Felice Casorati and his "happy" stay in Verona

An overview of Casorati's art-historical career, the protagonist of the city's cultural and artistic revival, through five paintings from the collection

The Prayer (1914) by Felice CasoratiGalleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti

Felice Casorati (1883-1963) is one of the leading figures of the modern art movement in Italy. Trained in classical studies and music, he devoted himself to painting from 1902. His artistic training began in Padua, continued in Naples and reached full maturity in Verona between 1911 and 1918.

The Prayer (1914) by Felice CasoratiGalleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti

Starting from a profound critical spirit, the artist developed an artistic research that went through various phases: starting from the naturalism of his youth, he later welcomed, before others in Italy, the European Symbolist movement and in particular the Viennese Secession, finally arriving at Magic Realism.

The Old Gossips, Felice Casorati, c. 1908, From the collection of: Galleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti
The Little Girls, Felice Casorati, 1908-1909, From the collection of: Galleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti
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The works "The Old Gossips" and "The Little Girls", painted between 1908 and 1909, belong to the Neapolitan period.

The Old Gossips (c. 1908) by Felice CasoratiGalleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti

The Old Gossips (1908)

"The Old Gossips" represents a subject that was tackled several times during the artist's Padua period, and almost seems to act as a counterbalance to the work of the same period, "The Little Girls".

A group of women is portrayed in a kaleidoscope of expressions: Casorati orchestrates the psychology of the characters by guiding the figures in a converging movement of the elderly immobile, sitting and curved, symbol of a lived life that flows towards its natural epilogue.

The color palette varies in shades of black and brown, grays and ivories, characterizing an age in which all liveliness and vitality seem long gone.

The Little Girls (1908-1909) by Felice CasoratiGalleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti

The Little Girls (1908-1909)

In the work "The Little Girls", the expressiveness of the faces of the characters in their various states of mind is striking, rendered through individual signs, while the landscape, barely noticeable, uses larger backgrounds.

The range of colors varies across a spectrum of mineral tones from lime white to ivory, from pale pink to warmer shades of quartz and coral, and from greys to light amethyst and lavender violets.

Worthy of note is the introspective reading of the subjects depicted, the elegant timbre, and the musical cadence of light and shade. The painting gives us an image of childhood that appears at times light-hearted and innocent, and at times restless and reflective.

"The Prayer" of 1914 is a prime example of the fascination Casorati felt for the works of Gustav Klimt, whom he met at the Venice Biennale in 1910. The Austrian artist's Symbolist language helped Casorati to solve one of the problems of modern painting: the relationship between two and three dimensions, and thus between vision and reality.

The Prayer (1914) by Felice CasoratiGalleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti

The Prayer (1914)

Silence and a rarefied aura envelop this figure of a woman immersed in prayer. A symbolist, anti-realist atmosphere prevails in the painting, in the stylization of the devout figure and the dark, orthogonal horizon, evoking a sinuous cross-like structure.

The very bold tones of pink and purple are present in different varieties in the dress of the girl in the centre of the painting and are used, in a sort of chromatic hyper-descriptiveness, for the flowery meadow surrounding her.

The variety of colours, the decorativism of the refined pictorial surface, and the classic neo-Byzantine evocation of the long cloak in the lower part of the painting contrast with the full, almost abstract blue of the sky that dominates the upper part.

Produced at the height of the artist's Secessionist phase, this masterpiece documents his interest in Klimt's anti-naturalistic research, in the preciousness of the colours, and in the forms that are devoid of volume but full of spiritual and symbolic references.

It is in the serpentine line of the Art Nouveau style that the nature of emotion and feeling is recognized and traced. Casorati absorbed this lesson in Verona, where a phase of maturation of his artistic research took place, fundamental for the years to come.

The work, painted on moleskin cloth, refers technically to the Viennese lesson in applied art. The support can be glimpsed in several areas of the painting between the artist's brushstrokes.

Portrait of Teresa Madinelli, Felice Casorati, c. 1918-1919, From the collection of: Galleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti
Portrait of Antonio Veronesi, Felice Casorati, 1922, From the collection of: Galleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti
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In 1954 Teresa Madinelli, widow of the Veronese doctor Antonio Veronesi, expressed the desire to donate her portrait, painted by Felice Casorati, to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna. In 1984 Diomira Augusta Madinelli, Teresa's sister, bequeathed to the Galleria four other paintings by Casorati, which belonged to the Veronesi collection: "The Old Gossips", "The Little Girls", "The Prayer" and "Portrait of Antonio Veronesi".

Portrait of Teresa Madinelli (c. 1918-1919) by Felice CasoratiGalleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti

Portrait of Teresa Madinelli (c. 1918-1919)

The painting is considered the artist's farewell work from Verona: following the death of his father, Casorati moved to Turin. The state of mind disturbed by mourning and life changes is reflected in the austere tones of the work, a prefiguration of a new artistic phase.

Teresa Madinelli is depicted in the center of the composition, seated on an elegant sofa, dressed in a dark dress on which stands out a long sautoir necklace that she weaves between her hands adorned with two eye-catching rings. 

She wears black pointed-toe shoes resting on a checkerboard floor, which extends into the background in a "game of cunning perspective" stretching in two directions, a straight one towards a dark room on the left and a curvilinear one on the right around the white pillar.

Portrait of Antonio Veronesi (1922) by Felice CasoratiGalleria d'Arte Moderna Achille Forti

Portrait of Antonio Veronesi (1922)

Doctor and head physician of the Verona hospital, Antonio Veronesi, together with his wife Teresa Madinelli, opened his own salon to young artists. Through Guido Trentini, Casorati also enters the Veronesi's circle, who become figures of reference for the artist.

The "Portrait of Antonio Veronesi" was made in 1922, after his sudden death from heart failure. The figure of Veronesi, dressed in an ivory-colored gown, is portrayed seated in an interior, framed against a dark background, bordered on the sides by green curtains. 

A restricted colour palette, characterized by great contrasts and a few strong brushstrokes, produces a portrait of monumental expressive power.

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