The exhibition has been prepared in cooperation with Uffizi Gallery from Florence and Italian Institute for Culture in Slovenia.
The exhibition with 34 oil paintings and 21 drawings presents a selection of artists who were the protagonists of an aesthetic discussion in the 19th century, focusing especially on the re-emerging dialectics of reason and feeling, the ideal and the real, the analogy of nature and the objective observation of the world. These same dichotomies engaged the theoreticians of that period with polemic not alien to other cultural fields at the time – from literature to music and tradition. The terms of this critical debate, therefore pervaded the entire domain of the contemporary "sister arts".
Because the self-portraits are accompanied by drawings by the same artists – selected from the Department of Prints and Drawings of the Uffizi Gallery – the discussed period simply called for the exhibition to be mounted so as to foreground the style of individual painters, the observations of the artists in the everyday atelier routine, the discovery of the essential characteristics of the painter’s hidden nature and even of the militancy of some of them that was characteristic of the national movements of the time. Exhibition presents four sections.
The court of Elisa Baciocchi, whom Pietro Benvenuti portrayed in drawing and later also in painting, was open to the academic severity of the painter from Arezzo as well as to the neoclassical elegance, within which the greatest representatives of culture at the time moved – from Canova, depicted while presenting the Duchess with her idealized image, to foreigners such as François-Xavier Fabre, who spread the international taste of the grand tour from the salon of the Duchess of Albany in Florence. The self-portrait of Giuseppe Colignon evokes the Roman period of Tuscan artists during the years of their great experimental fervour during the serious political turmoil that triggered the emigration of two Frenchmen, Louis Gauffier and Bénigne Gagnereaux, to Florence. This consequently led to new developments in fine arts modelled on David and Central European culture, which are manifested, for example, in the »philosophical« stance of the self-portrait of Antonio Fedi.
Purism and Romanticism
During the long period of the rule of Leopold II., the discussion between the »classics« and the »moderns« overcame the rigorous Neoclassicism, at first in favour of Lorenzo Bartolini’s Purism, who translated the romantic emotions into attractive images of history painting or the investigation of nature. This is confirmed by the works of Luigi and Giuseppe Sabatelli and above all Giuseppe Bezzuoli, who adapted his style to the history painting of Francesco Hayez. At the time, the landscape was subjected to sentimental interpretations in the works of Giuseppe Canella, whose self-portrait expresses a powerful temperament of the Romantic man. In the meanwhile, the Purists, such as Carl Vogel von Vogelstein, who were active in the circle of the Nazarenes, found a satisfactory answer in the school of Luigi Mussini, thanks to the idea of art inspired by the cult of the primitives and thus based on the primacy of drawing.
The »discovery« of the real in the middle of the century was introduced by the crisis of the Academy’s authority. The aesthetic concepts brought to Tuscany by Domenico Morelli from Naples were adopted by young painters from the circle of the Caffé Michelangelo (Michelangiolo). In their desire to overcome the resistant academy canons, they trusted the poetics of complementary colours and the synthesis of forms on the basis of their objective exploration of reality. Raffaello Sernesi was among the first to draw vedutas in intense natural light; Giovanni Fattori focused on the topics of contemporary history, in which he presented an analysis of emotions and the nobleness of actions; at the same time, Amos Cassioli and Giovanni Boldini redefined the portrait as a striking momentary recording of unusual character traits.
Naturalism and Symbolism
The dialectics between Naturalism and the Academy, noticeable especially in the masterpiece by Antonio Ciseri, Martyrdom of the Maccabees, provokes, with its ups and downs, the predominance of the poetics of the Macchiaioli in favour of the new dialogue with European art. The rural social topics in Niccolò Cannicci’s painting intentionally brings together social problems and aesthetic qualities of the contemporary tendencies of the time; the history painting of Stefano Ussi and Raffaello Sorbi corresponds to the contemporary revival of historicism according to the Anglo-Saxon model. At the end of the century, the diverse Florentine art opens towards European culture, with which it shares an intensely literary atmosphere and an inclination for the establishment of an exiting aesthetics, also because of the presence of foreign artists, such as Arnold Böcklin.
The exhibition is accompanied by a video projection of images of the Florence in 19th century.
Antonio Natali, Galleria degli Uffizi
Barbara Jaki, Narodna galerija
Giovanna Giusti, Dipartimento Arte Ottocento e Contemporanea, Galleria degli Uffizi
Roberta Ferrazza, Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Slovenia
Author of the Exhibition
Editors of the catalogue
Carlo Sisi, Giovanna Giusti, Roberta Ferrazza, Barbara Jaki, Tina Ponebšek
Heads of the Project
Giovanna Giusti, Barbara Jaki. Tina Ponebšek
Works of Art lent by
Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze; Galleria d’arte moderna di Palazzo Pitti, Firenze; Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Firenze
The Exhibition was supported by
Narodna galerija; Ministrstvo za kulturo Republike Slovenije; Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze; Amici degli Uffizi; Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale della Città di Firenze; Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Slovenia; Ambasciata d'Italia a Lubiana
Sponsors of the Exhibition
Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze; Banka Koper; Marina v Izoli; Banca di Cividale; Adrialink; Aquafil Yulon; Adriaplin; Tipografia Ellerani
3 June–22 August 2010
National Gallery of Slovenia