The Divisionists

    17 febbraio 2022

    Data: 17/02/2022

    Evento: The Divisionists

    From the Brera Triennale of 1891, where Divisionism officially showed its first revolutionary results starting from the canvases of the generation of Giovanni Segantini, Giuseppe Pellizza, Gaetano Previati and Angelo Morbelli, under the theoretical guidance of Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, it then spread regionally, following different declinations and styles, until the 1920s.

    “The expression of feelings that move the soul”[1] is one of the characteristic features of Italian Divisionism, and the trait that distances it from the positivist scientism of French Pointillisme, firmly anchored in the pictorial application of the principles of optics. The transport for the concept of vision more than for the analytical view, the interest in the social question and the search for the ideal and the symbol within the real datum are a fundamental part of the Divisionist koinè, both of the historical generation and of the subsequent proliferations. Pure colours, complementary and not amalgamated, but juxtaposed next to each other in the form of long filaments, small imperceptible touches or dowels more or less loaded with pictorial matter, all fit into the general formula of “divided brushstroke”, even though they present strong stylistic differences.

    In the selection of six paintings proposed here, the Divisionist investigation takes on different conformations and fits into the broader naturalistic panorama, albeit with considerable differences from artist to artist.

    The large, airy, horizontal mountain view by Alberto Falchetti (Caluso, Turin, 1878-1956), exhibited at the 1903 Venice Biennial, is based on a Divisionism made up of small, very dense horizontal fibres that bring to mind the language of Segantini, whom Franchetti knew personally and from whom he was encouraged to devote himself to the landscapes of the Val d’Ayas from 1899 onwards. The vastness of the scene is made all the more evocative by the use of a pointillism that rests on luminous chromatic notes, especially in the upper part of the painting, which frames the imposing snow-covered peaks. The grassy mantle, in its many shades of juxtaposed and complementary colours, animates the valley with a spirituality that also invests the solitary figures in the foreground.

    The divided touch of Adriano Baracchini Caputi (Florence, 1883 – Livorno, 1968) is of a completely different substance. A Tuscan painter, he belonged to that generation of post-Macchiaioli painters, later active in the Gruppo Labronico, who were introduced to the Divisionist language by Vittore Grubicy in Milan and taken by him to the Salon des peintres divisionnistes italiens in Paris in 1907. If the starting point was the rustic poetics of macchia painting, the final point was a Divisionism enriched with Symbolist overtones. In Baracchini Caputi’s Coal Pit, painted in 1911, the real datum is transfigured into an almost dreamlike vision, in which the filamentous ductus of certain portions is combined with more minute touches, particularly in the definition of the sky and the trees. The expressive and at times powdery style of the view with its fiery colours is directly inspired by certain works by Plinio Nomellini (Livorno, 1866 – Florence, 1943), whose mature canvas The Wisteria is presented here. By now far removed from the Symbolist investigations and that Divisionist trait composed of long opalescent filaments of the early 20th century, The Wisteria is an instantaneous impression that embodies a lively dynamism: the divided colour defining the climbing plant is made up of complementary but spontaneous and full touches, which descend in profusion towards the two female figures on which small flashes of light filter through the leaves and flowers rest. The rest of the composition, as in all Nomellini’s late work, is handled with a sort of Fauvism reworked through a free and loose colouring, with elongated brushstrokes, in which any meticulous descriptivism disappears in favour of lyrical expression.

    The Sea by Baldassarre Longoni (Dizzasco d’Intelvi, Como, 1876 – Camerlata, Como, 1956), on the other hand, is a composition carefully calibrated on a detailed and precise divisionism, in which the symbolist and intimist notes are combined with a sensitive investigation of light. The foam of the waves is filled with multiple reflections of sunlight, delivered by minute, balanced and harmonious dots of divided colour, which do not, however, block the composition in a sterile and scientific pointillist proposal, but rather allow freer portions of luminous matter to define the waves and rocks.

    Amilcare Casati (Forlì, 1895 – 1961), a painter known above all for his work as a portraitist, expresses himself through a highly personal Divisionism in The Seer, a painting from 1919. The divided touch, in this canvas with its sibylline character, is rendered through very fine horizontal hatching that allows the painter to organise a refined play of chiaroscuro and to make the darkness of the background shine with mysterious flashes emanating from the warm light of the lamp. A synthetic formalism envelops the inscrutable and solitary figure of the seer, revealing surprising points of contact with Aleardo Terzi’s Divisionism, but also with the linear and “mystical” sign of the Ligurian painter Sexto Canegallo.

    This varied Divisionist proposal is closed by Piazza dell’Esedra at night, by Giovanni Battista Crema (Ferrara, 1883 – Rome, 1964). The work, painted in 1904, shortly after Crema’s arrival in Rome, is a realistic glimpse of a silent, nocturnal Rome, which nonetheless shows a swarming of lives enclosed in dark figures walking across the square, with which they almost seem to blend. Crema’s pointillism in his early years in Rome reveals a strong social background and the narration of crepuscular, foggy atmospheres, as in the painting Nocturnal Work at Termini Station, which followed shortly afterwards.

    Elena Lago

    [1] Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, Tendenze evolutive delle arti plastiche, catalogue of the first Brera Triennial Exhibition (Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera, 1891), Milano, Tipografia cooperativa Insubria, 1891, p. 45


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