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Description: Globalizing Impressionism: Reception, Translation, and Transnationalism
In 1926, the year of Claude Monet’s death, Italian newspapers published two divergent assessments of impressionism by two prominent cultural players. On the one hand, art critic, painter, and cultural organizer Cipriano...
Author
Alexis Clark (Editor), Frances Fowle (Editor)
PublisherYale University Press
9. Imitators of the Imitators?: World Impressionisms at the Venice Biennale, 1895–1948
Laura Moure Cecchini
In 1926, the year of Claude Monet’s death, Italian newspapers published two divergent assessments of impressionism by two prominent cultural players. On the one hand, art critic, painter, and cultural organizer Cipriano Efisio Oppo dismissed the entire impressionist canon as “small paintings, quick brushstrokes, and subject matter of depressing simplicity.” He concluded, “Some maintain that Impressionism in art died some time ago, but we could also say that it has never lived.”1 Cipriano Efisio Oppo, “In morte di Claude Monet,” La Tribuna (Rome), December 10, 1926. Here and elsewhere, unless otherwise indicated, translations are mine. On the other hand, art critic and art historian Lionello Venturi praised what he considered “authentic” (French) impressionism and denounced Italian critics who disregarded the work of Monet and his fellow French artists but celebrated what he termed “false Impressionisms, the Scottish, Dutch, Swedish, and Spanish ones.” For Venturi, the latter, hackneyed impressionisms were not “at the helm of the world pictorial movement, but . . . trudging behind,” leading the Italians who emulated these impressionisms from outside France to be “not only imitators, but imitators of the imitators.”2 Lionello Venturi, “Il gusto italiano,” Il Secolo (Milan), April 24, 1926, repr. in Saggi di critica (Rome: Bocca, 1956), 113–20, 116–17.
The aforementioned quotes reveal the ambivalent Italian reception of French impressionism, a topic that has received much scholarly attention in Italy. As early as 1949, in his preface to the Italian edition of John Rewald’s History of Impressionism, art historian Roberto Longhi summarized almost seventy years of what he considered a consistent Italian cultural backwardness with respect to impressionism.3 Roberto Longhi, “L’impressionismo e il gusto degli Italiani (Introduzione a John Rewald, Storia dell’impressionismo, Firenze: Sansoni, 1949),” in Edizione delle opere complete, vol. 14, Scritti sull’Otto e Novecento 1926–1966 (Florence: Sansoni, 1984), 1–24, 5. A more nuanced assessment was initiated by the pioneering articles Maria Mimita Lamberti published in the 1970s and 1980s.4 Maria Mimita Lamberti, “Lionello Venturi sulla via dell’impressionismo,” Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 3 1, no. 1 (1971): 257–77; Maria Mimita Lamberti, “Vittorio Pica e l’impressionismo in Italia,” Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 4, no. 3 (1975): 1149–201; Maria Mimita Lamberti, “1870–1915: I mutamenti del mercato e le ricerche degli artisti,” in Storia dell’arte italiana. Parte seconda: Dal Medioevo al Novecento 7, vol. 7, Il Novecento, ed. Paolo Fossati (Turin: Einaudi, 1982), 5–172. Research by Flavio Fergonzi, Jean-François Rodriguez, Giuliana Tomasella, Laura Iamurri, and Giovanna De Lorenzi, among others, has provided in-depth analyses of important episodes and key cultural players in the Italian reception of French impressionism.5 Among others, see Flavio Fergonzi, “Firenze 1910–Venezia 1920: Emilio Cecchi, i quadri francesi e le difficoltà dell’impressionismo,” Bollettino d’arte 6, no. 79 (1993): 1–26; Jean-François Rodriguez, La réception de l’impressionnisme à Florence en 1910: Prezzolini et Soffici maîtres d’oeuvre de la “Prima esposizione italiana dell’impressionismo francese e delle scolture di Medardo Rosso” (Venice: Istituto veneto di scienze lettere ed arti, 1994); Daniela Mugittu, “La fortuna critica dell’impressionismo e del postimpressionismo in Italia: Influssi e tendenze nel panorama critico italiano,” Borgolauro. Rivista di storia, lettere e arti della Fameia Muiesana, no. 18 (1997): 45–55; Giuliana Tomasella, “Venezia-Parigi-Venezia: La mostra di arte italiana a Parigi e le presenze francesi alla Biennale di Venezia, 1920–1938,” in Il futuro alle spalle: Italia, Francia: L’arte tra le due guerre, ed. Federica Pirani (Rome: De Luca, 1998), 83–93; Maria Mimita Lamberti, “Appunti sulle sezioni straniere alle prime Biennali,” L’uomo nero 1, no. 2 (2004): 257–63; Francesca Bardazzi, Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism (Milan: Electa, 2007); Laura Iamurri, “Lionello Venturi e la storia dell’Impressionismo, 1932–1939,” Dossier Studiolo 5 (2007): 74–90; Laura Iamurri, Lionello Venturi e la modernità dell’impressionismo (Macerata: Quodlibet, 2011). What remains absent, however, is a longue durée approach taking into consideration crucial shifts in the Italian reception of French and European impressionism. This, therefore, is the aim of the present essay, which centers on a single, key institution: the Venice Biennale. From 1895 the Biennale would be the main venue in which international art was displayed for Italian audiences. Until 1968 it doubled as an art fair and an art exhibition.6 On the Biennale see, among others, Lawrence Alloway, The Venice Biennale, 1895–1968: From Salon to Goldfish Bowl (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1968); Enzo Di Martino, La Biennale di Venezia: 1895–1995: Cento anni di arte e cultura (Milan: Mondadori, 1995); Maria Mimita Lamberti, “The Context of the Early Exhibits, from the End of the Century to the First World War: Artists and the Public in the Giardini,” in Venice and the Biennale: Itineraries of Taste, ed. Flavia Scotton and Marino Barovier (Milan: Fabbri, 1995), 39–47; Caroline A. Jones, The Global Work of Art: World’s Fairs, Biennials, and the Aesthetics of Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017). The first Biennale in 1895 took place two decades after the First Impressionist Exhibition in Paris, which partially explains its audiences’ and critics’ lack of interest in the movement. The Biennale’s relationship to impressionism was at the same time unique and emblematic, reflecting shifting institutional interests and political commitments in its first twenty-four editions. While the Biennale was the only public art venue in Italy to have repeatedly exhibited French and non-French impressionist art from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, in this same period the Biennale juries, and the Italian critics who attended the exhibitions, manifested an overall indifference to—an often outright rejection of—French impressionism. Instead, much to Venturi’s dismay, his fellow critics praised the work of non-French artists painting in an impressionist idiom.
This essay spans the First Biennale in 1895, to which Monet was invited but in which he did not participate, to the Twenty-Fourth Biennale in 1948, when French impressionism received its first major Italian retrospective.7 French impressionist painting in Florentine collections was on display in 1945 at the exhibition La peinture française à Florence, organized in Florence’s Palazzo Pitti by Bernard Berenson. In 1946 a similar exhibition, Tableaux français en Italie–Tableaux italiens en France, opened at Palazzo Venezia in Rome. Yet these exhibitions were not exclusively dedicated to impressionism. Responding to Venturi, this essay aims to reassess the Italian reading of impressionism as a pan-European rather than strictly French artistic tendency, a revised view that aligns with recent literature on the movement. Norma Broude’s term “World Impressionism” becomes crucially important here, as her 1990 edited volume touches upon many of the artists addressed in this essay and, indeed, throughout the present anthology: John Lavery, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, Anders Zorn, Émile Claus, Michael Ancher, and Frits Thaulow, among many others.8 Norma Broude, ed., World Impressionism: The International Movement, 1860–1920 (New York: Abrams, 1990), 10. Rather than being guided by a formalist definition of impressionism, this essay considers the “impressionists” to be those artists thusly described by Italian critics. This essay thereby traces a history of the Italian reception of impressionism as it was then perceived—even if art historians today might define these artists as naturalist, realist, or even post-impressionist.
THE RECEPTION OF FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM IN ITALY OUTSIDE THE BIENNALE
Personal and professional ties between the French impressionists and Italy were fairly strong. Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas visited Florence in 1857 and 1858, respectively; the latter had family there and in Naples. Two of the so-called “Italiens de Paris,” Giuseppe De Nittis and Federico Zandomeneghi, exhibited in some of the French impressionists’ eight exhibitions.9 Giuseppe De Nittis participated in the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874, while Federico Zandomeneghi participated in 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1886. Giovanni Boldini, however, never contributed to these shows. On so-called “Italian impressionism,” see Giuliano Matteucci, ed., Aria di Parigi nella pittura italiana del secondo Ottocento (Livorno: Allemandi, 1998); Renato Barilli, ed., Impressionismo in Italia (Milan: Mazzotta, 2002); Ann Dumas, ed., Degas e gli italiani a Parigi (Ferrara: Ferrara Arte, 2003); Paolo Serafini, La maison Goupil e l’Italia: Il successo italiano a Parigi negli anni dell’impressionismo (Milan: Silvana, 2013); Renato Miracco, “La storia italiana dell’impressionismo: Impressioni postume,” in Gemme dell’impressionismo, ed. Mary Morton, Isabella Colucci, and Federica Pirani (Rome: De Luca, 2013), 25–47; Francesco Luigi Maspes, ed., Da Boldini a Segantini: Riflessi dell’impressionismo in Italia (Milan: Gam Manzoni Centro Studi per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, 2015). For a skeptical view of this label, see Francesca Castellani, “Italiens de Paris?,” in Dumas, Degas e gli italiani a Parigi, 67–96. Florentine critic Diego Martelli promoted the Macchiaioli and regularly visited Paris, where he socialized with the artists and attended several of their exhibitions. Martelli convinced Camille Pissarro to exhibit two of his Pontoise works in the 1878 Florentine show, the Promotrice Fiorentina. In The Cutting of the Hedge (1877), Pissarro uses heavy impasto, fluid brushwork, and luscious blue and green tones to sympathetically depict the harshness of rural life endured by a peasant woman nearly dwarfed by an overgrown hedgerow. As with The Cutting of the Hedge and its depiction of unruly nature, The Coming of the Storm (1878) records the effects of a menacing sky filled with gray clouds in a still serene blue sky (fig. 1). This latter composition, cut by a dramatic diagonal dividing land and sky, includes two tiny figures seeking shelter from the approaching storm.
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Description: The Coming of the Storm by Pissarro, Camille
Fig. 1. Camille Pissarro, The Coming of the Storm, 1878. Oil on canvas, 59 × 74 cm (23.2 × 29 in.). Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Florence.
Founded in 1843 by several prominent Florentine citizens and still operating today, the Società Promotrice di Belle Arti aimed to support the production and exhibition of those genres of painting preferred by budding middle-class collectors: landscapes, sweeping vistas, and genre scenes.10 Monica Nocentini and Claudia Borgia, eds., Patria nostra maestra nelle arti: Da Firenze all’Italia: Promozione e produzione artistica nelle esposizioni della Società delle Belle Arti (1843–1861) (Florence: Cornelio Timpani, 2011). The 1878 Promotrice Fiorentina was the first time in which French impressionist art—albeit only two paintings—was publicly shown in Italy. Unimpressed, Italian artists and critics dismissed Pissarro’s paintings as mere imitations of the Macchiaioli, whose works were also displayed at this edition of the Promotrice. The latter artists had officially debuted there in 1861, more than a decade before the First Impressionist Exhibition. In addition to chronological precedence, the Macchiaioli and their supporters claimed that French impressionists merely echoed their Italian colleagues’ long-standing interest in landscape painting and in the representation of light effects—in stark contrast with some scholarship that still today presents the Macchiaioli as emulators of the French impressionists.11 Albert Boime, The Art of the Macchia and the Risorgimento: Representing Culture and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Italy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); Fernando Mazzocca and Carlo Sisi, I macchiaioli prima dell’impressionismo (Venice: Marsilio, 2003). For an early assessment of the similarities between the Macchiaioli and French impressionism, based on their common “primitiveness,” see Lionello Venturi, Il gusto dei primitivi (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1926).
In his attempts to change his compatriots’ adverse opinions of impressionism, in 1880 Martelli lectured on the French impressionists in the Philological Circle of Livorno, commonly considered the first tribute to this movement by a non-French critic. Here Martelli recounted his first contact with the soon-to-be impressionists at the 1863 Salon des Refusés and traced a history of the movement until the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition (1879).12 Longhi, “L’impressionismo,” 10. He further defined impressionism as “not only a revolution in the field of thought, but also a physiological revolution in the human eye. It is a new theory that depends on a different way of perceiving the sensations of light and of expressing the impressions.”13 Diego Martelli, Gli impressionisti. Lettura data al circolo filologico di Livorno (Pisa: Tipografia Vannucchi, 1880), trans. as “A Lecture on the Impressionists,” in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, 1874–1904: Sources and Documents, ed. and trans. Linda Nochlin (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 21–25. Martelli had previously published two newspaper articles on the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition: “I pittori impressionisti francesi: Quarta Esposizione,” Roma Artistica 22 (1879): 170; Roma Artistica 23 (1879): 178–79. See also Francesca Dini and Ettore Spalletti, eds., Dai macchiaioli agli impressionisti. L’opera critica di Diego Martelli (Florence: Artificio, 1996); and Diego Dini and Francesca Dini, Diego Martelli. Storia di un uomo e di un’epoca (Turin: Allemandi, 1996). Four years after Edmond Duranty’s similarly positivist essay, “La nouvelle peinture,” circulated in French and English, Martelli thus explained the impressionist technique as a careful transcription of optical perceptions.14 On the relationship between Martelli and Duranty, see Carol Armstrong, ed., Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas (1991; repr., Los Angeles: Getty Institute, 2003), 268n3. Such an approach profoundly shaped the Italian reception of impressionism.
For several decades Martelli’s visionary appreciation would not be echoed, so much so that his attempt to include examples of French impressionism at the 1880 Turin National Exhibition failed due to lack of interest from the Italians and the French.15 Sharon Hecker, A Moment’s Monument: Medardo Rosso and the International Origins of Modern Sculpture (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018), 66. Still, there were few Italian art writers who started to follow Martelli’s lead. Journalist and literary and art critic Vittorio Pica, as discussed in Hadrien Viraben's essay, was one of the rare Italian popularizers of French impressionism in the late nineteenth century.16 Paola Zatti, “Le prime Biennali veneziane (1895–1912). Il contributo di Vittorio Pica,” Venezia Arti 7, no. 7 (1993): 113–16. He published several articles on the group, and his 1908 book, Gl’impressionisti francesi, was the first monograph on this topic to appear in Italy.17 Vittorio Pica, Gl’impressionisti francesi (Bergamo: Istituto italiano d’arti grafiche, 1908). On Pica, see also Lamberti, “Vittorio Pica e l’impressionismo in Italia,” 1149–201; Alessandro Gaudio, La sinistra estrema dell’arte: Vittorio Pica alle origini dell’estetismo in Italia (Manziana: Vecchiarelli, 2006); Davide Lacagnina, ed., Vittorio Pica e la ricerca della modernità. Critica artistica e cultura internazionale (Milan: Mimesis, 2017); Davide Lacagnina, ed., L’officina internazionale di Vittorio Pica: Arte moderna e critica d’arte in Italia (1880–1930) (Palermo: Torri del Vento, 2018). Pica’s definition of impressionism emphasized both its technical and thematic novelty. On the technical side, he remarked that the impressionists “were among the first to directly address nature, and to dare to consult it and to try to faithfully reproduce the sensations that it provoked in them.”18 Vittorio Pica, “Un critico d’arte (J. K. Huysmans)” (1883), in All’avanguardia: Studi sulla letteratura contemporanea (Naples: Pierro, 1890), 253–71, repr. in Lamberti, “Vittorio Pica,” 1194. On the thematic side, Pica was one of the first in Italy to use the term “modernism” to describe this modern painting—yet with this term he was not concerned (in the Greenbergian sense) with form and materiality, but rather with the representation of scenes from contemporary life. This relatively elastic definition allowed Pica, and subsequent Italian critics, to celebrate non-French impressionists who also fulfilled these two conditions.
Only after 1908 did Italian critics who were familiar with Bernard Berenson’s formalist theories and attuned to the international avant-garde organize exhibitions around French impressionism discuss that art in periodicals, and thereby systematically promote it.19 Laura Iamurri, “Berenson, la pittura moderna e la nuova critica italiana,” Prospettiva, nos. 87/88 (1997): 69–90; Alessandro Del Puppo, “Un dialogo inedito di Ardengo Soffici e il dibattito di ‘Lacerba’ sulla pittura pura,” in Mercato, patrimonio e opinione pubblica: Sulla circolazione internazionale delle opere d’arte, 1870–1914, vol. 73, Ricerche di storia dell’arte: Rivista quadrimestrale, ed. Flaminia Gennari Santori and Laura Iamurri (Rome: Carocci, 2001), 81–88. These exhibitions and articles openly condemned the lack of French impressionist works on view at the Biennale. For young critics such as Emilio Cecchi, Venturi, Ardengo Soffici, and Longhi, French impressionism was an important precursor to the formal experimentations of futurism and cubism. Form, not subject, mattered.20 Ardengo Soffici, “Paul Cézanne,” Vita d’Arte 1, no. 6 (1908), 320–31; Lionello Venturi, “Il 1609 e la pittura italiana,” La Nuova Antologia 144, no. 912 (December 1909): 613–19; Ardengo Soffici, Il caso Medardo Rosso: Preceduto da l’impressionismo e la pittura italiana (Florence: B. Seeber, 1909); Ardengo Soffici, “L’impressionismo e la pittura italiana” appeared in the journal La Voce in four installments (April 1, April 15, April 29, and May 6); repr. in Ardengo Soffici, Opere (Florence: Vallecchi, 1959), 1:3–29; Emilio Cecchi, “Esposizioni Fiorentine,” La Voce 2, no. 24 (May 26, 1910): 329; Roberto Longhi, “Le due Lise,” La Voce 6, no. 1 (1914): 21–28. They regarded the French impressionists as forerunners of the avant-garde artists who, in the first decades of the twentieth century, similarly struggled against the art establishment to gain recognition while also antagonizing the public. Lively discussions about whether cubism or futurism was the legitimate heir to impressionism reveal the stakes of this debate.
In 1910 Soffici, who had lived in Paris at the beginning of the century, organized the First Italian Exhibition of Impressionism in Florence, including under this label artists as dissimilar as Degas, Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jean-Louis Forain, and Paul Cézanne, as well as Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (fig. 2). Several sculptures by Medardo Rosso were also shown. The exhibition’s contents had been assembled through loans from dealers Paul Durand-Ruel, Ambroise Vollard, and Paul Rosenberg, and from collectors based in Italy and France, such as Berenson, Egisto Fabbri, Lucien Henraux, and Paolo Signorini.21 Prima mostra italiana dell’impressionismo e di Medardo Rosso (Florence: Stabilimento Tipografico Aldino, 1910). The most encompassing studies of this episode are Jean-François Rodriguez, La réception de l’impressionnisme à Florence en 1910: Prezzolini et Soffici maîtres d’oeuvre de la “Prima esposizione italiana dell’impressionismo francese e delle scolture di Medardo Rosso” (Venice: Istituto veneto di scienze lettere ed arti, 1994); and Francesca Bardazzi, ed., Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism (Milan: Electa, 2007). Medardo Rosso’s sculptures came from the museums of the Petit Palais, Troyes, Hagen, Leipzig, Dresden, and the Luxembourg in Paris. On the Fabbri collection, see Lucien Henraux, “I Cézanne della Raccolta Fabbri,” Dedalo 1 (1920): 53–58; and “Une grande collection de Cézanne en Italie: La Collection Egisto Fabbri,” L’amour de l’art (November 1924): 331.
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Description: Prima mostra Italiana dell'Impressionismo by Unknown
Fig. 2. Prima Mostra Italiana dell’Impressionismo: Opere di P. Cézanne, E. Degas, J.-L. Forain (Florence: Stabilimento Tipografico Aldino, 1910).
The two paintings by Pissarro included in the exhibition were the same ones Martelli had shown, and failed to sell, at the aforementioned Promotrice Fiorentina. Martelli posthumously donated these works to Florence, thus making them the first French impressionist paintings to enter an Italian public art collection. Neither the Venetian international modern art museum Ca’ Pesaro (founded in 1902) nor Rome’s Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (founded in 1883) owned any French impressionist works for several decades, although, as discussed below, their collections did have artworks by foreign artists.
In Soffici’s exhibition the term “impressionism” acted as a loose synonym for “modern art.” As he would write in 1911, “impressionism” was an artistic tendency that, through avoiding any sort of hierarchy, “legitimized and made poetic every manifestation of life.” The impressionist artist consequently “proved that anything could be a matter of beauty and poetry if contemplated with the eye of a creator.”22 Ardengo Soffici, “Picasso e Braque,” La Voce 3, no. 24 (August 24, 1911): 635–37, repr. in Ardengo Soffici, Cubismo e Futurismo (Florence: La Voce, 1914), 617–19.
In 1913 the First Rome Secession, modeled after the Vienna Secession, successfully exhibited French modern art. Aiming to counter the perceived conservatism and provincialism of Italian arts institutions such as the Biennale, the Secession aspired to place Rome at the center of international artistic debate.23 See Rossana Bossaglia, Mario Quesada, and Pasqualina Spadini, Secessione Romana. 1913–1916 (Rome: Fratelli Palombi, 1987); Manuel Carrera and Jolanda Nigro Covre, eds., Secessione romana 1913–2013: Temi e problemi (Rome: Bagatto Libri, 2013). Organized by painter Camillo Innocenti and the Bernheim-Jeune gallery, a section of the 1913 Rome Secession displayed fifty French artworks, including those by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Renoir, and Berthe Morisot. The neo-impressionists and Nabis were also represented there. Yet it was not these artists’ pictures, but rather those by Kees van Dongen and Matisse, that received the most attention from the audience and the critics.24 Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della “Secessione” (Rome: Tipografia dell’Unione, 1913); A Cantú, “La Secessione Romana,” Vita d’arte 12, no. 6 (August 1913): 57; Matteo Piccioni, “La vocazione internazionale della Secessione romana e la ‘Sala degli Impressionisti Francesi’ del 1913. Gli artisti, le opere e la ricezione critica,” in Secessione romana 1913–2013. Temi e problemi, 150–62.
Unpromoted by Italian commercial galleries, French impressionism struggled to succeed in the Italian market.25 Paola Martinelli, “Il mercato dell’arte a Milano nella seconda metà dell’Ottocento,” Arte Lombarda 50 (1978): 122–25; Roberto Ferrari, “Aspetti del sistema dell’arte a Milano nella prima metà dell’Ottocento,” in La geografia dei sistema dell’arte nella Lombardia ottocentesca, ed. Roberto Ferrari (Brescia: Aref, 2011), 43–100; Angela Madesani, Le intelligenze dell’arte. Gallerie e galleristi a Milano 1876–1950 (Busto Arsizio: Nomos, 2016), 15ff. Italian collectors who wanted to own French impressionist paintings had to travel to Paris—for example, prominent Italian-based collectors of Cézanne such as Fabbri and Charles Loeser bought from Vollard—or had to buy them on the secondary market. The Venice Biennale was thus the most important location where Italian collectors could acquire non-Italian art. What it included and excluded, then, profoundly shaped Italian art collections as well as the public’s perception of modern art.
FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM AT THE VENICE BIENNALE BEFORE THE FASCIST TAKEOVER
In its first fifty years, the Biennale was directed by three secretaries, each with distinctive approaches. Founding secretary Antonio Fradeletto, who was also a professor and politician in Venice, directed the institution until 1914. His Biennales included some risky choices, such as shows of Gustav Klimt, Gustave Courbet, and Renoir in 1910, and an exhibition devoted to James Ensor in 1914. Despite these overtures, Fradeletto’s Biennales were cautious at best. He ordered the removal of a Picasso painting from the 1904 Spanish section coordinated by the artist Ignacio Zuloaga, for example.26 Jean-François Rodriguez, Picasso alla Biennale di Venezia (1905–1948): Soffici, Paresce, De Pisis e Tozzi intermediari di cultura tra la Francia e l’Italia (Padova: CLEUP, 1993), 8.
Nevertheless, under Fradeletto’s directorship, the Biennale gradually became truly international while also respecting national differences and divisions. With the Biennale’s initial editions, Italian and non-Italian art was displayed in the central building; but throughout the first decades of the twentieth century, many foreign countries erected their own pavilions and exercised almost total control over them. Belgium built the first foreign pavilion in 1907; the British, Bavarian, and Hungarian pavilions opened in 1909, followed by France and Sweden in 1912 and Russia in 1914.27 Marco Mulazzani, Guide to the Pavilions of the Venice Biennale since 1887 (Milan: Electa Architecture, 2014). In 1914 the Swedish pavilion was assigned to the Netherlands. These dedicated spaces encouraged the more sustained presence of these countries in the Biennale, which then led to the financial success of their artists in Italy.
Since Venice aimed to compete with Paris as the capital of the art world via the Biennale, it should come as no surprise that its first editions limited the submissions of French art and expanded contributions from other countries. Indeed, four European (non-French) impressionists, Giovanni Boldini, Max Liebermann, Sorolla, and Zorn, were involved with the institution from the outset as members of the Biennale Honorary Committee.28 Prima Esposizione Internazionale della Città di Venezia. Catalogo Illustrato (Venice: Fratelli Visentini, 1895). Carolus-Duran, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Jean-Jacques Henner, Paul Dubois, and Gustave Moreau were also on the Honorary Committee for the First Biennale, although the last three did not exhibit any works; their role was mostly symbolic. Boldini was consulted about the invitations to participate in the First Biennale. He insisted that Monet needed to be included, but, like his French artist-compatriots, Monet snubbed the invitation.29 Leo Lecci, “Giovanni Boldini e la partecipazione degli artisti francesi,” Annali Online-Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Classe di Lettere 9, no. 2 (2014): 203–20. This may be partially explained by the fact that Venice was not yet a reputable center for contemporary art. As Boldini wrote to Fradeletto, “The French . . . cannot take seriously exhibitions in other countries. Apres [sic] Paris la fin du monde.”30 Giovanni Boldini to Antonio Fradaletto, February 11, 1895, cited in Lecci, “Giovanni Boldini,” 215. French and typos in the original.
Nevertheless, two of Monet’s paintings were on view in the Second Biennale in 1897, View of Ventimiglia (1884; fig. 3) and Spring (1882). These were in fact the first French impressionist paintings to be shown at the Venice Biennale. In the former, Monet employed a very light palette to depict the dazzling Mediterranean sunlight; the small town of Ventimiglia, near the Italian border with France, almost blends with the mountains behind it. In the second work, he applied broken brushstrokes and mauve hues to depict a melancholic view of spring, heightened by the sense of doom conveyed by a cloudy sky. These two works were on view in the French room next to portraits and urban views by Paul-Albert Besnard, Jacques-Émile Blanche, Jean-François Raffaëlli, and James Tissot—artists similarly engaged in a study of color and light, and in the depiction of contemporary life. In this way, Monet’s landscapes were presented as part of a broader tendency in French painting. Yet none of these artists was honored with an illustration of his work in the Biennale catalogue. Instead, that catalogue celebrated the non-French impressionists Frank Brangwyn, Franz Courtens, and Sorolla.
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Description: View of Ventimiglia by Monet, Claude
Fig. 3. Claude Monet, View of Ventimiglia, 1884. Oil on canvas, 65.1 × 91.7 cm (25 5/8 × 36 1/8 in.). Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow Museums, Presented by the Trustees of the Hamilton Bequest, 1943.
It is worth delving into how the 1897 Biennale catalogue described Monet’s artistic practice: “He exhibited at the Salon of 1865, 1866, and 1868: then never again [sic]. He is one of the leaders of the impressionist school, or better yet of that movement with which palpitating and changing light affirmed itself in painting.”31 Seconda Esposizione Internazionale di Venezia. Catalogo Illustrato (Venice: Officine Grafiche Ferrarri, 1897), 33. Impressionism was therefore defined as a “school” or “better yet [a] movement,” in opposition to the Salon and primarily interested in optical effects. There was no mention of specific practices or subjects, or the artists’ preference for unusual viewpoints, or their class politics, or their relationship with France. Like Pica’s definition, this sweeping description permitted a more expansive understanding and application of “impressionism.”
Following the model set by the 1897 Biennale, most of the French impressionist art exhibited in the first editions had been made in the 1870s and 1880s, so the latest developments by these primarily still-living artists were overlooked. These artists were not exhibited with a historicizing intent, as would have been the case in a retrospective exhibition; rather, their somewhat older pictures were shown next to more recent work by other French artists. At the 1897 Biennale, for example, Monet’s works from 1882 and 1884 were hung next to symbolist paintings produced almost contemporaneously with that year’s Biennale, such as Puvis de Chavannes’s Winter (1896) and The Poet (1896). By representing the French impressionists through works completed in previous decades, the Biennale hindered their appreciation as contemporary and active artists. Yet by showing only a small number of unrepresentative works, the Biennale also limited the appreciation of the French impressionists as canonized modern artists.
Though Monet’s more recent paintings of the Rouen cathedral were shown to great acclaim at the Georges Petit gallery in the previous year, he refused to exhibit them in the 1899 Biennale, as Fradeletto could not commit to sell at least one of them. Fradeletto’s requests for two recent works by Degas were equally unsuccessful. Durand-Ruel had sold them to a private collector before they could be sent to Venice.32 Leo Lecci, “Monet alle prime Biennali di Venezia: Note sulla fortuna critica dell’artista in Italia,” in Claude Monet a Bordighera, ed. Silvia Alborno (Milan: Leonardo, 1998), 116–19; Leo Lecci, “Occasioni mancate alla Biennale: Presenza e assenza di Monet, Degas e Renoir alle mostre di Venezia dal 1895 al 1901,” in Studi di stoiria dell’arte in ricordo di Franco Sborgi, ed. Leo Lecci and Paola Valenti (Genova: De Ferrari, 2018), 299–327. To give a slightly more comprehensive view of the French impressionists, six paintings by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley were included in the 1903 Biennale. All were chosen by Corriere della Sera journalist Ugo Ojetti, a key player in developing the taste of the Italian middle class, from Durand-Ruel’s gallery. Renoir’s Bather and Pissarro’s The French Theatre’s Square (dates unknown) were illustrated in the catalogue, but none of these four artists received prizes. Pica himself considered these works “not significant enough to give us an exact sense of what was, and what aspired to be, the impressionist school.”33 Vittorio Pica, L’arte mondiale alla V Esposizione di Venezia (Bergamo: Istituto Italiano di Arti Grafiche, 1903), 217. Instead, non-French impressionists such as Lavery, Zorn, and Zuloaga were celebrated by the jury of the Biennale. Two years later, in 1905, eight paintings by the same French impressionists were exhibited. Once more, none of these works was awarded any prizes; instead, Blanche and Lucien Simon received gold medals (the highest honor). French impressionism went unmentioned in most critics’ reviews of both editions.34 Maria Mimita Lamberti, “Appunti sulle sezioni straniere alle prime Biennali,” L’uomo nero 1, no. 2 (2004): 257–63. A review of these works by Pica, who judged Monet’s contributions (as well as those of Raffaëlli, also included as representative of French impressionism) to be unremarkable, was Vittorio Pica, “L’arte mondiale a Venezia. I pittori francesi,” Il Marzocco 2, no. 26 (August 1897): 1–2. This is not especially surprising, as the Biennale was unable to secure a numerically significant group of French impressionist paintings to cause a sensation among the critics and the public.
In 1907, in the French section organized by Musée du Luxembourg curator Léonce Bénedite, no painting by the French impressionists was on view. At the 1910 Biennale, the year of Soffici’s exhibition of the impressionists in Florence, individual rooms were devoted to Gustave Courbet, Adolphe Monticelli, and Renoir. In his introduction to the latter, Ojetti historicized French impressionism and, unlike the emphasis Pica placed on the subject, provided a purely stylistic definition of the movement based on three principles: the fusion of form and color; shadows treated as colors; and the synthesis of colors in the eye of the viewer.35 IX esposizione internazionale d’arte della citt à di Venezia 1910: Catalogo (Venice: Carlo Ferrari, 1910), 37. Despite the fact that Renoir was presented as one of the founders of impressionism, the vast majority of his works on view in this exhibition were dated 1910, emphasizing the contemporaneity of his production, a departure from the Biennale’s previous practice. Yet when in 1912 France inaugurated its own pavilion on the grounds of the Giardini, individual exhibitions of Blanche, Émile-René Ménard, Gaston La Touche, and Simon were on view. The first French impressionists were still not to be seen here.36 X esposizione internazionale d’arte della città di Venezia: Catalogo illustrato (Venice: Carlo Ferrari, 1912). This exclusion was repeated in 1914, although, in this edition, the Biennale devoted individual exhibition space to De Nittis and Zandomeneghi, displaying their most recent works.
The Biennale’s internationalism was meant to give to Venice prestige as a world art capital. At the same time, by emphasizing the artists’ national identity and assigning them the almost diplomatic task of representing their own countries, the Biennale became an arena for chauvinistic rhetoric and rivalry.37 Shearer West, “National Desires and Regional Realities in the Venice Biennale, 1895–1914,” Art History 18, no. 3 (September 1995): 404–34. Unsurprisingly, the exhibition was suspended between 1914 and 1920 due to World War I.
In 1920 Pica, the early champion of and writer on French impressionism, became secretary of the Biennale. More than Fradeletto, who preceded him in that post, Pica opened the institution up to the international avant-garde.38 Davide Lacagnina, ed., L’officina internazionale di Vittorio Pica: Arte moderna e critica d’arte in Italia (1880–1930) (Palermo: Torri del Vento, 2017). The French pavilion at the 1920 Biennale was curated by Paul Signac, whom Pica had invited to take up this post. Signac and Pica aimed to display French painting that bypassed artists such as Blanche, Ménard, and Simon, all of whom had been celebrated at the pre–World War I Biennales. In tandem with highlighting his fellow neo-impressionists, Signac also included paintings by Pierre Bonnard, Matisse, Louis Valtat, and Félix Vallotton. The pièce de résistance of the French pavilion, however, was a Cézanne retrospective exhibition spanning his paintings made in the 1870s to those completed near the time of his death in 1906.39 XII Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia: Catalogo (Venice: Bestetti e Tuminelli, 1920). See also Maria Grazia Messina, “Valori Plastici, il confronto con la Francia e la questione dell’arcaismo,” in Pirani, Il futuro alle spalle, 19–35. That show—strongly encouraged by Pica—included twenty-eight works, some of which were part of Italian-based collections, such as the aforementioned Fabbri and Loeser collections.
Although the public generally ignored it, Italian critics had much to say about this retrospective.40 On this exhibition, see Francesca Bardazzi, ed., Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism (Milano: Electa, 2007), especially Giovanna De Lorenzi, “The Cézannes of the Fabbri and Loeser Collections at the 1920 Venice Biennale: Aspects of a Critical Debate,” 239–55. See also Nicoletta Cardano, “Note sulla fortuna critica di Paul Cézanne in Italia: La mostra individuale alla XII Biennale di Venezia,” in Cézanne e le avanguardie, ed. Nello Ponente and Maria Grazia Messina (Rome: Officina, 1981), 167–84. Some outright rejected it. Oppo, for example, found Cézanne’s works “miserable things painted in a childish manner” and “similar to old paintings waiting to be restored, covered in mold.”41 Cipriano Efisio Oppo, “Cézanne” (1920), in Cipriano Efisio Oppo, Mostre, figure, paesaggi (Turin: Fratelli Buratti, 1930), 104. More interestingly, others concluded that Cézanne was anti-avant-garde; Ojetti called him a “pioneer of the restoration.”42 Ugo Ojetti, “Cézanne,” Corriere della Sera, July 10, 1920. Thus, Ojetti valued Cézanne only insofar as his work was seen as surpassing impressionism to thereby restore painting to “deliberate simplicity, definite masses, clean outlines, recondite interspaces: in short, architectural gravitas.”43 Ojetti, “Cézanne.” See also Giovanna De Lorenzi, “1920: Ojetti, ‘Dedalo’ e l’arte contemporanea,” in Militanze a confronto: Vicende di arte e critica nell’Italia del Ventennio, ed. Maria Grazia Messina (Rome: Nuova Italia Scientifica, 1999), 5–22, 9. This classicist interpretation framed Cézanne as the heir to Giotto, Masaccio, and Piero della Francesca. In short, Ojetti made him into an essentially Italian artist, the father of the return to order that engaged many Italian painters in the 1920s and 1930s. Cézanne was celebrated at the 1920 Biennale as anti-impressionist.
The 1922 Biennale included a retrospective of Amedeo Modigliani as well as a controversial exhibition of African sculpture loaned from the collections of the Rome and Florence ethnographic museums and explicitly presented as the art that inspired the new avant-gardes to challenge impressionism.44 Carlo Anti, “Mostra di Scultura Negra,” in Catalogo della XIIIa Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia (Milan: Bestetti e Tuminelli, 1922), 41–42. On this crucial exhibition, see Ezio Bassani, “Scultura africana alla XIII ‘Biennale’ di Venezia, 1922,” Critica d’arte 62, no. 4 (December 1999): 69–79; Emanuele Greco, “L’arte negra alla Biennale di Venezia del 1922. Ricostruzione del dibattito critico sulle riviste italiane,” Annali. Università degli Studi di Firenze 11 (2010): 356–74; Ezio Bassani and Gigi Pezzoli, “Act One: ‘Negro Sculpture’ at the XIII Esposizione 24 Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia,” in Il Cacciatore Bianco/The White Hunter, ed. Marco Scotini and Elisabetta Galasso (Milan: Fm Centro di Arte Contemporanea, 2017), 24–49. The German pavilion exhibited expressionist works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka, Käthe Kollwitz, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, while the French pavilion had retrospective exhibitions devoted to Émile Bernard, Bonnard, and Maurice Denis. By this date, French impressionism had been bypassed in favor of more contemporary artists.
Despite such openness to new art, though, the Biennales under Pica continued to struggle to keep up to date with the more experimental artistic trends. Audiences seemed to prefer the familiar over the innovative, and aesthetically conservative Venetian artistic and political elites remained at the helm of the institution. At the other extreme, Pica was harshly criticized by key players such as the futurist leader F. T. Marinetti and Novecento critic Margherita Sarfatti, who accused the secretary of sidelining more groundbreaking art. Pica’s Biennales were thus too cautious for modernist artists and critics, but too radical for more local cultural entities.
PUBLIC COLLECTING PRACTICES OF WORLD IMPRESSIONISM AT THE VENICE BIENNALE
As must be clear by this point, French impressionism had a fraught exhibition history in the Biennale. Non-French impressionism, however, such as that of Angelo Jank, Lavery, Sorolla, and Zuloaga, was highly appreciated. It enjoyed considerable critical success and was readily acquired by Italian public institutions. As early as 1914, the critic Gino Damerini condemned this situation: “In the various rooms of the [Biennale] many painters do not hide, but rather proudly display, the extremely close spiritual relationship with masters such as Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, and so on.” Then, Damerini wondered, “Why does [the Biennale] pretend to spurn the masters, when it opens its doors to their disciples?”45 Gino Damerini, “Le novità alla biennale veneziana,” Il Marzocco 14, no. 17 (April 26, 1914): 3.
To understand the extent to which Italian audiences enthusiastically welcomed impressionism outside France, it is useful to focus on one unusual exhibition. In 1935, to commemorate its fortieth anniversary, the Biennale organized, exceptionally, an additional show devoted to Venetian painting. This was precisely the kind of provincial art increasingly ignored by the Biennale’s juries, who aspired to turn the institution into an internationally prestigious venue and so sidelined Venetian artists, even if it had been a group of the latter who initiated the Biennale in the first place.46 For a study of this show, see Laura Moure Cecchini, “The ‘Mostra Del Quarantennio’ and the Canon of Modern Art at the Venice Biennale in the Interwar Period,” Il Capitale Culturale Studies on the Value of Cultural Heritage 14 (2016): 223–52.
Yet within this exhibition ostensibly dedicated to Venetian art could be found four rooms with an international focus. Curated by the new Biennale secretary, Antonio Maraini, the “Tribute to Foreign Art” exhibited all the international artworks formerly on view at the Biennale since 1895 and acquired by the Italian state for its two museums exclusively devoted to modern art: the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome and the Ca’ Pesaro in Venice. The show documented and surveyed the aesthetic criteria of Italian public collecting over four decades, as well as renegotiations of the canon of modern art in Italy between the 1895 Biennale and the most recent Biennale in 1934.
Although the “Tribute” did not perfectly reflect the history of the Biennale (not all artists who were on view at the Biennale became part of public Italian collections), it revealed changes in taste among the public and mainstream critics. Chronically underfunded and without a tradition of private philanthropy to support new acquisitions, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna and Ca’ Pesaro bought not the most innovative works from the Biennales, but rather those that had been actively discussed in Italian art-critical circles that year—with the expectation (misguided, as it turned out) that their market value would remain steady or increase over time. The “Tribute to Foreign Art” chronicled a history of the artists who had been more positively received from 1895 to 1934 and thus narrated a notably less franco-centric history of impressionism.
Despite being sporadically included in the Biennale, no French impressionist painting appeared in the “Tribute” for the simple but disappointing reason that none had yet been acquired by Italian public modern art museums. Instead, the show included some of the most well-known artworks owned by the Galleria d’Arte Moderna and Ca’ Pesaro: Medusa (1908) by Franz von Stuck; Judith (1909) by Gustav Klimt; Rabbi from Vitebsk (1922) by Marc Chagall; Fernand Khnopff’s Portrait of Mademoiselle de Rothmaler (1889); and Zuloaga’s Aunt Luisa (1903). Prominent Spanish impressionist Sorolla was represented by Sewing the Sails (1896; fig. 4). A serene but realistic representation of the collective labor of a family of fishermen, this last painting was much admired for its loose brushstrokes and luminous quality at the 1905 Biennale, so much so that it was acquired by the city of Venice for Ca’ Pesaro.47 Florencio de Santa-Ana y Alvarez-Ossorio, “Impresionismo o no impresionismo en Sorolla,” Archivo español de arte (1982): 42–49; Davide Lacagnina, “‘Votre oeuvre si originale et si puissante.’ Vittorio Pica scrive a Joaquín Sorolla,” Materia 5 (2005): 69–89.
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Description: Sewing the Sails by Sorolla y Bastida, Joaquin
Fig. 4. Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, Sewing the Sails, 1896. Oil on canvas, 222 × 300 cm (87 3/8 × 118 1/8 in.). Ca’ Pesaro, Venice, Italy.
Non-French impressionists were prominently displayed in the “Tribute” because the Venice and Rome collections had important holdings of these artists. In addition to Sorolla and Zuloaga, Hermen Anglada y Camarasa’s Horse and Rooster (1904) represented Spanish impressionism. The Swedish Zorn’s Nude on the Embankment (1900; fig. 5) was also on display, as were two paintings by the German Heinrich von Zügel. Zorn had participated in every Biennale from 1895 to 1909, when the institution celebrated him with a separate exhibition of his paintings.48 On the reception of Zorn in Italy, see Gianna Piantoni and Björn Fredlund, eds., Atmosfere del nord: La cultura figurativa svedese all’inizio del XX secolo (Turin: Sacs, 2002); Alexander auf der Heyde, “Modern Impressionist or Idyllic Genre Painter? Zorn’s European Fame from an Italian Perspective,” in Anders Zorn: A European Artist Seduces America, ed. Oliver Tostmann (London: Paul Holberton, 2013), 27–40. Danish artist Michael Ancher’s Fisherman of Skägen (1892), the first painting to enter the collection of Ca’ Pesaro, was also on view, as were landscapes rendered with loose brushstrokes and en plein air by the Belgians Albert Baertsoen and Courtens, the Norwegian Frits Thaulow, and the Scottish Edward Arthur Walton. Celebrated impressionist portraitists such as the Irish-born Lavery, the Hungarian Philip de László, and the German Franz von Lenbach had several works on display. The impressionism exhibited by the “Tribute” underscored its importance as an international idiom cutting across geopolitical lines.
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Description: Nude on the Embankment by Zorn, Anders
Fig. 5. Anders Zorn, Nude on the Embankment, 1900. Oil on canvas, 112 × 94 cm (44 1/16 × 37 in.). Ca’ Pesaro, Venice, Italy.
The exhibition reflected the mainstream view of impressionism in Italy. Pica seamlessly went from writing on Monet, Degas, and Sisley in the 1880s and 1890s to promoting the work of Sorolla, Robert Brough, and Brangwyn from the 1900s to 1920s. Because of his minimalist definition of impressionism—as “a direct address to nature” and a representation of modern life—Pica considered French impressionism to have ended in 1894, when Gustave Caillebotte donated his collection to the Musée du Luxembourg, but believed that impressionism as an idiom had continued, and innovated, elsewhere. This placed non-French impressionism, in Pica’s view, as derivative but also contemporary, while French impressionism was framed as the originator of a new artistic tendency that had been exhausted and so ended in France. This misunderstanding, in fact, might be the key to understanding the reception of global impressionism at the Biennale.
Italian art criticism surely played a key part in supporting this assessment of impressionism as an international phenomenon. In order to orient themselves among the wealth of foreign artworks exhibited at the Biennale—a space divided, it will be remembered, by national origin in the different pavilions—Italian critics relied on broad stylistic categories.49 Margherita d’Ayala Valva, “Una mappa delle nuove scuole nazionali su Emporium nel primo decennio del ’900: Carl Larsson, ‘seminatore di gioia’ in terra scandinava,” in Emporium: Parole e figure tra il 1895 e il 1964, ed. Giorgio Bacci, Massimo Ferretti and Miriam Fileti Mazza (Pisa: Normale, 2009), 435–63. This led to a weakening of the historical importance of the French impressionists. For example, in his review of the 1901 Biennale, Italian critic Diego Angeli summarized the two main tendencies of modern painting as “impressionism” (identified with the exploration of color and movement) and “symbolism” (which looked for meaning through allegory). Zorn and Böcklin were picked out as exemplifying these respective tendencies.50 Diego Angeli, “L’esposizione di Venezia: Antonio Fontanesi,” Il Marzocco 6, no. 24 (May 5, 1901): 1–2. This explains why instead of categories such as “realism,” “naturalism,” or “post-impressionism,” Italian critics and audiences used the shorthand “impressionism” to refer to all painting en plein air that captured the transient effects of light with a vivid palette, often in a sentimentalized manner.51 Pica had attempted to clarify the differences between impressionists, neo-impressionists, and post-impressionists (which he called “synthetists”) as early as 1897, in Vittorio Pica, “Impressionisti, divisionisti e sintetisti,” Il Marzocco 2, no. 2 (February 1897): 2–3. Yet his quite precise categories, as well as those developed by Giovanni Antonio Cesaró (“La pittura futurista,” Rassegna contemporanea 6, no. 6 [1913]: 997), remained without echoes in Italian mainstream art criticism. For this reason, Angeli could argue that the 1903 Biennale represented “the triumph of impressionism, because almost everyone has accepted it and all nations have important representatives of this new technique, which is varied, individual, and difficult to classify.”52 Diego Angeli, “I problemi della tecnica all’Esposizione di Venezia,” Il Marzocco 8, no. 19 (May 10, 1903): 1. When describing new developments from the impressionist camp, Angeli mentioned Sorolla, Brangwyn, and Raffaëlli, as well as Monet, Jank, and Ancher—all of whom, with the exception of Monet and Raffaëlli (whose works, once more, had not been bought by Italian arts institutions) were included in the “Tribute to Foreign Art.” Thus, Angeli did not award the French impressionists any special place in the history of the movement, but considered them part of an artistic tendency that had representatives in every country and that had transcended the perceived chronological limits of the first generation of impressionists based in France.
It is also worth noting that while Cecchi, Longhi, Soffici, and Venturi found this Italian approach to impressionism proof of Italy’s cultural backwardness, intellectual isolation, and provincialism, other critics disagreed. Pica, for example, thought that it was more useful for Italian artists to follow the impressionist idiom of Scandinavian rather than French painters, because in the latter “[impressionist] methods are certainly more intense and clever, but also less balanced and therefore more dangerous for less experienced followers.”53 Vittorio Pica, L’arte mondiale alla III Esposizione di Venezia (1899) (Bergamo: Istituto Italiano di Arti Grafiche, 1899), 15. For his part, Angeli doubted that Italian artists could ever become impressionists: “Our observations are more detailed and our country drier. We do not have the evanescent indeterminacy of the Northerners, nor their silvery and golden fogs.” He bitterly concluded: “Maybe we will never have true impressionists.”54 Angeli, “I problemi della tecnica,” 1.
Furthermore, Italian critics often described impressionism as not having originated in a specific time and place. Instead, as with the German critics and historians writing in the 1890s surveyed in the present anthology by Mitchell B. Frank, they cast impressionism as a transhistorical tendency.55 See Carlo Placci, “Dipinti francesi e influssi italiani,” Il Marzocco 14, no. 1 (January 3, 1909): 1–2. In a 1909 article on Baroque painting, for example, Venturi described the work of Federico Zuccari, the Carracci brothers, and Caravaggio as prototypes for recurring approaches to art. For Venturi, these three examples reappear in the figures of J.-A.-D. Ingres, Eugène Delacroix, and Manet: the first shines for his technical ability, the second represents national characteristics in art, and the third paves the way for future artistic developments. Furthermore, through Caravaggio’s influence on other seventeenth-century artists from Spain and the Netherlands, what Venturi terms “Italian pictorial civilization” spread throughout Europe. As Venturi argued in 1915, “the culture of pictorial tone [initiated by Venetian Renaissance painters and by Caravaggio]” shaped European painting in the centuries that followed. “Thus, Rubens and Velázquez, Rembrandt and the French Impressionists were able to create their masterpieces,” he concluded.56 Lionello Venturi, “La posizione dell’Italia nelle arti figurative: Prolusione a un corso di Storia dell’arte, tenuta nella Regia Università di Torino, 21 gennaio,” La Nuova Antologia 260 (March 16, 1915): 213–25. Despite Venturi’s intentions, such historicization allowed for an assessment of impressionism as a style with a long historical trajectory that could emerge in different geographical locations.
At the same time, this rhetoric reinforced the questioned artistic primacy of Italian art when it came to the history of modernism, by describing modern art as profoundly indebted to past Italian artists. Indeed, patriotism, and a strong anti-French sentiment, played an important role in diminishing the importance of French impressionism. Since the early 1900s, for example, Ojetti had insisted that French modern artists merely amplified novelties developed elsewhere so that France was nothing more than “the sound box of someone else’s voice.”57 Ugo Ojetti, “Cent’anni di pittura francese,” La Nuova Antologia 166 (1901): 639–53. Ojetti argued that the Macchiaioli had achieved the purported innovations of the French impressionists decades before them. The latter were epigones—not the innovators they were purported to be.58 Ugo Ojetti, “L’arte italiana e le esposizioni veneziane,” La lettura (May 1909): 375.
Allies of the avant-garde, for example, Soffici and the futurists, saw impressionism as an alternative to established forms of art. By contrast, official institutions such as the Biennale—based on the interpretation of critics including Pica, Angeli, and Ojetti—presented the French impressionists as established and recognized artists, successful in the market and reputed in criticism. For young intellectuals, the impressionists were artistic heroes rejected by the French art establishment; for the Biennale, the French impressionists were but one brief episode in the overall successful history of the international impressionist idiom, which dominated Italian public art exhibitions until World War I.59 Rodriguez, Réception de l’impressionnisme, 8.
FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM DURING THE FASCIST REGIME
After the ascent of fascism and the dwindling exhibition of non-French impressionism at the Biennale, the terms of the debate acquired a different connotation. While until 1922 the focus of the debate had been on “impressionism,” after 1922 the focus shifted to “French.”60 It is also worth pointing out that in the 1920s, France was quite uninterested in the Biennale, and in 1922 and 1926, the country did not even nominate a curator for its pavilion. Pica, the secretary of the Biennale, took on this role. In 1924 the Biennale consecrated the Novecento group, with the aim of proving that Italian artists had finally developed an intrinsically Italian modern style, strongly linked to the national tradition independent from France. This permutation of neo-classicism was conceived in opposition to both French and non-French impressionism and as a return to a supposedly authentic Italian tradition.61 Lucia Gava, “La Biennale del 1924 e il dibattito della critica sull’anti-impressionismo,” in L’identità delle arti a Venezia nel Novecento, ed. Cristina Beltrami (Venice: Marsilio, 2002), 57–68; Giuliana Tomasella, “‘Classicità’ dell’Impressionismo nel dibattito critico novecentesco,” in I mille volti del passato. Scritti in onore di Francesca Ghedini, ed. Jacopo Bonetto, Maria Stella Busana, and Andrea Raffaele Ghiotto (Rome: Quasar, 2016), 341–47. The new Italian art was to be defined by its volume and solidity rather than the alleged color and evanescence of the impressionists—an art made to last, as opposed to one that recorded fleeting sensations.
From 1927 until the end of World War II, the Biennale was directed by sculptor Antonio Maraini, who was directly appointed by the fascist government to put the institution under control of the regime and transform it into a leader of the international art world.62 Maria Stone, “Challenging Cultural Categories: The Transformation of the Venice Biennale under Fascism,” Journal of Modern Italian Studies 4, no. 2 (1999): 184–208; Massimo De Sabbata, Tra diplomazia e arte: Le biennali di Antonio Maraini (1928–1942) (Udine: Forum, 2006); Chiara Di Stefano, “Il fascismo e le arti. Il caso Biennale di Venezia 1928–1942” (MA thesis, Istituto Universitario di Venezia, 2008). Maraini’s predecessors, Fradeletto and Pica, by contrast, were appointed to the directorship by the mayor of Venice. As part of this project to turn the Biennale into the Society of Nations of Contemporary Art, and to emancipate it from Venetian institutions, the 1928 edition held the first Italian retrospective of Gauguin and one-man shows dedicated to Matisse, Franz Marc, and Emil Nolde.
In 1930 Appels d’Italie, curated by critic Waldemar-George, presented the work of Italian and non-Italian members of the École de Paris: Massimo Campigli, Alberto Savinio, Gino Severini, Roger de La Fresnaye, and Amédée Ozenfant. George interpreted what he termed their “neo-humanist” painting as proof that the “gravity center of contemporary art is now in Rome.” These artists were uncovering an “Italian spirit” concealed “after Courbet, after Édouard Manet.” In brief, being truly modern in 1930 meant abandoning impressionism and its heir, the avant-garde, “rejecting the African idols” of cubism in favor of the “principles of the Renaissance,” in George’s words.63 Waldemar-George and Mario Tozzi, “Sala 23: Appels d’Italie,” in Catalogo della XVII Biennale di Venezia (Venice: Carlo Ferrari, 1930), 92–97; Elisabetta Berliocchi, “‘L’Esprit du Nord’ di Waldemar-George: La ‘vague du Romantisme’ nel critico del ritorno all’ordine,” Commentari d’arte (2007): 69–79; Yves Chevrefils Desbiolles, “Le critique d’art Waldemar-George: Les paradoxes d’un non-conformiste,” Archives juives, nos. 41/42 (2008): 101–11; Caroline Fraixe, “Waldemar-George et ‘l’art européen,’” in Vers une Europe latine: Acteurs et enjeux des échanges culturels entre la France et l’Italie fasciste, ed. Catherine Fraixe, Lucia Piccioni, and Christophe Poulpault (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2014), 143–61; Caroline Pane, “Les ‘Italiens de Paris’ du fascisme à l’après-guerre: Artistes et expositions au service du rapprochement franco-italien,” Cahiers d’études italiennes 28 (2019), https://bit.ly/2ZMWv6b.
Exhibitions of the French impressionists throughout the 1930s did nothing to change most Italian critics’ opinions. Organized by Louis Hautecoeur, curator of the Luxembourg between 1932 and 1938, the French pavilion hosted monographic exhibitions devoted to Monet (1932), Manet (1934), Degas (1936), and Renoir (1938). These were true celebratory retrospectives, as the artists were all long since dead. Such exhibitions of the first generation of French impressionists responded to a special request on the part of Maraini.64 Curators of the French pavilion in the previous decade were Paul Signac in 1920; Pica in 1922 and 1926 (no French curator was nominated); Bénédite in 1924; and Charles Masson in 1928. In 1930 Waldemar-George curated Appels d’Italie, with Masson coordinating the French pavilion. Defending his decision to the Italian art-critical press, Maraini cast these artists as examples of anti–avant-garde, Italian-inspired art spreading beyond Italy’s borders.65 Massimo De Sabbata, “‘Contro ogni forma di ‘cerebralismo’: Antonio Maraini e l’arte francese alla Biennale di Venezia (1928–1932),” in Fraixe, Piccioni, and Poulpault, Vers une Europe latine, 83–96. “Impressionism” as a French-originated idiom was downplayed, thereby allowing paintings by Manet and Degas to be interpreted as part of a classical, Italian-born tendency. Significantly, most of the works chosen for the 1936 Degas retrospective documented the artist’s relationship with Italy, such as portraits of his Italian relatives and views made during his visits to Rome and Naples between 1856 and 1859.
Contemporaneous with these Biennales, the increasingly professionalized ranks of art historians—now distinct from art journalists—distanced what they wrote from the tropes commonly circulated by the previous generation of Italian critics. An academic imprimatur of this position was the article on impressionism published in the 1933 Enciclopedia Treccani, one of the most important fascist cultural enterprises. Taking as a starting point the 1874 Impressionist Exhibition, the first half of the article, written by art historian Giorgio Castelfranco, traced a history of French impressionism that emphasized the diversity and individuality of approaches taken by the movement’s artists. In the latter half of the article, art historian and future director of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, Palma Bucarelli, skeptically overviewed “Impressionism outside of France” with an attention to the work of Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, and English artists.66 Giorgio Castelfranco and Palma Bucarelli, “Impressionismo,” in Enciclopedia Treccani (Rome: Istituto per l’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1933), https://bit.ly/2Coy7z3. Bucarelli prefaced this section by writing, “Impressionism was and remained an essentially French movement.” Yet she also observed that it had “broad repercussions outside of its country of origin,” only to then abruptly note that its “effects were not as felicitous and long-lasting.”67 Castelfranco and Bucarelli, “Impressionismo,” 944.
By the end of the 1930s, cultural autarky governed much of the decision-making of the Biennale jury.68 Giuliana Tomasella, “Venezia-Parigi-Venezia: La mostra di arte italiana a Parigi e le presenze francesi alla Biennale di Venezia, 1920–1938,” in Pirani, Il futuro alle spalle, 83–93; Massimo De Sabbata, “Contro ogni forma di ‘cerebralismo.’ Antonio Maraini e l’arte francese alla Biennale di Venezia (1928–1932),” in Fraixe, Piccioni, and Poulpault, Vers une Europe latine, 83–96. As the Italian fascist regime implemented its authoritarian politics and aligned more and more with the cultural policies of Nazi Germany, commentary on French impressionism became a not-so-concealed way of commenting on fascism itself. Exemplary of this was the position of Venturi, the author of Cézanne’s catalogue raisonné. One of the most visible Italian anti-fascist intellectuals, he had lived in exile in Paris since 1932. For Venturi, the promotion of French impressionism was colored by his conviction that art should not be marshaled for chauvinistic purposes or treat tradition as a constraint, as was the case of the Novecento.69 Lamberti, “Lionello Venturi,” 257–77; Laura Iamurri, “Lionello Venturi in esilio,” in Messina, Militanze a confronto, 68–59. After Venturi relocated to Paris, he continued to publish in Italian art magazines, and his continued advocacy for French art acted as a form of resistance against the regime and its increasingly isolationist cultural politics.70 Laura Iamurri, “Peinture française pour lecteurs italiens: La modernité dans ‘L’Arte,’ 1930–1935,” in Les revues d’art. Formes, stratégies et réseaux au XXe siècle, ed. Rossella Froissart and Yves Chevrefils Desbiolles (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2011), 241–53.
Linked to this political intent was Venturi’s effort to counter more than thirty years of Italian readings of impressionism as a trans-geographical style. In order to redefine the movement as a “historical fact limited in time,” Venturi established key dates, exhibitions, collectors, and critics to reconstruct the historical details of the triumph of French impressionism.71 Laura Iamurri, “Lionello Venturi e la storia dell’Impressionismo, 1932–1939,” Dossier Studiolo 5 (2007): 74–90; Laura Iamurri, Lionello Venturi e la modernità dell’impressionismo (Macerata: Quodlibet, 2011). From an abstract and general notion of impressionism as a style, Venturi moved to a concrete and specific notion of French impressionism as an art movement. In this respect, his Les archives de l’impressionnisme, published with Durand-Ruel in 1939, once and for all expelled the non-French impressionists from this history.
It is not a coincidence, then, that the French impressionists were finally celebrated and memorialized in the first Biennale after World War II, at the suggestion of Roberto Longhi (fig. 6). The 1948 Biennale looked to laud “those great artists who have defended, in sad moments, the freedom of European Western civilization.”72 Rodolfo Pallucchini, “Prefazione,” in XXIV Biennale di Venezia: Catalogo (Venice: Edizioni Serenissima, 1948), n.p. In addition to the works of Monet, Sisley, Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, the 1948 Biennale included Picasso’s first exhibition there and Peggy Guggenheim’s collection of European and U.S. modernism. The discussion between pro- and anti-impressionists had ended. The French impressionists were now definitively enshrined as the precursors of modernism, effectively erasing the non-French artists formerly labeled “impressionists” from that story.
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Description: Installation view of 1948 Impressionist Exhibition at the Venice Biennale by...
Fig. 6. Installation view of 1948 Impressionist Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Archivio Storico Arti Contemporanee-Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia.
 
1      Cipriano Efisio Oppo, “In morte di Claude Monet,” La Tribuna (Rome), December 10, 1926. Here and elsewhere, unless otherwise indicated, translations are mine. »
2      Lionello Venturi, “Il gusto italiano,” Il Secolo (Milan), April 24, 1926, repr. in Saggi di critica (Rome: Bocca, 1956), 113–20, 116–17. »
3      Roberto Longhi, “L’impressionismo e il gusto degli Italiani (Introduzione a John Rewald, Storia dell’impressionismo, Firenze: Sansoni, 1949),” in Edizione delle opere complete, vol. 14, Scritti sull’Otto e Novecento 1926–1966 (Florence: Sansoni, 1984), 1–24, 5. »
4      Maria Mimita Lamberti, “Lionello Venturi sulla via dell’impressionismo,” Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 3 1, no. 1 (1971): 257–77; Maria Mimita Lamberti, “Vittorio Pica e l’impressionismo in Italia,” Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 4, no. 3 (1975): 1149–201; Maria Mimita Lamberti, “1870–1915: I mutamenti del mercato e le ricerche degli artisti,” in Storia dell’arte italiana. Parte seconda: Dal Medioevo al Novecento 7, vol. 7, Il Novecento, ed. Paolo Fossati (Turin: Einaudi, 1982), 5–172. »
5      Among others, see Flavio Fergonzi, “Firenze 1910–Venezia 1920: Emilio Cecchi, i quadri francesi e le difficoltà dell’impressionismo,” Bollettino d’arte 6, no. 79 (1993): 1–26; Jean-François Rodriguez, La réception de l’impressionnisme à Florence en 1910: Prezzolini et Soffici maîtres d’oeuvre de la “Prima esposizione italiana dell’impressionismo francese e delle scolture di Medardo Rosso” (Venice: Istituto veneto di scienze lettere ed arti, 1994); Daniela Mugittu, “La fortuna critica dell’impressionismo e del postimpressionismo in Italia: Influssi e tendenze nel panorama critico italiano,” Borgolauro. Rivista di storia, lettere e arti della Fameia Muiesana, no. 18 (1997): 45–55; Giuliana Tomasella, “Venezia-Parigi-Venezia: La mostra di arte italiana a Parigi e le presenze francesi alla Biennale di Venezia, 1920–1938,” in Il futuro alle spalle: Italia, Francia: L’arte tra le due guerre, ed. Federica Pirani (Rome: De Luca, 1998), 83–93; Maria Mimita Lamberti, “Appunti sulle sezioni straniere alle prime Biennali,” L’uomo nero 1, no. 2 (2004): 257–63; Francesca Bardazzi, Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism (Milan: Electa, 2007); Laura Iamurri, “Lionello Venturi e la storia dell’Impressionismo, 1932–1939,” Dossier Studiolo 5 (2007): 74–90; Laura Iamurri, Lionello Venturi e la modernità dell’impressionismo (Macerata: Quodlibet, 2011). »
6      On the Biennale see, among others, Lawrence Alloway, The Venice Biennale, 1895–1968: From Salon to Goldfish Bowl (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1968); Enzo Di Martino, La Biennale di Venezia: 1895–1995: Cento anni di arte e cultura (Milan: Mondadori, 1995); Maria Mimita Lamberti, “The Context of the Early Exhibits, from the End of the Century to the First World War: Artists and the Public in the Giardini,” in Venice and the Biennale: Itineraries of Taste, ed. Flavia Scotton and Marino Barovier (Milan: Fabbri, 1995), 39–47; Caroline A. Jones, The Global Work of Art: World’s Fairs, Biennials, and the Aesthetics of Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017). »
7      French impressionist painting in Florentine collections was on display in 1945 at the exhibition La peinture française à Florence, organized in Florence’s Palazzo Pitti by Bernard Berenson. In 1946 a similar exhibition, Tableaux français en Italie–Tableaux italiens en France, opened at Palazzo Venezia in Rome. Yet these exhibitions were not exclusively dedicated to impressionism. »
8      Norma Broude, ed., World Impressionism: The International Movement, 1860–1920 (New York: Abrams, 1990), 10. »
9      Giuseppe De Nittis participated in the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874, while Federico Zandomeneghi participated in 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1886. Giovanni Boldini, however, never contributed to these shows. On so-called “Italian impressionism,” see Giuliano Matteucci, ed., Aria di Parigi nella pittura italiana del secondo Ottocento (Livorno: Allemandi, 1998); Renato Barilli, ed., Impressionismo in Italia (Milan: Mazzotta, 2002); Ann Dumas, ed., Degas e gli italiani a Parigi (Ferrara: Ferrara Arte, 2003); Paolo Serafini, La maison Goupil e l’Italia: Il successo italiano a Parigi negli anni dell’impressionismo (Milan: Silvana, 2013); Renato Miracco, “La storia italiana dell’impressionismo: Impressioni postume,” in Gemme dell’impressionismo, ed. Mary Morton, Isabella Colucci, and Federica Pirani (Rome: De Luca, 2013), 25–47; Francesco Luigi Maspes, ed., Da Boldini a Segantini: Riflessi dell’impressionismo in Italia (Milan: Gam Manzoni Centro Studi per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, 2015). For a skeptical view of this label, see Francesca Castellani, “Italiens de Paris?,” in Dumas, Degas e gli italiani a Parigi, 67–96. »
10      Monica Nocentini and Claudia Borgia, eds., Patria nostra maestra nelle arti: Da Firenze all’Italia: Promozione e produzione artistica nelle esposizioni della Società delle Belle Arti (1843–1861) (Florence: Cornelio Timpani, 2011). »
11      Albert Boime, The Art of the Macchia and the Risorgimento: Representing Culture and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Italy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); Fernando Mazzocca and Carlo Sisi, I macchiaioli prima dell’impressionismo (Venice: Marsilio, 2003). For an early assessment of the similarities between the Macchiaioli and French impressionism, based on their common “primitiveness,” see Lionello Venturi, Il gusto dei primitivi (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1926). »
12      Longhi, “L’impressionismo,” 10. »
13      Diego Martelli, Gli impressionisti. Lettura data al circolo filologico di Livorno (Pisa: Tipografia Vannucchi, 1880), trans. as “A Lecture on the Impressionists,” in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, 1874–1904: Sources and Documents, ed. and trans. Linda Nochlin (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 21–25. Martelli had previously published two newspaper articles on the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition: “I pittori impressionisti francesi: Quarta Esposizione,” Roma Artistica 22 (1879): 170; Roma Artistica 23 (1879): 178–79. See also Francesca Dini and Ettore Spalletti, eds., Dai macchiaioli agli impressionisti. L’opera critica di Diego Martelli (Florence: Artificio, 1996); and Diego Dini and Francesca Dini, Diego Martelli. Storia di un uomo e di un’epoca (Turin: Allemandi, 1996). »
14      On the relationship between Martelli and Duranty, see Carol Armstrong, ed., Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas (1991; repr., Los Angeles: Getty Institute, 2003), 268n3. »
15      Sharon Hecker, A Moment’s Monument: Medardo Rosso and the International Origins of Modern Sculpture (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018), 66. »
16      Paola Zatti, “Le prime Biennali veneziane (1895–1912). Il contributo di Vittorio Pica,” Venezia Arti 7, no. 7 (1993): 113–16. »
17      Vittorio Pica, Gl’impressionisti francesi (Bergamo: Istituto italiano d’arti grafiche, 1908). On Pica, see also Lamberti, “Vittorio Pica e l’impressionismo in Italia,” 1149–201; Alessandro Gaudio, La sinistra estrema dell’arte: Vittorio Pica alle origini dell’estetismo in Italia (Manziana: Vecchiarelli, 2006); Davide Lacagnina, ed., Vittorio Pica e la ricerca della modernità. Critica artistica e cultura internazionale (Milan: Mimesis, 2017); Davide Lacagnina, ed., L’officina internazionale di Vittorio Pica: Arte moderna e critica d’arte in Italia (1880–1930) (Palermo: Torri del Vento, 2018). »
18      Vittorio Pica, “Un critico d’arte (J. K. Huysmans)” (1883), in All’avanguardia: Studi sulla letteratura contemporanea (Naples: Pierro, 1890), 253–71, repr. in Lamberti, “Vittorio Pica,” 1194. »
19      Laura Iamurri, “Berenson, la pittura moderna e la nuova critica italiana,” Prospettiva, nos. 87/88 (1997): 69–90; Alessandro Del Puppo, “Un dialogo inedito di Ardengo Soffici e il dibattito di ‘Lacerba’ sulla pittura pura,” in Mercato, patrimonio e opinione pubblica: Sulla circolazione internazionale delle opere d’arte, 1870–1914, vol. 73, Ricerche di storia dell’arte: Rivista quadrimestrale, ed. Flaminia Gennari Santori and Laura Iamurri (Rome: Carocci, 2001), 81–88. »
20      Ardengo Soffici, “Paul Cézanne,” Vita d’Arte 1, no. 6 (1908), 320–31; Lionello Venturi, “Il 1609 e la pittura italiana,” La Nuova Antologia 144, no. 912 (December 1909): 613–19; Ardengo Soffici, Il caso Medardo Rosso: Preceduto da l’impressionismo e la pittura italiana (Florence: B. Seeber, 1909); Ardengo Soffici, “L’impressionismo e la pittura italiana” appeared in the journal La Voce in four installments (April 1, April 15, April 29, and May 6); repr. in Ardengo Soffici, Opere (Florence: Vallecchi, 1959), 1:3–29; Emilio Cecchi, “Esposizioni Fiorentine,” La Voce 2, no. 24 (May 26, 1910): 329; Roberto Longhi, “Le due Lise,” La Voce 6, no. 1 (1914): 21–28. »
21      Prima mostra italiana dell’impressionismo e di Medardo Rosso (Florence: Stabilimento Tipografico Aldino, 1910). The most encompassing studies of this episode are Jean-François Rodriguez, La réception de l’impressionnisme à Florence en 1910: Prezzolini et Soffici maîtres d’oeuvre de la “Prima esposizione italiana dell’impressionismo francese e delle scolture di Medardo Rosso” (Venice: Istituto veneto di scienze lettere ed arti, 1994); and Francesca Bardazzi, ed., Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism (Milan: Electa, 2007). Medardo Rosso’s sculptures came from the museums of the Petit Palais, Troyes, Hagen, Leipzig, Dresden, and the Luxembourg in Paris. On the Fabbri collection, see Lucien Henraux, “I Cézanne della Raccolta Fabbri,” Dedalo 1 (1920): 53–58; and “Une grande collection de Cézanne en Italie: La Collection Egisto Fabbri,” L’amour de l’art (November 1924): 331. »
22      Ardengo Soffici, “Picasso e Braque,” La Voce 3, no. 24 (August 24, 1911): 635–37, repr. in Ardengo Soffici, Cubismo e Futurismo (Florence: La Voce, 1914), 617–19. »
23      See Rossana Bossaglia, Mario Quesada, and Pasqualina Spadini, Secessione Romana. 1913–1916 (Rome: Fratelli Palombi, 1987); Manuel Carrera and Jolanda Nigro Covre, eds., Secessione romana 1913–2013: Temi e problemi (Rome: Bagatto Libri, 2013). »
24      Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della “Secessione” (Rome: Tipografia dell’Unione, 1913); A Cantú, “La Secessione Romana,” Vita d’arte 12, no. 6 (August 1913): 57; Matteo Piccioni, “La vocazione internazionale della Secessione romana e la ‘Sala degli Impressionisti Francesi’ del 1913. Gli artisti, le opere e la ricezione critica,” in Secessione romana 1913–2013. Temi e problemi, 150–62. »
25      Paola Martinelli, “Il mercato dell’arte a Milano nella seconda metà dell’Ottocento,” Arte Lombarda 50 (1978): 122–25; Roberto Ferrari, “Aspetti del sistema dell’arte a Milano nella prima metà dell’Ottocento,” in La geografia dei sistema dell’arte nella Lombardia ottocentesca, ed. Roberto Ferrari (Brescia: Aref, 2011), 43–100; Angela Madesani, Le intelligenze dell’arte. Gallerie e galleristi a Milano 1876–1950 (Busto Arsizio: Nomos, 2016), 15ff. »
26      Jean-François Rodriguez, Picasso alla Biennale di Venezia (1905–1948): Soffici, Paresce, De Pisis e Tozzi intermediari di cultura tra la Francia e l’Italia (Padova: CLEUP, 1993), 8. »
27      Marco Mulazzani, Guide to the Pavilions of the Venice Biennale since 1887 (Milan: Electa Architecture, 2014). In 1914 the Swedish pavilion was assigned to the Netherlands. »
28      Prima Esposizione Internazionale della Città di Venezia. Catalogo Illustrato (Venice: Fratelli Visentini, 1895). »
29      Leo Lecci, “Giovanni Boldini e la partecipazione degli artisti francesi,” Annali Online-Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Classe di Lettere 9, no. 2 (2014): 203–20. »
30      Giovanni Boldini to Antonio Fradaletto, February 11, 1895, cited in Lecci, “Giovanni Boldini,” 215. French and typos in the original. »
31      Seconda Esposizione Internazionale di Venezia. Catalogo Illustrato (Venice: Officine Grafiche Ferrarri, 1897), 33. »
32      Leo Lecci, “Monet alle prime Biennali di Venezia: Note sulla fortuna critica dell’artista in Italia,” in Claude Monet a Bordighera, ed. Silvia Alborno (Milan: Leonardo, 1998), 116–19; Leo Lecci, “Occasioni mancate alla Biennale: Presenza e assenza di Monet, Degas e Renoir alle mostre di Venezia dal 1895 al 1901,” in Studi di stoiria dell’arte in ricordo di Franco Sborgi, ed. Leo Lecci and Paola Valenti (Genova: De Ferrari, 2018), 299–327. »
33      Vittorio Pica, L’arte mondiale alla V Esposizione di Venezia (Bergamo: Istituto Italiano di Arti Grafiche, 1903), 217. »
34      Maria Mimita Lamberti, “Appunti sulle sezioni straniere alle prime Biennali,” L’uomo nero 1, no. 2 (2004): 257–63. A review of these works by Pica, who judged Monet’s contributions (as well as those of Raffaëlli, also included as representative of French impressionism) to be unremarkable, was Vittorio Pica, “L’arte mondiale a Venezia. I pittori francesi,” Il Marzocco 2, no. 26 (August 1897): 1–2. »
35      IX esposizione internazionale d’arte della citt à di Venezia 1910: Catalogo (Venice: Carlo Ferrari, 1910), 37. »
36      X esposizione internazionale d’arte della città di Venezia: Catalogo illustrato (Venice: Carlo Ferrari, 1912). »
37      Shearer West, “National Desires and Regional Realities in the Venice Biennale, 1895–1914,” Art History 18, no. 3 (September 1995): 404–34. »
38      Davide Lacagnina, ed., L’officina internazionale di Vittorio Pica: Arte moderna e critica d’arte in Italia (1880–1930) (Palermo: Torri del Vento, 2017). »
39      XII Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia: Catalogo (Venice: Bestetti e Tuminelli, 1920). See also Maria Grazia Messina, “Valori Plastici, il confronto con la Francia e la questione dell’arcaismo,” in Pirani, Il futuro alle spalle, 19–35. »
40      On this exhibition, see Francesca Bardazzi, ed., Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism (Milano: Electa, 2007), especially Giovanna De Lorenzi, “The Cézannes of the Fabbri and Loeser Collections at the 1920 Venice Biennale: Aspects of a Critical Debate,” 239–55. See also Nicoletta Cardano, “Note sulla fortuna critica di Paul Cézanne in Italia: La mostra individuale alla XII Biennale di Venezia,” in Cézanne e le avanguardie, ed. Nello Ponente and Maria Grazia Messina (Rome: Officina, 1981), 167–84. »
41      Cipriano Efisio Oppo, “Cézanne” (1920), in Cipriano Efisio Oppo, Mostre, figure, paesaggi (Turin: Fratelli Buratti, 1930), 104. »
42      Ugo Ojetti, “Cézanne,” Corriere della Sera, July 10, 1920. »
43      Ojetti, “Cézanne.” See also Giovanna De Lorenzi, “1920: Ojetti, ‘Dedalo’ e l’arte contemporanea,” in Militanze a confronto: Vicende di arte e critica nell’Italia del Ventennio, ed. Maria Grazia Messina (Rome: Nuova Italia Scientifica, 1999), 5–22, 9. »
44      Carlo Anti, “Mostra di Scultura Negra,” in Catalogo della XIIIa Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia (Milan: Bestetti e Tuminelli, 1922), 41–42. On this crucial exhibition, see Ezio Bassani, “Scultura africana alla XIII ‘Biennale’ di Venezia, 1922,” Critica d’arte 62, no. 4 (December 1999): 69–79; Emanuele Greco, “L’arte negra alla Biennale di Venezia del 1922. Ricostruzione del dibattito critico sulle riviste italiane,” Annali. Università degli Studi di Firenze 11 (2010): 356–74; Ezio Bassani and Gigi Pezzoli, “Act One: ‘Negro Sculpture’ at the XIII Esposizione 24 Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia,” in Il Cacciatore Bianco/The White Hunter, ed. Marco Scotini and Elisabetta Galasso (Milan: Fm Centro di Arte Contemporanea, 2017), 24–49. »
45      Gino Damerini, “Le novità alla biennale veneziana,” Il Marzocco 14, no. 17 (April 26, 1914): 3. »
46      For a study of this show, see Laura Moure Cecchini, “The ‘Mostra Del Quarantennio’ and the Canon of Modern Art at the Venice Biennale in the Interwar Period,” Il Capitale Culturale Studies on the Value of Cultural Heritage 14 (2016): 223–52. »
47      Florencio de Santa-Ana y Alvarez-Ossorio, “Impresionismo o no impresionismo en Sorolla,” Archivo español de arte (1982): 42–49; Davide Lacagnina, “‘Votre oeuvre si originale et si puissante.’ Vittorio Pica scrive a Joaquín Sorolla,” Materia 5 (2005): 69–89. »
48      On the reception of Zorn in Italy, see Gianna Piantoni and Björn Fredlund, eds., Atmosfere del nord: La cultura figurativa svedese all’inizio del XX secolo (Turin: Sacs, 2002); Alexander auf der Heyde, “Modern Impressionist or Idyllic Genre Painter? Zorn’s European Fame from an Italian Perspective,” in Anders Zorn: A European Artist Seduces America, ed. Oliver Tostmann (London: Paul Holberton, 2013), 27–40. »
49      Margherita d’Ayala Valva, “Una mappa delle nuove scuole nazionali su Emporium nel primo decennio del ’900: Carl Larsson, ‘seminatore di gioia’ in terra scandinava,” in Emporium: Parole e figure tra il 1895 e il 1964, ed. Giorgio Bacci, Massimo Ferretti and Miriam Fileti Mazza (Pisa: Normale, 2009), 435–63. »
50      Diego Angeli, “L’esposizione di Venezia: Antonio Fontanesi,” Il Marzocco 6, no. 24 (May 5, 1901): 1–2. »
51      Pica had attempted to clarify the differences between impressionists, neo-impressionists, and post-impressionists (which he called “synthetists”) as early as 1897, in Vittorio Pica, “Impressionisti, divisionisti e sintetisti,” Il Marzocco 2, no. 2 (February 1897): 2–3. Yet his quite precise categories, as well as those developed by Giovanni Antonio Cesaró (“La pittura futurista,” Rassegna contemporanea 6, no. 6 [1913]: 997), remained without echoes in Italian mainstream art criticism. »
52      Diego Angeli, “I problemi della tecnica all’Esposizione di Venezia,” Il Marzocco 8, no. 19 (May 10, 1903): 1. »
53      Vittorio Pica, L’arte mondiale alla III Esposizione di Venezia (1899) (Bergamo: Istituto Italiano di Arti Grafiche, 1899), 15. »
54      Angeli, “I problemi della tecnica,” 1. »
55      See Carlo Placci, “Dipinti francesi e influssi italiani,” Il Marzocco 14, no. 1 (January 3, 1909): 1–2. »
56      Lionello Venturi, “La posizione dell’Italia nelle arti figurative: Prolusione a un corso di Storia dell’arte, tenuta nella Regia Università di Torino, 21 gennaio,” La Nuova Antologia 260 (March 16, 1915): 213–25. »
57      Ugo Ojetti, “Cent’anni di pittura francese,” La Nuova Antologia 166 (1901): 639–53. »
58      Ugo Ojetti, “L’arte italiana e le esposizioni veneziane,” La lettura (May 1909): 375. »
59      Rodriguez, Réception de l’impressionnisme, 8. »
60      It is also worth pointing out that in the 1920s, France was quite uninterested in the Biennale, and in 1922 and 1926, the country did not even nominate a curator for its pavilion. Pica, the secretary of the Biennale, took on this role. »
61      Lucia Gava, “La Biennale del 1924 e il dibattito della critica sull’anti-impressionismo,” in L’identità delle arti a Venezia nel Novecento, ed. Cristina Beltrami (Venice: Marsilio, 2002), 57–68; Giuliana Tomasella, “‘Classicità’ dell’Impressionismo nel dibattito critico novecentesco,” in I mille volti del passato. Scritti in onore di Francesca Ghedini, ed. Jacopo Bonetto, Maria Stella Busana, and Andrea Raffaele Ghiotto (Rome: Quasar, 2016), 341–47. »
62      Maria Stone, “Challenging Cultural Categories: The Transformation of the Venice Biennale under Fascism,” Journal of Modern Italian Studies 4, no. 2 (1999): 184–208; Massimo De Sabbata, Tra diplomazia e arte: Le biennali di Antonio Maraini (1928–1942) (Udine: Forum, 2006); Chiara Di Stefano, “Il fascismo e le arti. Il caso Biennale di Venezia 1928–1942” (MA thesis, Istituto Universitario di Venezia, 2008). »
63      Waldemar-George and Mario Tozzi, “Sala 23: Appels d’Italie,” in Catalogo della XVII Biennale di Venezia (Venice: Carlo Ferrari, 1930), 92–97; Elisabetta Berliocchi, “‘L’Esprit du Nord’ di Waldemar-George: La ‘vague du Romantisme’ nel critico del ritorno all’ordine,” Commentari d’arte (2007): 69–79; Yves Chevrefils Desbiolles, “Le critique d’art Waldemar-George: Les paradoxes d’un non-conformiste,” Archives juives, nos. 41/42 (2008): 101–11; Caroline Fraixe, “Waldemar-George et ‘l’art européen,’” in Vers une Europe latine: Acteurs et enjeux des échanges culturels entre la France et l’Italie fasciste, ed. Catherine Fraixe, Lucia Piccioni, and Christophe Poulpault (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2014), 143–61; Caroline Pane, “Les ‘Italiens de Paris’ du fascisme à l’après-guerre: Artistes et expositions au service du rapprochement franco-italien,” Cahiers d’études italiennes 28 (2019), https://bit.ly/2ZMWv6b»
64      Curators of the French pavilion in the previous decade were Paul Signac in 1920; Pica in 1922 and 1926 (no French curator was nominated); Bénédite in 1924; and Charles Masson in 1928. In 1930 Waldemar-George curated Appels d’Italie, with Masson coordinating the French pavilion. »
65      Massimo De Sabbata, “‘Contro ogni forma di ‘cerebralismo’: Antonio Maraini e l’arte francese alla Biennale di Venezia (1928–1932),” in Fraixe, Piccioni, and Poulpault, Vers une Europe latine, 83–96. »
66      Giorgio Castelfranco and Palma Bucarelli, “Impressionismo,” in Enciclopedia Treccani (Rome: Istituto per l’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1933), https://bit.ly/2Coy7z3»
67      Castelfranco and Bucarelli, “Impressionismo,” 944. »
68      Giuliana Tomasella, “Venezia-Parigi-Venezia: La mostra di arte italiana a Parigi e le presenze francesi alla Biennale di Venezia, 1920–1938,” in Pirani, Il futuro alle spalle, 83–93; Massimo De Sabbata, “Contro ogni forma di ‘cerebralismo.’ Antonio Maraini e l’arte francese alla Biennale di Venezia (1928–1932),” in Fraixe, Piccioni, and Poulpault, Vers une Europe latine, 83–96. »
69      Lamberti, “Lionello Venturi,” 257–77; Laura Iamurri, “Lionello Venturi in esilio,” in Messina, Militanze a confronto, 68–59. »
70      Laura Iamurri, “Peinture française pour lecteurs italiens: La modernité dans ‘L’Arte,’ 1930–1935,” in Les revues d’art. Formes, stratégies et réseaux au XXe siècle, ed. Rossella Froissart and Yves Chevrefils Desbiolles (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2011), 241–53. »
71      Laura Iamurri, “Lionello Venturi e la storia dell’Impressionismo, 1932–1939,” Dossier Studiolo 5 (2007): 74–90; Laura Iamurri, Lionello Venturi e la modernità dell’impressionismo (Macerata: Quodlibet, 2011). »
72      Rodolfo Pallucchini, “Prefazione,” in XXIV Biennale di Venezia: Catalogo (Venice: Edizioni Serenissima, 1948), n.p. »
9. Imitators of the Imitators?: World Impressionisms at the Venice Biennale, 1895–1948
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