Classicism, Realism, Avant Garde: Italian Painting in Between Wars
Ana Gonçalves Magalhães, curator
The 71 Italian paintings here exhibited*, all from the collection of MAC USP, constitute one of the most important collections of modern Italian painting of the first half of the 20 th century outside Italy – and to the current state of research, the only representative group in the Americas. They illustrate another aspect of European modernism, whose experience so far (and on the analysis of classic art history handbooks) has been greatly focused on the avant-garde period and on the context of the School of Paris . They have also been the object of the research about the history of the establishment of the so-called Collection Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho and Collection Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho & Yolanda Penteado, their relationship with the collection of the former São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MAM), and their transfer to the Universidade de São Paulo in 1963.
The research intends to deconstruct the exisiting interpretation of the Matarazzo collections as reflecting their patrons' personal taste, chosen without any criteria, and therefore without any real relationship with the notion of modern art conceived by the critic debate of Brazilian modernists. Acquired in a period of ten months between 1946 and 1947, these paintings formed a significant part of the initial core of the collection of the former MAM, and are witness to the intense artistic exchange between Brazilian modernist artistic milieu and the Italian one, in the between the wars, as well as the relationship between important figures in that context, such as the Brazilian artist Paulo Rossi Osir and the Italian art critic Margherita Sarfatti. The research also led to the discovery of the engagement of names such as that of the Venetian gallerist Carlo Cardazzo and of Pietro Maria Bardi in these acquisitions. They appeared to be linked to the promotion of their Nation's art, and with the affirmation of their cultural identity, their italianità, on a context of a cultural policy of promotion of Italian modern art through the instauration of an arts' system there and here. For this reason, the exhibition also presents ten paintings by Brazilian artists in our collection, which dialog with them and are vestiges of these relations. Together with this group of Brazilian works, we selected some significant volumes on modern Italian art from the library of Paul Rossi Osir, acquired in 1963 by MAC USP.
In another section of the exhibition, we present the first analyses made of six paintings of the Italian collection, in collaboration with the group coordinate by the Professor Márcia Rizzutto, of the Department of Applied Nuclear Physics of the Physics Institute of USP, using non-destructive techniques of physical analyses of the paintings' surface, which revealed important data for the historical documentation and preservation of the works. What led us to pursue this collaboration was the fact that five of the studied paintings hold entire compositions on their verso, which also proved to be a exceptional phenomenon of the artistic practices of the period.
Regarding the initial aim of the research, which was the critical revaluation of the records of this group of works, we worked in two directions. On the one hand, the catalog of the exhibition aimed at consolidating the data that was found on the former MAM's old record charts and other cataloging documents of the museum, and those of the record charts on paper of MAC USP. On the other hand, we are certain that the most suitable platform for publication of the collection of MAC USP in its entirety should be virtual: an online catalog on the web page of the Museum. This is why we searched a partnership with Professor Flávio Soares Corrêa da Silva and his PhD student Cláudia J. Abrão de Araújo, of the Department of Computer Sciences of the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics of USP, who elaborated a pilot project of a virtual environment for the exhibition of those works. On it we intend to offer the visitor other tools for the understanding of this collection, which would not be easily demonstrated in the galleries of the Museum.
The exhibition intends to point out the current state of the art of the research about those works that are still open to a more precise investigation – considering that most of them are inedit or published as location unknown. In this way the exhibition gives an account of presenting the first researches about some works – as in the case of the paintings of Gino Severini, object of the master's thesis of Renata Dias Ferraretto Rocco, of the Graduate Program in Aesthetic and Art History, of which the Museum is part. We also had the collaboration of a small research team of trainees and scholarship students, who helped in the ellaboration of entries about a selection of works.
With these elements, we propose a new reading of this group of works and discuss their significance to the collection of MAC USP, as vestige of a moment of our modern art history, which had an important role even on the following decade and on the construction of our abstraction experiences.