28. Sep 2018
13. Jan 2019

Uncannily Real

Italian Painting of the 1920s

The major autumn exhibition Uncannily Real presents more than 80 paintings from Realismo Magico, an Italian art movement from the 1920s which remains largely unknown here in Germany. After the First World War, there was an increasing desire for calm and order, and from 1918 themselves in European and North American art. Germany witnessed the evolution of Neue Sachlichkeit, in France there were multiple neo-classical tendencies, and Italy saw the emergence of Realismo Magico.

This movement is marked by evocative images of disturbing beauty. Giorgio de Chirico’s puzzling scenic compositions of abandoned plazas were as much of an inspiration for the visual worlds of these artists as stylistic references to the masters of the Quattrocento, as can be witnessed in Carlo Carrà’s work. The works shift between melancholy and idyll, between a weariness with civilisation and the glorification of progress. Their application of paint is reminiscent of the Old Masters, and their motifs classical: still lifes, portraits, interior scenes and nudes.The paintings depict their subjects clearly and sharply, and yet seem to conceal what is essential. Closed books, musical instruments, masks and masquerades are as common among their motifs as distorted perspectives and drapery. They reference something decisive and play with the contradictions between reality and artificiality, mixing together superficiality and inscrutability.

Realismo Magico is not a group of artists, but an artistic stance. The art historian Franz Roh described the phenomenon in 1925: “With ‘magical’ as opposed to ‘mystical’, the aim is to suggest that the mystery does not enter the world being represented, but remains behind it.”

When Mussolini came to power in 1922, art began to evolve against the backdrop of a society marked by fascism. It may have been due to the political situation of those years that the ambiguities of these fascinating paintings, which all too often trigger uneasiness in the viewer, received relatively little attention in recent decades.

This exhibition provides the first ever broad overview of Realismo Magico in Germany, featuring outstanding works by the main protagonists of the movement, ranging from Antonio Donghi, Felice Casorati, Gino Severini and Edita Broglio through to more well-known artists such as Giorgio Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà.

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Ubaldo Oppi, Die Frau des Künstlers vor venezianischer Kulisse, 1921

Ubaldo Oppi
Ritratto della moglie sullo sfondo di Venezia, 1921
Oil on canvas
Privat collection, Roma
Photo: Carlo Baroni, Rovereto

Cagnaccio di San Pietro, L'alzana, 1926

Cagnaccio di San Pietro
L'alzana, 1926
Zwei Treidler
Fondazione di Venezia
Courtesy Collezione della Fondazione di Venezia

Cesare Sofianopulo, Maschere, 1930

Cesare Sofianopulo
Maschere, 1930
Museo Revoltella

Giorgio de Chirico, Italian Square (Souvenir from Italy), 1924-25

Giorgio de Chirico
Italian Square (Souvenir from Italy), 1924-25
Oil on canvas
Rovereto, MART-Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto
© MART - Archivio Fotografico e Mediateca; © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018