historian; Marella Caracciolo Chia, writer; Ester Coen, art historian; Floriane Dauberville, art expert; Niccolò D’Agati, art historian, Danka Giacon, curator of the Museo del Novecento in Milan, Giacomo Rossi, artist; Karole Vail, director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and with the extraordinary testimony of Romana Severini, daughter of the painter Gino Severini.
Umberto Boccioni, Brawl in the gallery, 1910, Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera, From the Emilio and Maria Jesi Collection. Dimensions: 76×64 cm. In the docufilm FORMIDABLE BOCCIONI by Eleonora Zamparutti and Piero Muscarà, directed by Franco Rado, produced by ARTE.it Originals with ItsArt and Rai Cultura
There are many stories to discover along the way Boccioni. Before Futurism, to look at milestones of twentieth-century art and gems for connoisseurs in a new light. L’Self-portrait by the artist preserved in the Pinacoteca di Brera, for example, today it represents an absolute masterpiece, but it seems that Boccioni was not at all satisfied with it. It is 1908 and the painter represents himself on the balcony of his Milanese house in via Castel Morrone at the corner of via Goldoni, a then peripheral area, a stone’s throw from the countryside, with the expanding city around it. Using the neighborhood as a backdrop, Boccioni makes his own the inspiration of the master Giacomo Balla, among the first in Italy to paint urban landscapes. Short brushstrokes of pure colors are juxtaposed in pure pointillist style, modulating the thicknesses and flow of the gesture. The scene and the main character are constructed using only color and light. But the twenty-six-year-old Boccioni is not convinced of the result: “Since the first of the month I have been in my mother’s house, away from that very unpleasant landlady and I feel quite comfortable”, he notes in his diary on 13 May 1908: “In that house I have finished the self-portrait, which leaves me completely indifferent”. Having belonged to Vico Baer, a friend of the painter, the painting was donated in 1951 to the Pinacoteca di Brera, where today it is one of the most admired and photographed works. At the end of the 1970s, a restoration revealed another self-portrait on the back, covered by a patina of colour, this too probably “rejected” by the artist.
Umberto Boccioni, Roman Campagna or Meriggio, 1903. Oil on canvas. MASI, Collection of the City of Lugano
At Magnani Rocca we also discover a Boccioni fascinated by Symbolism. In April 1907 the young artist was in Venice and visited the Biennale. He doesn’t like the exhibition much, but he is struck by the Dream Room designed by Plinio Nomellini and Galileo Chini, with the works of Italian and European symbolists: Angelo Morbelli, Mario De Maria, Serafino Macchiati, Alberto Martini, Franz Von Stuck and Gaetano Previati , for whom Boccioni has great admiration. Symbolism conquers him because it is the opposite of Realism, with which the artist is already in open contrast. At the Villa dei Capolavori an entire section is dedicated to symbolist suggestions: here we find theIcarus di Galileo Below, la She-devil by Alberto Martini and even a séance painted by Serafino Macchiati, an illustrator who frequented esoteric circles in Paris, taking an interest in ghosts and the unconscious. Finally, the painting of the Monks with empty eye sockets by Marius Pictor (Mario De Maria), nicknamed by D’Annunzio “the painter of the moons”, which takes up the legend according to which some monks removed their eyes to definitively distance themselves from earthly stimuli.
Umberto Boccioni, Nude from behind (Backlight), 1909, Oil on canvas, 61 x 55.5 cm, MART, LF Collection | © MART, Photographic Archive and Media Library
Finally, the drawings made at the Scuola Libera del Nudo in Rome, on loan from the Bottegantica gallery in Milan, are very rare and precious. At just seventeen, Boccioni began working as a handyman for the magazine Fanfulla, among writers and artists close to the new anarcho-idealist ideas. In the editorial office they noticed his predisposition for caricatures: driven to draw, the budding painter bought pencils, colors and notebooks and went to “puppet school” with Afredo Stolz, a Roman illustrator who was in vogue at the time. It is his first creative work, told in the exhibition in a room entirely dedicated to his activity as an illustrator. Shortly afterwards he will enroll in the Scuola Libera del Nudo, a parallel course within the Institute of Fine Arts, where it is possible to draw live models. Gino Severini, who is already a trained artist, said that his young friend had difficulty even centering the image on the sheet of paper. But time passes quickly for Boccioni, and his talent has no difficulty keeping up with him.
Umberto Boccioni, Portrait of a young woman, 1907-1908, Pastel on canvas, Private collection