Luigi Bartolini and early 20th century Italian engraving on display in Collesalvetti

The Collesalvetti Municipal Art Gallery traces the revival of etching in the early 20th century with an exhibition dedicated to one of its leading figures, Luigi Bartolini.

Collesalvetti ’s Pinacoteca Comunale “Carlo Servolini” (Municipal Art Gallery ) is hosting, at its Villa Carmignani venue in Poggio Pallone, the exhibition Luigi Bartolini and Italian etchers at the time of Cesare Ratta, scheduled from May 30 to October 6, 2024, curated by Francesca Cagianelli and Paolo Bassano. This exhibition event aims to deepen the study of the revival of etching in Italy in the first three decades of the 20th century through the works of Luigi Bartolini (Cupramontana, 1892 - Rome, 1963). It stands in continuity with other exhibitions dedicated to forgotten protagonists of 20th-century Italian and European printmaking, such as the exhibitions on Irma Pavone Grotta (February 14-July 19, 2014), Mimì Quilici Buzzacchi (November 15, 2018-March 7, 2019), and Frank Brangwyn (September 5-October 26, 2023). Produced in collaboration with the Musei Civici di Palazzo Buonaccorsi in Macerata and with the support of MEDIA SPONSOR, the exhibition features the archives of Luciana Bartolini and Luigi Servolini.

The exhibition dedicated to Marche-based etcher Luigi Bartolini aims to enhance and publicize the contribution of artists promoted by Luigi Servolini and publisher-typographer Cesare Ratta. The latter, working between the 19th and 20th centuries, contributed significantly to the revaluation of Italian etchers, consolidating the role of key figures in contemporary intaglio, including Luigi Bartolini himself. The discovery of unpublished documents, preserved in the Archives of Luciana Bartolini and Luigi Servolini and kindly granted as a preview for the Collesalvetti exhibition catalog (published by Silvana Editoriale), led to important historiographical acquisitions concerning the lively publishing scene of the second and third decades of the 20th century. In this context, Luigi Bartolini succeeded in establishing his primacy as an etcher. In the essays by Francesca Cagianelli and Paolo Bassano, evidence abounds of a cultural fellowship born in the second half of the 1920s between Luigi Bartolini, Luigi Servolini, and Cesare Ratta. This fellowship was based on a common predilection for an “individual aristocratic aesthetic,” as claimed by the Bolognese publisher in the first volume of Gli Acquafortisti italiani (Bologna, 1928), and reiterated in subsequent publications aimed at promoting numerous etchers, including Carlo Servolini. Particularly significant is the 1935 Quaderno, which pays tribute to Luigi Servolini, who is given the honor of the cover.

Thus, Cesare Ratta’s editorial contributions cannot be excluded among the most crucial bibliographical entries for Bartolini’s artistic fortunes. Bartolini’s involvement in Ratta’s editorial project not only consolidated his artistic stature, but also helped ease tensions with the strapaesano group of Ardengo Soffici and Mino Maccari, paving the way for collaboration with the publisher Vallecchi. This collaboration culminated in the publication of Passeggiata con le ragazze, whose genesis and historical conjunctures are meticulously documented in the exhibition catalog.

The exhibition will feature three rare etchings from the 1920s - The Wheels of the Chienti, Fonte maggiore lunga and Festa in campagna - used by Bartolini to illustrate the volume. These works offer an effective parallelism between images and narrative, restoring moments of Marche life through incisive details that enrich the literary narrative. Many of Luigi Bartolini’s etchings published by Cesare Ratta in the 1920s will be on display in the exhibition. Prominent among them are Caricature of Dreams, presented in 1927 at the Rome exhibition of Amateurs and Culturists, and Reader of the Public Garden, exhibited the following year at the 16th Venice International. Also on view will be Figura meschina dei lepidotteri imbalsamati and La Riva del mare, the latter a parody of the petty bourgeoisie villagers vacationing by the sea.

Also featured in the exhibition will be the refined ex libris Il solitario, published by Ratta as the antiporta of the 1928 monograph, and the small but precious metaphysical etching Il granchio, which Bartolini designed as an ex libris and which Ratta reproduced in 1930 in the volume Cento ex libris.

The path of Bartolini’s growing fame in the panorama of Italian printmaking and his connection with Cesare Ratta’s editions will be traced through a selection of his most famous and sought-after etchings. These include masterpieces from the late 1920s such as The Hearth Cricket (or Satire), The Girl at the Window, Tomatoes, The Bunch, and The Wheatfield. Also, Recollection of a Walk in the Countryside, which won him the prize ex aequo with Giorgio Morandi and Umberto Boccioni at the First Exhibition of Modern Italian Engraving in Florence in 1932, and the works of his artistic maturity conceived during his confinement in Merano, including Scarabeo Ercole, History of the Martin Pescatore, The Good Night, and Models Waiting. Three of these works were exhibited at the second Rome Quadriennale in 1935 and published by Ratta in the later editions of Quaderni, Congedo, and Artisti dell’Ottocento e del Novecento.

The exhibition is divided into three sections. The first, titled Dalle imprese di Cesare Ratta all’officina di Vallecchi: Luigi Bartolini e il sogno di un’avventura per l’arte editoriale italiana, illustrates, through some icons of Bartolini’s etching production of the 1920s, the most emblematic stages of his publishing fortunes. A significant example is the portfolio published by Ratta in 1928, accompanied by a programmatic Antilettera, which consecrates Bartolini as “an optimist in love with all knowing.” This “panic intoxication,” to quote Raffaello Biordi, is capable of generating masterpieces such as Fonte Maggiore and of exploring different horizons, as in the astonishing La caricatura dei sogni.

The second section, entitled Il mio geroglifico pieno di ispirazione: Luigi Bartolini e la consapevolezza del primato acquafortistico dalle Carte Parlanti alla grande Quadriennale Romana, traces the most significant etching testimonies of the 1930s. In this period, Bartolini established himself as a protagonist of the Italian engraving scene thanks to prestigious exhibitions, such as the 17th International Biennial Art Exhibition in Venice in 1930 and the First Exhibition of Modern Italian Engraving in Florence in 1932. Critics acclaimed him, with Gino Visentini describing his work in the pages of the Rassegna dell’Istruzione Artistica as “a kind of poetic telegraphy” (Visentini, 1932).

The third section, devoted to a selection of the protagonists of Italian etching documented in the numerous printmaking enterprises curated by Cesare Ratta, is entitled La rinascita del Bianco e Nero: un ’nuovo corpus ricchissimo’ di acquafortisti italiani ’in piena libertà di scuole e di tendenza’. This section summarizes, between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a strand of graphic resurgence that intended to overcome official classifications, claiming a criterion of historical classification based on the entirety of contemporary etching manifestations.

Alongside the great names of the etching renewal such as Francesco Chiappelli, Giovanni Costetti, Benvenuto Disertori, Raoul Dal Molin Ferenzona, Umberto Vittorini and Giuseppe Viviani, the exhibition also gives space to forgotten talents, in homage to Ratta’s revolutionary criteria. Among them are Irma Pavone Grotta, a woodcutter trained in the cult of Félix Bracquemond, and Carlo Servolini, a significant artist for the Colligiano area, whose iconic work concludes the exhibition, exemplifying the reasons for the exhibition.

Complementing the three sections, a valuable documentary section curated by Francesca Cagianelli and Paolo Bassano presents the cover of the Sixth and Seventh Notebooks edited by Cesare Ratta in 1935: A Little of Everything (Collection of the “Ratta Notebooks,” 135 drawings, 32 artists, Etchings, Lithographs, Oils, Sculptures, Drawings, Bologna). This cover, dedicated to Luigi Bartolini, with one of his woodcuts highlighted, is an ideal introduction for visitors to the exhibition. Also on display will be very rare volumes from the Bolognese publisher containing ex libris and etchings by Bartolini, many of them unpublished until their publication in the editions edited by Ratta. Among them is the 1928 edition that includes 10 etchings and 22 drawings by the artist, in which the engraving Figura meschina dei lepidotteri imbalsamati (or Butterflies of the Museum), one of the most celebrated of the first half of the 1920s, first appeared.

Highlight of the documentary section is the volume Congedo. Xylographs-Acqua etchings-Watercolors-Trichromes and-Lithographs-Oil paintings-Ex-Libris-Decorative elements-Black and white-participations etc. (Bologna, 1937), considered Ratta’s “swan song.” In this volume, which includes 11 engravings by Bartolini, is an incisive review by Luigi Servolini published in Corriere Adriatico on June 20, 1937. Servolini celebrates Ratta’s “fifteen years of intense, courageous and generous publishing activity,” highlighting the importance of the rich and superabundant anthologies, including the series dedicated to Bartolini, recognized for its expressive power and compared to the best examples of ancient and modern engraving art.

The exhibition will be enriched by a cultural calendar entitled The Resurgence of the Arts: Luigi Bartolini and the Record Strategies of Cesare Ratta. This program includes lectures and talks dedicated to the still little-known but fortunate season of the Black and White revival in Italy. The opening lecture will be given by Paolo Bassano, titled Luigi Bartolini and Cesare Ratta: the two celestial anarchists, while Francesca Cagianelli will conclude the cycle with Cesare Ratta’s Itinerari tra i Labronici del Novecento.

The exhibition will be open every Thursday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., with special openings on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2; Saturday, September 21 and Sunday, September 22; Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29; and Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6. Visits for small groups can be booked and free guided tours are available by appointment. For more information and reservations, you can contact 0586 980251/252 and 392 6025703 or write to More details are available at

Luigi Bartolini and early 20th century Italian engraving on display in Collesalvetti
Luigi Bartolini and early 20th century Italian engraving on display in Collesalvetti

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