Contemporary Italian Prints
In this representative selection of contemporary Italian printmaking three major groups, corresponding to the prevailing aesthetic trends, can be distinguished.
The first group headed by Giorgio de Chirico, the most famous living Italian artist, includes the best known contemporaries; Campigli, Carra, Casorati, and De Pisis. The reputations of all five rest on solid foundations of achievement not only in Italy but all over Europe. Chirico is the most discussed and in the public eye due not only to his art but to the play given by the Italian and French press during the past five years for his polemics, law suits, and controversies. While his reputation was established as an innovator and pioneer in the so-called metaphysical subjects, he has in recent years turned his back to the surrealist movement and has become an apostle of the classical tradition. The exhibited lithographs show him at his best in his late period where he displays his superb draftsmanship in composing the human figure and horses. The stress and strain with dynamic composition prove however that a great artist can choose any subject for expression.
Campigli’s art is deeply rooted in the classic, Etruscan tradition, in which he introduces a personal element of whimsical mood appealing in its originality and charm. Casorati’s sculptural approach is in the same tradition of the classical although an element of brooding gauginesque overtones set him apart from the more serene atmosphere of his distinguished colleagues. De Pisis works in a more impressionist, almost nervous, vein yet traditional elements prevail.
A second group whose emergence into fame opens a new era in Italian printmaking is composed of Varini, Music, Santomaso, and Viviani. Of these Marini is best known in America for his sculpture based on elements of pre-Roman Italic culture. While Campigli became obviously subject to Impressionist influences, Marini developed toward expressionist objectives.
Music introduces a very personal tone with his Dalmation motifs. Until a few years ago he was practically unknown, but with the last Biennale in Venice he came into great success, and only a few months ago he one the Prix de Paris at Menton. His lithographs are spontaneous and fine in color. Santomaso, like Music, lives in Venice. There is no doubt of his tribute to Leger but his coloring reflects the inescapable fascination for his great Venetian predecessors. Viviani though much older than the other artists mentioned in this group achieved recognition not too long ago. His somber lithographs have a grotesque and at time, humorous appeal, which seems to correspond to the contrasting emotions to which our friends in Europe are constantly exposed.
The third and last group presents younger artists who are making a strong bid for attention and recognition. Most of them were born in the Northern Provinces of Italy and they live in or near Milan, the center of Italian Industry and commerce, and also the most international of all Italian cities. Hence the tendency to avoid the traditional, to absorb foreign trends and to experiment with the abstract. However, they hold their own very well with their fellow artists of the same age group in other countries, and with their flair for striking color and daring shape combinations at once personal and inventive, some of them will certainly become better known before too long. Berdoni, Morlotti, Sassu, and Birolli might well be grouped together as vigorous colorists, while Cagli, Consagra and Musse have developed a more linear technic suited to their imaginative symbols.
As a whole this cross-section of contemporary Italian printmaking demonstrates a happy combination of the traditional and of the most modern trends, proving the independence and individuality of Italian artists, their rich cultural background, competent training, and solid craftsmanship. There is no doubt that through the growing interest in color lithography, the Italians will continue to expand and solidify their position in the international field of printmaking.
This was originally published in conjunction with the exhibition.