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Renato Guttuso, Le cucitrici
Material and technique
oil on canvas
100 x 81 cm
Fabrizio D'Amico
Seated close together in a very cramped space are two women, one facing the viewer and the other in profile, intent on what is obviously their work as seamstresses, carried out in the back of a small artisan’s studio. The picture thus brings us into a busy workplace.
The painting was probably shown at an exhibition which opened on 12 June 1947 (Prima Mostra del Fronte Nuovo delle Arti) held at the Galleria della Spiga in Milan. Guttuso spearheaded  the new developments, exhibiting four of the works in the catalogue, which included an introductory note by Lionello Venturi who drew attention on the one hand to Guttuso’s conscious reference to international post-Cubist culture and, on the other, his basically realist vocation, “thus he was able to make a return journey: from nature he climbed to the level of abstract art, an altitude at which the atmosphere is rarefied, and from that height he could see reality and return to realism”.
In this delicate equilibrium, between 1946 and 1948 Guttuso produced many important works, preceded by an equally successful expressionist season and followed by years dedicated to “new” or “socialist” realism. This painting, in particular, adopts Cubist simplification in its angularity of forms and colours rendered with no chiaroscuro tones, thus seeming to have been constructed with clearly outlined blocks of pure colour. The artist does however lean towards poetics inspired by realism in his choice of subject, with two figures hard at work bent over their sewing, and the openly narrative intention of the composition.
Le cucitrici
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