A major exhibition on Boccioni before futurism, at the Magnani Rocca Foundation

A major exhibition dedicated to Umberto Boccioni before he became a Futurist. Entitled "Boccioni 1900-1910. Rome Venice Milan" and will be hosted by the Magnani-Rocca Foundation in Mamiano di Traversetolo (Parma) from Sept. 9 to Dec. 10, 2023

A major exhibition dedicated to Umberto Boccioni (Reggio Calabria, 1882 - Verona, 1916) before he became a Futurist. Entitled Boccioni 1900-1910. Rome Venice Milan and is being hosted by the Magnani-Rocca Foundation in Mamiano di Traversetolo (Parma) from Sept. 9 to Dec. 10, 2023. The exhibition, curated by Virginia Baradel, Niccolò D’Agati, Francesco Parisi and Stefano Roffi, consists of more than 100 works, including some absolute masterpieces by the artist. The exhibition dwells on the figure of the young Boccioni and his formative years, addressing the different moments of his activity, from the very first experience in Rome, starting in 1899, to the pictorial outcomes immediately preceding the elaboration of the Manifesto of Futurist Painters in the spring of 1910. A crucial decade in which Boccioni experimented with techniques and styles in search of an original language attentive to the stimuli of the emerging avant-garde. The exhibition aims not only to document the heterogeneous nature of Boccioni’s production, but above all to reconstruct the artistic and cultural contexts in which the artist operated. Light is thus shed on the artistic events between 1900 and 1910, offering a broader panorama of a fundamental period in Boccioni’s activity that allows the unfolding of his research to be put into perspective.

The exhibition is thus divided into three macro geographical sections linked to the three cities that most represented formative reference points for the artist: Rome, Venice and Milan whose sections are curated respectively by Francesco Parisi, Virginia Baradel and Niccolò D’Agati. Within these areas, in-depth studies on specific aspects (the relationship with the world of illustration in the Roman period, that with engraving, and the international openings related to travel) constitute further focuses of investigation.

The study of sources, beginning with Boccioni’s diaries and correspondence by 1910, and recent in-depth investigations have brought new elements useful to the knowledge of this phase of his activity. The aim, unlike what often happens in reviews devoted to the Divisionism-Futurism parable, is to follow Boccioni’s training outside a deterministic logic linked to his landing in Futurism, but to grasp the definition of a language and an aesthetic position in relation to the coeval research that was being structured and that characterized the contexts with which the artist came into contact.

Documenting this path are exhibited some of the best-known oil on canvas works from the early production of the ’artist, such as Campagna romana of 1903 (MASI, Lugano), Ritratto della signora Virginia of 1905 (Museo del Novecento, Milan), Ritratto del dottor Achille Tian of 1907 (Fondazione Cariverona), Il romanzo di una cucitrice of 1908 (Barilla Collection of Modern Art), Controluce of 1909 (Mart, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto), as well as temperas, etchings, and drawings.

The juxtaposition from time to time with the works of artists such as Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Roberto Basilici, Gaetano Previati, Mario Sironi, Carlo Carrà, and Giovanni Sottocornola, explains and illustrates the visual and cultural ancestry and relationships that built and defined Boccioni’s artistic personality.

The first focus of the review is devoted to Rome. Starting, then, at the first stage that indelibly marked Boccioni’s artistic evolution, attention is devoted to the years of his stay in Rome, when Giacomo Balla had introduced the young Boccioni to the new technique of pointillism “without, however, teaching us its fundamental and scientific rules,” as his companion Gino Severini recalled in his memoirs. In the exhibition, Boccioni’s “commercial” production is also documented by placing it side by side with the models to which the artist turned for the realization of his works, passing through the new visual references represented by English modernist graphics with Beardsley. This, since the Roman period not only marked the artist’s progressive approach to painting, but also to that of commercial illustration - the réclame - which he represented as an artistic product, a perfect and “extraordinary modern expression.” In the first dedicated focus is instead the “Exhibition of the Rejected” organized by Boccioni himself, again during the Roman period, in the foyer of the Teatro Costanzi to allow opponents of official trends to exhibit their works. This section aims to reconstruct a part of that exhibition.

The second pole of Boccioni’s education, Venice, is represented by his stays in Padua and his last stay in Venice, which coincides with the 1907 Biennale. This section aims to focus as much on the progression of Boccioni’s painting as on the artist’s aesthetic position in relation to what he got to observe and know in Venice. On display are the main works made by Boccioni especially during his last stay in Padua before moving to Venice, where he has a chance to put to good use what he matured in Paris, as well as significant works by Venetian painters that the artist himself comments on in his own reflections on the Biennales. This serves as an important testimony that allows the visitor to fully understand Boccioni’s aesthetic inclinations and predilections toward an art that bears “a most noble imprint of aspiration to an ideal beauty,” as he wrote in commenting on the Room of Dream Art.

It concerns the Venetian period the second focus present in the exhibition relating to the artist’s approach to the world of engraving, under the guidance of Alessandro Zezzos. In this section, in fact, Boccioni’s graphic works are exhibited that allow us to reconstruct the development of his engraving activity in the Venetian and later Milanese period; for the first time, recently found metal plates engraved by Boccioni are presented.

Finally, as a third milestone in the development of his artistic career, Boccioni arrived in Milan in September 1907. The importance of the confrontation with the Lombard capital is included in the exhibition through the juxtaposition of Boccioni’s works with those of artists active in Milan at the turn of the century, particularly Previati, seeking to highlight the artist’s positioning and the originality of his research within a more experimental and niche fringe of the avant-garde that had as its reference point the Famiglia Artistica, an association frequented by Boccioni himself that constitutes an important point of contact between the artist and future adherents of the Futurist movement.

The catalog published by Dario Cimorelli Editore includes the curators’ essays and scholarly contributions that enrich the volume in a way that makes it not only a record of the works on display, all illustrated in color, but also a valuable tool and an update on Boccioni studies.

Hours: Tuesday to Friday continuous 10am-6pm (box office closes at 5pm) - Saturday, Sunday and holidays continuous 10am-7pm (box office closes at 6pm). Also open November 1 and December 8. Monday closed. Admission: €14 also valid for permanent collections and park - €12 for groups of at least fifteen people - €5 for schools and under-fourteen. The ticket also includes a free visit to the Villa’s Secret Cabinets.

Information and group reservations: tel. 0521 848327 / 848148 info@magnanirocca.it www.magnanirocca.it

Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays and holidays at 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. Tour of the exhibition with a specialized guide; reservations can be made at segreteria@magnanirocca.it , or show up at the museum entrance while places last; cost € 19 (admission and guide).

Image: Umberto Boccioni, Campagna romana o Meriggio (1903; oil on canvas)

A major exhibition on Boccioni before futurism, at the Magnani Rocca Foundation
A major exhibition on Boccioni before futurism, at the Magnani Rocca Foundation

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