With this title the MART of Rovereto announces the opening to the public of this interesting exhibition.
At MART From 15 May – 18 September 2022
From an idea by Vittorio Sgarbi
Curated by Beatrice Avanzi, Daniela Ferrari, Stefano Sbarbaro
In the two-year period 1947-1949 the “Modern Painters of Reality” railed against the results of modernism and the “blunders” of the École de Paris, in defense of the great pictorial tradition. The group is made up of Gregorio Sciltian, Pietro Annigoni, Antonio and Xavier Bueno to whom Giovanni Acci, Carlo Guarienti and Alfredo Serri are subsequently added.
Seventy years after the conclusion of this brief and controversial experience, the Mart reconstructs an artistic story that represents an ideal continuation of the climate of Plastic Values and that of Magic Realism.
At the end of 1947 the emerging group of modern painters of reality set up an exhibition in the gallery of the magazine “ L’Illustrazione Italiana ”, in Milan in via della Spiga. The exhibition is accompanied by a poster-brochure signed by four of the artists present: the oldest is Gregorio Sciltian , a Russian painter of Armenian origin active in Milan.
With him are the Milanese Pietro Annigoni and the brothers of Spanish origin Xavier and Antonio Bueno , all three based in Florence. Also on display are the Treviso- born Carlo Guarienti , also stationed in Florence, and the Florentine Alfredo Serri and Giovanni Acci . Two years later, the Modern Painters of Reality will organize four other exhibitions, in Florence, Rome, Milan and Modena again. Although appreciated by the public – there is talk of twenty thousand visitors in fifteen days for the first Milanese stop -, by collectors and various artists, they are frowned upon by critics .who, misunderstanding their intentions as the curator Sbarbaro explains in the catalog, accuse them of “pastism, photographic oleography and an empty seventeenth-century virtuosity far from the poetics of realism”. If that weren’t enough, their ideological positions are decidedly heterogeneous:
the Bueno anti-Francoists, enrolled as young people in the Swiss Communist Party, Annigoni openly anti-fascist, the anti-Bolshevik Sciltian who fled Russia. On the contrary, what unites the painters is the desire for a rebirth of painting which corresponds to a parallel rebirth of humanity after the destruction, deprivation and suffering of the recent world conflict. In the search for pure, real and therefore eternal artistic virtues, there is the desire for absolute moral and spiritual values, the aspiration to that authenticity which they believe can be duly traced only in ” true painting“. They claim a “moral painting in its intimate essence”, an ideological horizon that they do not believe belongs to the artistic researches that deny the real fact. In the manifesto signed in 1947, Sciltian, Annigoni and the Bueno brothers take sides against the results of modernism and the “blunders” of the École de Paris, condemning the avant-garde and the nascent abstractionism to which they prefer the great Italian pictorial tradition.
Determinant in the formulation of what is a real artistic and cultural challenge , is the contribution of Giorgio de Chirico who has consolidated relationships of esteem with all four artists.
The modern painters of reality lash out harshly against the decadent artistic expressions of many contemporaries, manifestations of prevailing regression and ruin. To these languages I contrast a re-enactment of ancient and higher stylistic models, coming from the past.
Despite declaring intentions of brotherhood, universality and neutrality, beyond the assertions relating to an art within everyone’s reach, the Painters betray a polemical attitude that seems to disapprove of at least half a century of painting and that struggles to find theoretical correspondence in the social context. cultural heritage of the time. The art world marginalizes and harshly rejects their requests , not fully understood and considered radical and anachronistic. Overwhelmed by criticism, the group disintegrates mainly due to its inherent and remarkable heterogeneity : ideological distances, cultural incompatibilities and age differences lead in a short time to the end of a remarkable and original artistic experience.
Over seventy years later, the Mart of Rovereto reconstructs the complexity of the story of the modern painters of reality. Curated by Beatrice Avanzi , Daniela Ferrari and Stefano Sbarbaro , the exhibition La forza del vero underlines the commonality of intent that united the seven artists. Through undoubtedly personal paths, Acci, Annigoni, A. Bueno, X. Bueno, Guarienti, Sciltian, and Serri regained possession – as Sbarbaro explains in his essay in the catalog – of the pictorial models offered by the ancient masters and found “a point of convergence in the formulation of a cultured and refined painting, rich in references and citations not only of a formal nature “.
The exhibition also makes it possible to deepen the research on the careers of individual artists, already known to scholars for their richness and complexity, and to reconstruct their significant parable within the history of Italian art of the twentieth century.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog published by Bretschneider’s L’Erma with critical essays by Vittorio Sgarbi, Emanuele Barletti, Emiliana Biondi and Paolo Baldacci, Daniela Ferrari, Stefano Sbarbaro and Luca Scarlini .
“We recreate the art of the illusion of reality, an eternal and very ancient seed of the figurative arts. We do not lend ourselves to any return, we simply continue to carry out the mission of true painting. Image of a universal feeling, we want a painting that is understood by many and not by a few ‘refined’ ones. Well before meeting each other, each of us had deeply felt the need to seek the common thread in nature that would allow us to find ourselves in the labyrinth of schools that have multiplied over the last half century. Each of us spontaneously turned to reality, the first and eternal source of painting, confident of rediscovering his own word. Faced with a new academicism or pastism, made up of leftovers of Cubist formulas and standardized impressionist sensuality,
Pietro Annigoni, Antonio Bueno, Saverio Bueno, Gregorio Sciltian”.
The exhibition itinerary
through the sections of the exhibition
The power of truth. The Modern Painters of Reality
More than seventy years after its conclusion, the exhibition reconstructs the story of the Modern Painters of Reality. This group of artists, from the most diverse origins and histories, made their debut in 1947 in Milan with an exhibition and a programmatic manifesto that lashed out at the results of modernism and the “blunders” of the École de Paris and instead defended the great tradition pictorial referring, in particular, to seventeenth-century art, from Caravaggio to Spanish and Flemish painting.
The signatories of the manifesto – Gregorio Sciltian, Pietro Annigoni and the brothers Xavier and Antonio Bueno – are joined by Giovanni Acci, Alfredo Serri and Carlo Guarienti in the group’s exhibitions. All of them share a predilection for meticulous realism and the search for ancient painting techniques in line with the “return to the profession” advocated by Giorgio de Chirico, with whom these artists maintain relationships of mutual esteem.
The experience of the modern painters of reality ends after only two years and five exhibitions, held in various Italian cities. Their works, appreciated by the public and by the collecting market, are instead opposed by most of the critics as they are judged anachronistic and the result of a purely mimetic vision of reality.
The exhibition deepens the investigation into the research of these artists before and after their short association, presenting works ranging from the 1920s, when Sciltian arrived in Italy, at the end of the 1950s, highlighting the peculiarities of the work of each of them. and its evolution over time.
The Modern Painters of Reality 1947-1949
The expression “reality painting” dates back to 1934 and to the exhibition Les peintres de la réalité en France au XVIIe siècle curated by Charles Sterling at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris in 1934: another milestone in the process of critical re-evaluation of baroque art, no longer considered a phase of decline after the splendor of the Renaissance.
In the brief adventure of the Modern Painters of Reality, the research of the four signatories of the Manifesto that accompanies their first exhibition converge, where we read: “We recreate the art of the illusion of reality, an eternal and very ancient seed of the figurative arts. We do not lend ourselves to any return, we simply continue to carry out the mission of true painting. (…) Well before meeting each other, each of us had deeply felt the need to seek the common thread in nature that would allow us to find ourselves in the labyrinth of schools that have multiplied over the last half century “. A thought certainly shared by the three artists who joined Sciltian, Annigoni and the Bueno brothers on the occasion of the five exhibitions held from 1947 to 1949: Giovanni Acci, Carlo Guarienti and Alfredo Serri.
Two trends can be recognized in the works exhibited in this section. The first is linked to the war years: works such as Portrait of a father by Acci, Annigoni’s Cinciarda and Sciltian’s Vagabondi are allegories that reflect the tragic scenario of that period and take on a meaning of social commitment. In this sense , the Sermon on the Mount , also for its execution which lasted fifteen years, represents a synthesis of the poetics of the modern Painters of reality. The second trend, on the other hand, is oriented towards a more serene dialogue with the visible, towards the joy of a naturalistic vision without implications of denunciation, of which the works of Alfredo Serri and Antonio Bueno are examples.
Metaphysical atmospheres: the relationship with Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico, the father of metaphysics, represents a constant reference in the careers of modern painters of reality.
Sciltian meets him on his arrival in Italy and a deep bond is established between the two that has lasted a lifetime. “Gregorio Sciltian is the model par excellence. He is plastic when he paints, plastic when he speaks, he is plastic when he gesticulates ”writes de Chirico, making us understand how much the rendering of volumes is the fundamental element of the Russian artist’s painting. Also for the Bueno brothers he has words of sincere appreciation, defining them “two young people full of talent who already have a great profession and are the antithesis of many illiterate painting”. The influence of him over the two brothers is evident in works such as Metaphysical Composition of 1940, in which Antonio diligently follows the precepts expressed by the pictor optimus in the writing The return to the profession, where he recommends getting “any plaster cast”, busts or classical statues, to copy them hundreds of times in order to master the true technique that the “modernist and secessionist” tendencies have questioned.
Furthermore, all the members of the group of Modern Painters of Reality approach the enigmatic De Chirico theme of the mannequin, stimulated by the commissioning of Sandro Rubboli, a collector from Milan who had built a large collection around this subject.