Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Macchiaioli

Recently I was exploring a small neighborhood in Rome just across the river form the Castel SantAngelo. (I often use Georgina Mason's "Companion Guide to Rome" when I am wandering around the city. It was originally published in the 1960's. I had it as a text book for an Art History class that I took while a student at the Loyola Rome Center my junior year of college. I now have an edition that was revised in 2003.) I discovered the Piazza Santa Maria della Pace. It was late afternoon and the church of Santa Maria was closed. However a beautiful cloister designed by Bramante, the architect of St. Peter's Basilica, was open. This cloister has been recently restored and now houses art exhibitions. As I wandered through the galleries of the current exhibition, I discovered the "Macchiaoli" or Tuscan Impressionists.

The following is adapted from "In Italy Online" www.initaly.com

The Macchiaioli (pronounced "mah-key-ay-OH-li") were probably a direct consequence of the Risorgimento, a movement whose dream was to unite the Italian peninsula under one government. These Tuscan artists were veterans of this movement and they would hang out in the Caffè Michelangiolo in Florence. Redirecting their rebellion away from the state and toward the artistic establishment of the day, they retreated into the country and developed a style of painting that focused heavily on landscapes and scenes of simple daily life. This, they declared, was the "Italy" they had dreamed of. Unable to contribute to its political birth, they created it in their canvases.

The Macchiaioli had developed their technique of capturing the moment, by means of bold strokes and "pools" of color. Because the term for these areas of color was macchia (meaning "stain" or "spot"), the Tuscan artistic revolutionaries soon came to be known as Macchiaioli.

Most people tend to focus on the Italy’s other two millennia of artistic output, so few ever actually see a work by Giovanni Fattori, Giuseppe Abbati (one of the very best of the bunch, despite having lost an eye fighting with Garibaldi), Telemaco Signorini, Giovanni Boldoni, Cristiano Banti, Odoardo Borrani, Adriano Cecioni, Raffaello Sernesi, Vito D'Ancona, Vicenzo Cabianca or Silvestro Lega. The problem is compounded because the vast majority of their many, many canvases is in private hands.

This show at the Cloister of Bramante brought together dozens of works from private collections as well as museums.

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