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Early Twentieth-Century Figurative Painting

The earliest appearances in Italy of what might be called “avant-garde” painting occurred with the Divisionist movement of artists like Previati and Segantini, who were born in the 1850s. But among their contemporaries were painters who were not drawn to Divisionist experimentalism and who would continue throughout their lives, extending to approximately the 1930s, to cultivate a traditional figurative style inspired equally by a striving for the “true” and permeated with a marked Naturalism. The “Verist” tendency, which had originated in the South with artists such as Domenico Mortelli and Giuseppe and Filippo Palizzi, would then encounter opposition in movements like the so-called Resina School (De Nittis, De Gregorio, Leto, Cecioni) and in the Macchiaiolo movement, whose greatest exponent was Fattori. The Realist and Verist movement spread from the South towards the North under the banner of a cult of the “true” whose scope extended from optical-perceptive inquiry to social realism and overflowed into celebratory or moralizing themes representing a new awareness of the nation’s life and reality. Sombre atmospheres and grey shades gave way to plein-air light in a quest for tones and “values”, shared in their way also by the artists who appear in this section and were not influenced by the Macchiaiolo movement or Impressionism.

Augusta Monferini