The Mart Collection is composed of around twenty thousand works. The permanent display, which spans over 150 years of the history of Italian and international art, is divided into two itineraries: “The Invention of the Modern” and “The Incursion of the Contemporary”. This digital exhibition offers a journey among some of the masterpieces created from 1830 to the first half of the 20th century.
The painting by Francesco Hayez, Venere che scherza con due colombe (1830), is one of the best known masterpieces of the Mart Collections.
In his portrait of the dancer Carlotta Chabert in the mythological guise of Venus, the artist distanced himself from the classical model, which nevertheless constitutes the main reference. The pose, in fact, echoes that of the Venus Callipyge, a Roman copy of a Hellenistic statue in the Archaeological Museum in Naples.
The body painted by Hayez is that of a flesh-and-blood woman and he faithfully portrays its imperfections. The carnal sensuality of this female nude scandalized the artist’s contemporaries and overshadowed the presence of elements still linked to the neoclassical tradition, like the mock scenery that forms the setting and the red ribbon carried by the doves, symbol of the ties of love.
In the early 20th century, Moggioli studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, exhibiting at the Biennale and at the shows of the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Ca’ Pesaro. Here he came into contact with artists with first-hand knowledge of the French avant-garde, such as Gino Rossi, and the naturalism of his early style evolved into a symbolism influenced by Gauguin’s work and by the Pont-Aven School.
In the early years of the 20th century Boccioni was in Rome: here he developed a friendship with Gino Severini, with whom he shared a profound sense of dissatisfaction with academic rules. This common desire for renewal led them to make regular visits to the studio of Giacomo Balla, who conveyed his own particular interpretation of Divisionist painting to them.
After his involvement with Futurism, Carlo Carrà felt the need to turn his attention to the masters of the past. With the essays Parlata su Giotto and Paolo Uccello costruttore, published in 1916, the artist took his reflections on the art of the pre-Renaissance masters even further. In the years that followed he experimented with a new language with an archaic flavour, tinged with naivety and rich in references to Giotto’s frescos. This painting with a biblical subject clearly expresses Carrà’s desire to make a timeless art, expressing what he defined as “the magical quietude of form”, the result of a sophisticated process of despoliation leading to the simplicity of figures and clarity of colours.
Together with Le figlie di Loth, this work by Arturo Martini was part of the collection of the well-known Milanese tailor Adriano Pallini, who had acquired it at the Galleria del Milione.
This terracotta, which revisits the classical format of the half-length portrait, portrays the writer Chekhov reclining his head romantically in a solemn, melancholy pose. The sculpture is located at the end of the experience of "Valori Plastici", the magazine published in Rome between 1918 and 1922 that supported a return to classicism and the national painterly tradition.
De Chirico created his first metaphysical paintings in the 1910s, inspired by the geometry of Renaissance piazzas. His famous Piazze d’Italia are nourished by memories of real spaces reinterpreted in an oneiric key. In 1913, the poet Apollinaire described the artist’s paintings as “strangely metaphysical”: works that show us a meta-reality that take us by surprise, revealing unsettling presences and enigmatic content much like a dream.
In the 1930s, the paintings of Mario Sironi, one of the major exponents of Novecento Italiano, conveyed the rhythmic sequencing of space of the great mural decorations, frescos and mosaics in the dimensions of easel painting. It was Sironi himself who defined these works as “multiplications”, making use of the space divided up into panels that set and grouped together narrations in polycentric formats, cancelling out the naturalistic perspective construction.
In Velo di vedova + paesaggio Balla combines memories and visual impressions, associated according to the principle of simultaneity. This work is inspired by an experience Balla had in the park of Villa Borghese in 1916, just before the First World War. Reflecting on news he read in his morning newspaper (which reported a battleship arriving into Naples harbor carrying the corpse of a sailor), Balla encountered a war widow, who was covered with a dark veil and dressed in black. The impressions of the moment, including the metallic reflections of a cloud that were reminiscent of the shape of a battleship, appear in this painting of the scene, creating a dark, emotional atmosphere.
Futurist painting has a preference for subjects drawn from the contemporary world and distinguished by dynamism. Ritratto di Madame M.S. belongs to a series of paintings dedicated to Madame Meyer-See, the wife of a well-known London gallery owner. In his memoirs, the artist indicates these works as among the first applications of Futurist theory to the portrait genre, rendering the view of a fixed subject dynamic. There are two psychologies involved in the work, claims Severini: that of the painter and that of the subject portrayed.
A signatory to the Manifesto Ricostruzione futurista dell’universo in 1915, Fortunato Depero applied a new plastic synthesis to forms, a decomposition of surfaces with clear contours, as though they were cut out of bright coloured cloth (a technique that he actually used in the production of applied art starting from the founding of his Casa d'Arte in Rovereto in 1919).
In the years in which Veronesi created 14 variazioni di un tema pittorico (1936), a current of geometrical abstract art was trying to transfer musical concepts such as rhythm and harmony to painting. In this work, it is used what in the musical language is called theme and variations, a proposition that is developed through minimal variants.
Fausto Melotti belonged to a cultural milieu that had its origins in the city of Rovereto, but very soon took on national importance. In the 1930s the artist was at the centre of the developments of Italian Abstractism with his rigorously geometric sculptures, the expression of a poetics that he defined as a “meeting between imagination and reason”. These were elements that returned in some subsequent works, such as Scultura G, created in the late 1960s.
His city has dedicated a permanent space to Melotti in the 18th-century Palazzo Alberti Poja, point of entry to Mart’s Cultural Center, featuring drawings, sculptures, ceramics and installations created by the artist between 1930 and 1980.