Pietro Mengarini (1869-1924): an “apostle of luminism” in Rome at the beginning of the century

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An aristocratic and sought-after painter, Mengarini was one of the protagonists of the Divisionist season and of the Roman Secession. Distinguished by a pointillism close to the manner of Pellizza da Volpedo, his style is recognized for its clear luminism and a hint of magic that enchants the observer.

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January , 2021

Pietro Mengarini (1869-1924): an “apostle of luminism” in Rome at the beginning of the century

ENTER THE VEWING ROOM An aristocratic and sought-after painter, Mengarini was one of the protagonists of the Divisionist season and of the Roman Secession. Distinguished by a pointillism close to the manner of Pellizza da Volpedo, his style is recognized for its clear luminism and a hint of magic that enchants the observer.

November , 2020

November 2020

The new gallery website is online. With new contents, information and in particular the new VIEWING ROOM section, a virtual gallery where the next monographic exhibitions dedicated to artists between the 19th and 20th centuries will be presented. In the WORKS section, the new acquisitions will be updated monthly with accurate insights and more details.

January , 2020

February 27 – April 4, 2020

Exhibition venue: BERARDI Galleria d’Arte – Rome Organization: BERARDI Art Gallery Event: Giovanni Battista Crema (1883-1964): divisionism, symbol and reality An original interpreter of Italian divisionism, Giovanni Battista Crema was one of the most prolific painters of the Roman scene of the early decades of the twentieth century. Born in Ferrara from a wealthy family, […]

January , 2020

8 – 16 February 2020

Exhibition venue: Modena Fiere Exhibition Center, via Virgilio 70 – 41123 Modena Organization: Modena Fiere Event: Modenantiquaria XXXIV Antiques Exhibition – IL GUERCINO STAND. 12 On the occasion of the XXXIV Antiques Exhibition in Modena, Berardi will present three thematic groups. First of all, the preview of the retrospective of the Ferrara painter Giovanni Battista […]

October , 2019

from Il Giornale dell’Arte – October 2019

Date: 11/10/2019 Event: The Journal of Exhibitions – Synaesthesia and return to order In the Roman School, Ferruccio Ferrazzi was one of the cornerstones on which the generations that emerged from the nineteen years rested, starting with Corrado Cagli, with whom he shared an early passion for mural art, as evidenced by the correspondence and […]

September , 2019

Issue 400 – September 2019

Date: 04/09/2019 Event: Il Giornale dell’Arte – Guide to the Biennale

an “apostle of luminism” in Rome at the beginning of the century

Manuel Carrera

Among the most interesting personalities of Roman divisionism still awaiting a rediscovery by literature is the painter Pietro Mengarini, active in the capital since the last decade of the nineteenth century. A biographical profile of him, which can be reconstructed through the study of contemporary sources, which place him in a leading role within the debate on the new way of understanding painting. From an aristocratic family, Mengarini trained with the painter and decorator Giulio Rolland and made his debut in the Roman exhibition panorama in 1891 at the annual exhibition of the “Society of Amateurs and Cultors of Fine Arts”, where he exhibited a nude studio. It is not known exactly when and how the artist became aware of the pointillist technique, which he adopted in most of the paintings that have come down to us: it is however conceivable that he already approached it at the turn of the century, in all probability thanks to the frequentation of Giacomo Balla, one of the first Divisionists active in Rome together with Enrico Lionne. “Mengarini is obsessed with full light that almost destroys aspects and contours” 1 wrote Vincenzo Bucci in an article on pointillist painting at the exhibition of Amatori e Cultori in 1904, where the Roman artist presented eight paintings, including portraits and some views of a trip made to Tunis. In a review of the exhibition in the prestigious English magazine “The Studio”, Mengarini was associated with Discovolo, Lionne and Basilici, defined as «the apostles of the divisionist gospel» 2. The following year, when he participated for the first time in the Venice Biennale with a Nude and a Half Figure, Rusconi defined him as a “neophyte of Divisionism, which is about to become an apostle” 3, taking up the words of the British chronicler; and his special role as evangelizer was confirmed a few months later by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo as well, in a letter addressed to Angelo Morbelli4.

Mengarini showed that he was deeply involved in the artistic debate of his time also at the exhibition of Amatori e Cultori in 1905, where he exhibited a large painting depicting “Jesus Christ visiting iron workers in a workshop” 5: an unusual subject, but fully in line with the “humanitarian socialism” represented in the exhibition by Giacomo Balla, involved in the organization, and Giovanni Prini, with a rich personal of sculptures; but also Giovanni Battista Crema with his Painful Story of the Blind and even the more worldly Camillo Innocenti, who in the opera Mezzogiorno represented workers taking a break from anvil and hammer to bite into a loaf of bread.

Further confirmation of the centrality of his figure in the developments of Roman divisionism is given by the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Milan in 1906, where he was entrusted with the important task of organizing the room of the “Gruppo della Giovine Roma”. He exhibited three paintings from Divisionism – to use the words of Ugo Ojetti – «pale and foggy» 6 as La solitaria, alongside, among others, Divisionist works by Balla, Discovolo and Lionne. From that moment on, his presence at Italian and international exhibitions was regularly noticed by critics, and sometimes even his absence, as in the case of the Venice Biennale of 19127. Year after year, Mengarini presented his personal vision of Divisionism – faithful to Pellizziano example, but enriched in the material and in the modernity of the chromatic effects – through the most diverse subjects: bourgeois portraits and scenes of domestic intimism that united him with Innocenti, Noci and Lionne, but also still lifes, sacred subjects and landscapes. The marine and river views, through which the artist could linger on the effects of transparency and glow, ensured him particular success. Still Rusconi, speaking of the works exhibited at the exhibition of the Amatori e Cultori in 1907 and in particular at the Naples marina (Immacolatella), defined him as “the tireless apostle of luminism, one of the few who remained faithful to the program of the new theory, to the very young technique , which truly gave him magnificent lighting effects »8. The Neapolitan view was re-proposed by Mengarini in Paris at the Salon d’Automne in 1909. Other critics, such as Guido Marangoni9, also noted his particular ability in the landscape, and it is perhaps precisely because of such expressions of appreciation that at the great exhibition of 1911 in Valle Giulia he decided to present only two great marinas: After fishing and Anzio, the latter buys from the King for its own collections.

In the years of the Roman “Secession” he sided in the ranks of dissidents already at the time of the first discontent that arose with the Society of Amateurs and Cultors of Fine Arts, as evidenced by Giulio Aristide Sartorio in a letter to the director of “The small newspaper of Italy “Published in the issue of March 2-3, 1913.

The works of this period met with some success and were noted by critics for the luminism infused into the landscapes, such as Charcoal loaders presented at the first exhibition of the “Secession”, or Altra sponda10, a “clear, glossy and transparent” view, as Marangoni defined it11 , presented at the next edition. At the “Secession” and at subsequent exhibitions Mengarini exhibited in tandem with the painter Ida Magliocchetti, his life partner. In 1917 he returned to exhibit at the Amatori e Cultori, with a rare floral still life12.

In general, Mengarini’s entire work has a rarity character: despite his constant presence at major Italian and international exhibitions between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in fact, his works rarely appear on the market. According to sources, this would be associated with his perennial dissatisfaction and with that obsessive intellectual rigor that led him to destroy most of his paintings even many years after their realization13.

 

 

Manuel Carrera

 

1 V. Bucci, L’Esposizione di Primavera, in “Rivista di Roma”, 1905, fasc. XII, p. 179.
2 «Perhaps the most notable feature of this exhibition was the group of works by the Luministi, apostles of the Divisionist gospel». O. R. A., Studio-Talk: Rome, in “The Studio: international art”, 1904, vol. 32, n. 137, p. 251.
3 A. J. Rusconi, La pittura italiana alla VI Esposizione di Venezia, in “La nuova parola”, 1905, n. VIII, p. 115.
4 Cfr. T. Fiori, F. Bellonzi (a cura di), Archivi del divisionismo, Roma 1969, pp. 239-241.
5 O. Roux, Esposizione di Belle Arti a Roma, in “Natura ed Arte”, 1905, n. 11, p. 774.
6 U. Ojetti, L’arte nell’Esposizione di Milano: note e riflessioni, Milano 1906, p. 48.
7 «Pietro Mengarini diserta il campo insieme ad Aristide Sartorio»: G. Marangoni, La Xa Esposizione Internazionale di Venezia: Arte avvenirista – Romani e piemontesi – I pittori lombardi, in “La cultura moderna”, 1912, fasc. XV, p. 159.
8 A. J. Rusconi, L’Esposizione di Belle Arti in Roma, in “Emporium”, 1907, Vol. XXV, n. 150, p. 412
9 «Pietro Mengarini […] nei due quadri inviati a Venezia, raggiunge vibrazioni perfette di luce meridiana, in una trasparenza diffusa e quasi fosforescente, dando alla nostra retina la sensazione lievemente penosa che si risente dai riverberi del sole nelle ore del pieno pomeriggio. Nella esposizione di Milano del 1906 il Mengarini meravigliava con un quadro originalissimo nel quale analizzava finemente, in mirabili accordi grigi, l’atmosfera chiusa d’una camera da bagno con una figura emergente fra i leggieri fumi del vapore acqueo. Oggi il giovane pittore romano affronta l’aria aperta e tanto nel Cantuccio tranquillo, come nella Vela nuova dipinge la luminosa visione di una spiaggia di mare sotto i raggi del mezzogiorno. Pittura aristocratica e raffinata, condotta sopra una gamma ristrettissima di toni, e di contrasti, uno sforzo di virtù pittorica che rasenta senza toccarli, beninteso, la virtuosità ed il saggio di bravura. Basterebbe una pennellata volgare ed eccessiva per guastare tutto l’effetto del quadro. Ma il Mengarini con una padronanza squisita della misura, si mantiene in carattere ed evita anche quell’eccesso di biaccosità che a torto da qualcuno gli si rimprovera». G. Marangoni, Note critiche sulla Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte in Venezia: arte italiana: romani, toscani e triestini, in “Natura ed Arte”, 1910, n. 15, pp. 150-151.
10 «[…] una sicura conoscenza degli effetti del colore nella luce è nei Caricatori di carbone che Pietro Mengarini ha dipinti con quella sua tecnica cosi acutamente analitica» (A. Colasanti, Le esposizioni di belle arti a Roma. La mostra della Società Amatori e Cultori – La Secessione, in “Emporium”, 1913, vol. XXXVII, p. 438).
11 G. Marangoni, Esposizioni romane: dalla “Secessione” alla “Probitas”, in “La cultura moderna”, 1914, p. 799 (ripr. p. 803)
12 A. Lancellotti, Cronachetta artistica. La 86a Esposizione degli Amatori e Cultori a Roma, in “Emporium”, 1917, vol. XLV, p. 372.
13 L’Aube du XXe Siecle de Renoir a Chagall, Gineva 1968, vol I, p. 62.

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