Morandi, Balla, De Chirico and Italian Painting 1920 – 1950

Tornabuoni Art, London

From 12 February 2020 to 18 April 2020 

Tornabuoni Art presents the first ever London exhibition of the Italian Novecento, the figurative art movement founded in the 1922. Featuring over thirty works of art by leading Italian artists, such as Giorgio Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico, Felice Casorati, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and many others, this exhibition explores Italian art in the period between the two World Wars. Most of the works on display come from the Tornabuoni Art collection, with a loan from the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in London.

Giorgio Morandi, Natura morta – 1955 – olio su tela – cm 24×37

This exhibition takes inspiration from the landmark 1926 exhibition “Prima Mostra del Novecento Italiano” in Milan, organised by the charismatic writer and curator Margherita Sarfatti, who launched the Novecento movement. In particular, the show looks at figurative art of this period through the three main themes of the original Novecento exhibition: still life, landscape and the representations of women. The artist Giorgio Morandi presented three works at the 1926 exhibition in Milan: a landscape, a portrait and a still life. Tornabuoni Art will display two Morandi’s still-lifes (1955 and 1962) and Landscape (1932). In addition, the show will feature other major works, including: Balla’s Ballucecolormare (1924-25), De Chirico’s Still-life (1930) and Casorati’s Nude from the back (1939), an important figurative artist form Turin who is being rediscovered.

Giacomo Balla, Balfiore – 1925 ca. – olio su tavola – cm 66,5×31,5

After World War I, Novecento artists sought to return to what they saw as the simplicity of the Italian pictorial tradition, as a kind of return to order after the chaos of war. The Novecento artists set themselves apart from Metaphysical artists, whom they saw as too intellectual, and adopted a more homely, earthy sensibility. No other show in London has ever looked before at the movement as a whole.

Giorgio De Chirico, Venezia (Isola di San Giorgio) – 1955 ca. – olio su tela – cm 50×70

Ursula Casamonti, Director of Tornabuoni Art London, comments: “Our mission as a gallery is to spread knowledge about Italian Modern art. Until now Tornabuoni Art London has focussed on avant-garde and post-war artists, such as Fontana, Boetti, Burri and Dorazio, but there are other interesting stories of 20th-century Italian art to tell. In addition, the Novecento movement was championed by a fascinating and visionary woman, the art critic and curator, Margherita Sarfatti, whose story is one of the most dramatic of the first half of the twentieth century”. Margherita Sarfatti was a popular writer and journalist who wrote the first biography of Mussolini, with whom she had a romantic relationship. As she was Jewish, broke with Mussolini and fled Italy when the German race laws came into effect in the late 1930s, emigrating to Uruguay and then returning to Italy after the war. A friend to intellectuals and artists, first a socialist and then a supporter of Fascism, she promoted the Italian Novecento enthusiastically from 1924 onwards. She described it as “modern classicism” and became an informal ambassador for the art movement outside Italy.