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Italian visual culture and the construction of national identity, 1898–1945

Imagined Baroques offers a new account of Italian post-unification visual culture through its entanglement in the Baroque. The book argues that, by reinventing Baroque forms in their artistic and architectural practices, modern Italians confronted their fears about their nation’s past and imagined future. Although ignored by most scholarship, the Baroque was repeatedly evoked in modern Italian visual culture and intellectual history. This is so because, between the fin de siècle and the end of the Second World War, the reception, influence, and disavowal of the Baroque enabled Italians to probe the fraught experience of national unification, addressing their ambivalent relationship with modernity and tradition. The Baroque afterlives in modern Italy, and its temporal and conceptual destabilisation, allowed Italians to work through a crisis of modernity and develop a visual culture that was both distinctly Italian and modern. Imagined Baroques interrogates a diverse range of media: not only paintings, sculptures, and buildings, but also magazine illustrations, postcards, commercial posters, pageants, photographs, films, and exhibitions. The Baroque functioned in post-unification Italy as a legacy of potential annihilation but also of potential consolidation, and as a critique of modernity and a celebration of an intrinsically Italian road to modernity. Unearthing the protean and contradictory legacy of the Baroque in modern Italy shows that its revivals and appropriations were not repositories of exact facts about the seventeenth century but rather clues to how visions of modernity and tradition merged to form a distinct Italian identity.

Laura Moure Cecchini

The show at the Pitti Palace triggered a wave of discussions in the Italian press over the Baroque afterlife. Some commentators, such as Giorgio de Chirico, decried the public’s interest in a period of art that they perceived as decadent and corrupt; others saw positive similarities between the authoritarian politics of the Counter-Reformation and the ascent to power of the Fascist regime. Chapter 5 investigates a little-known episode of Fascist architectural culture: Baroque features in a considerable number of public and private buildings built during the interwar period. Allusions to the work of Borromini, Bernini, and Maderno, schools, ministries, convents, and apartment buildings require an understanding of Fascist architecture beyond the framework in which it is usually written - beyond the opposition of classicism and rationalism, nostalgia, and modernism. Rather, the chapter shows that during the Fascist ventennio the Baroque was considered a suitable style to display the Italian nation’s imperialistic ambitions, much as it had been in 1911.

in Baroquemania
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The Seicento and the return-to-order
Laura Moure Cecchini

Writing in the journal Valori plastici in December 1921, Giorgio de Chirico harshly accused the Italian art system of suffering from a veritable ‘mania for the Seicento’. 1 By 1919 de Chirico reconsidered his experience of ‘Pittura Metafisica’  2 and, in his own words, ‘went back to the museum’ to engage in a sustained study of the Italian painting tradition. 3 However, the Seicento was not one

in Baroquemania
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Sam Rohdie

where Bertolucci grew up. It is the setting for his Prima della rivoluzione (1964). The Piazza Ducale in Sabbioneta resembles the Palazzo del Comune in Parma. Both are real locations that are like each other, and also like theatre, at once real and fantastic. They resemble the Surrealist landscapes of Giorgio De Chirico and the strange, often erotic juxtapositions of figures, place and objects in the paintings of René Magritte that go to a beyond into an ‘other’ world as in the naïf work of Henri Rousseau and Antonio Ligabue. 106 Film modernism Sabbioneta is a

in Film modernism
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Elza Adamowicz

canvas, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome; reproduced in De Stijl 2:7 (1919), 74a. 8. Giorgio de Chirico, The Prodigal Son (1917), oil on canvas, Museo del Novecento, Milan. 9. Giorgio de Chirico, The Seer (1915), oil on canvas, MoMA, New York; The Disquieting Muses (1917), oil on canvas, Gianni Mattioli Collection, Milan. 10. ‘Abstrakte Kunst bedeutete uns damals … soviel als unbedingte Ehrlichkeit. Naturalismus war psychologischen Eingehen auf die Motive des Bürgers, in dem wir unseren Todfeind sahen’ (Huelsenbeck 1920d: 5). 11. ‘[L’abstraction] ne libère

in Dada bodies
Abigail Susik

the time, she was known as Simone Breton, wife of André Breton. She is seated at a small wooden desk, paused in a supposedly candid moment of typing, surrounded by eleven or so men ( Plate 1 ). All of the members of the group are watching intently as Robert Desnos holds an unidentifiable object, except for Paul Éluard and Giorgio de Chirico, who are fixated on Man Ray and the flashbulb of his camera. We also study a second shot showing Simone sitting in the middle of the group of a dozen adherents, all gazing

in Surrealist sabotage and the war on work
Des O’Rawe

of driftwood, and discarded metal, etc.) in a manner not dissimilar to Cornell’s assemblage techniques, or even Cage’s practice of dropping nuts and bolts into a piano. Rather than reproducing decorative colour and textural arrangements, Sōfū’s works were often dramatic, exposing broken branches and roots, and emphasising the essential particularity of each artwork’s found and fabricated elements.4 Sōfū had travelled to Europe in the 1930s, spending time studying the methods of contemporary artists like Giorgio de Chirico, Picasso, Dalí, and Joan Miró. After

in Regarding the real
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Laura Moure Cecchini

discussions in the Italian press over the Baroque legacy. Some commentators, such as Giorgio de Chirico, decried the public's interest in a period of art that they perceived as decadent and corrupt; others, though, saw positive similarities between the authoritarian politics of the Counter-Reformation and the ascent to power of the Fascist regime. Therefore, in the last two chapters, I delve further into the relationship between Fascism and the Baroque. Chapter 5 looks into a little-known episode of Fascist architecture: Baroque features in a significant number of public

in Baroquemania
British fascism and artistic modernism
Thomas Linehan

cultivate a more subjective or personal view, an ideal even more strikingly emphasised in Surrealist art. Having its origins in Andre Breton’s Surrealist manifesto of 1924, and counting among its devotees such notables as Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst and Salvadore Dali, Surrealism was fascinated by the creative power supposedly inherent in the individual subconscious. Fantasy and the inner world of dreams, rather than rational thought, would generate poetic truths and thus more meaningful art for the Surrealists, whose work clearly bore the mark of Sigmund

in British Fascism 1918-39
Surrealism, time travel, and ‘second sight’
Gavin Parkinson

own theory of objective chance in his essay ‘Le Pont suspendu’, which appeared in Médium: Communication surréaliste , the journal of the Paris surrealists in the early 1950s. 21 That article brought together several ‘time travel’ coincidences that had made the rounds of surrealist lore: Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘prediction’ of Apollinaire’s fatal war wound in his Portrait of Apollinaire (1914), Breton’s own ‘Night of the Sunflower’ episode, retold in Mad Love , and Victor Brauner’s prefiguration of the loss of his eye in 1938 in the imagery of paintings leading up

in Surrealism and film after 1945