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South and North in 19th Century Italian Art

The traditional division of Italian art into regional schools remained throughout the 19th century, although it was drawn along new lines. Apart from the Tuscan movements, which developed in the specific directions illustrated here, the evolution of art took different paths in the North and the South of Italy.
It was in Naples, in the South, at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, that art first showed signs of finally shedding its old attachment to academic principles. Emboldened by the presence of foreign artists, notably the English painters Bonington and Turner, the Posillipo School proposed a new vision of the landscape, in which colour changed with the shifting light and nature became both source and expression of emotion.
The evolution of art in the South of Italy is illustrated by the works of artists from the early 1800s to the second half of that century and the beginning of the next: they range from Consalvo Carelli to the brothers Giuseppe and Filippo Palizzi, from Edoardo Dalbono to Giuseppe De Nittis and eventually to Vincenzo Gemito, ending with Francesco Paolo Michetti, who is discussed as part of  another tour (see Figuration at the Beginning of the Century).
In the North of the country, Francesco Hayez, a Venetian working in Milan, set a new direction in the 1820s. From his early training in the Neoclassical tradition he progressed through Romanticism, finally conveying deep empathy in both his portraits and his paintings of historical subjects, with their evident allusions to the aspirations of the Italian Risorgimento.
The evolution of art from the 1850s until the turn of the 20th century is illustrated by the works of Daniele Ranzoni, Giovanni Segantini, Angelo Morbelli, Vittorio Avondo and Lorenzo Gignous.
Throughout the 19th century, Italian art, which was rooted in local experience reflecting the North-South divide, maintained unique links with developments in Europe, from the evolution of English painting at the beginning of the century to the innovations in France from the 1850s on, although without occupying a position of central importance.
Artists in Southern Italy were drawn above all to developments taking place in England and France around the middle of the century and beyond, right up to the advent of Impressionism. In the North, after the period of Romanticism initiated by Hayez, the combination of Realism and Symbolism exemplified by its leading exponent Segantini was followed by a commingling with developments in France at the end of the century,  from divisionism to evidence of deep involvement in the country‚Äôs social situation.

Antonio Del Guercio