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Painting Light: Italian Divisionism 1885-1910


Preview: Jack Foley

THE Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, in London, is presenting a rare opportunity for art lovers to appreciate and explore a fascinating movement still little known outside Italy - the work of Italian Divisionism, from 1885-1910.

The exhibition, entitled Painting Light, can be viewed at the Canonbury Square venue until September 7, 2003.

Inspired by the achievements of the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists, the school of painting known as Divisionism emerged in Italy around the end of the 19th Century.

Like their French counterparts, these artists were fascinated with capturing effects of light, and this pioneering exhibition – which includes the work of painters such as Giovanni Segantini, Angelo Morbelli and Gaetano Previati – explores their attempts to evoke that most elusive of subjects.

Closely allied to the work of artists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, the Divisionist technique was grounded in the construction of images from small dashes of pure colour that would blend in the eye of the spectator when viewed from a distance, resulting in works characterised by an intense luminosity.

However, despite its close links with French artistic theories, Divisionism was very much an autonomous and independent movement, distinguished by its attempts to strike a careful balance between formal and narrative concerns.

Perhaps most characteristic is the way in which many Italian artists, such as Giacomo Balla and Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, combined their study of light and their investigation of optical phenomena with social commentary, applying their pictorial theories to depictions of the marginalised elements of society, such as the working class and the poor.

The influence of Divisionism lasted into the early twentieth century and was of particular significance in the development of Futurism, which adopted its fragmentary, shimmering technique as a means of evoking the dynamic simultaneity of the modern urban environment.

The exhibition, organised in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, comprises some 44 paintings, which have been loaned from private and public collections, including the Museo d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Civiche Raccolte d'Arte, Milan, Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Verona, and Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome.

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art opened in January 1998 to show works from the remarkable collection created by Eric and Salome Estorick.

Powerful images by the main protagonists of the early 20th-century Italian avant-garde Futurist movement such as Balla, Boccioni, Carrà, Severini, Russolo and Soffici, are shown alongside works by such figurative artists as Modigliani, Sironi and Campigli and the metaphysical painter de Chirico.

The museum has a library of over 2,000 books, primarily on early 20th-century Italian art, and houses a café and the Zwemmers Gallery Shop.

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art was named Best Museum of Fine or Applied Art in the 1999 National Heritage/NPI Museum of the Year Awards.

ESTORICK COLLECTION OF MODERN ITALIAN ART, 39a Canonbury Square London, N1 2AN. Tel: 020 7704 9522

Opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm; Sunday, 12noon to 5pm
Admission: Adult £3.50 Concessions £2.50

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