Italy’s Divisionist Art Movement

Morbelli's Girorno di Festa

Angelo Morbelli’s Girorno di Festa (1892)

Every once in a while the internet will throw a surprise your way and not only will you learn something new, but you’ll also appreciate it and want to share it with others. Recently, I came across some art work by Italy’s Divisionists and was quite taken with how they managed to tackle traditional Christian imagery with socialist politics. Their work was a mirror of their time as much art is, but at the same time changed the world of visual art by allowing social issues to come to the fore.

Arifa Akbar of the Independent UK explains:

When Gaetano Previati’s portrait Motherhood was unveiled at Milan’s 1891 Brera triennial, its bold and “mystical” treatment of Christian iconography was met by public shock and disapproval.

The artist, whose immense work showed a Madonna-like figure emanating light with swirling angels surrounding her, was among a group of firebrand Italian painters who shook-up the artistic establishment in the late 19th century with innovative techniques focusing on light and confrontational “socialist” subject matter in which images of almshouses, rice fields and political agitation on the streets of Milan featured highly.

These men were called the Divisionists, one of the most significant artistic movements of their age that influenced a generation of 20th-century Italian painters. In their lifetimes, these painters based in Milan achieved fame and infamy in equal measure. But unlike their Italian Renaissance counterparts such as Donatello, Michel-angelo and Leonardo da Vinci, they were all but forgotten by Europe’s mainstream art history by the mid-20th century.

The image above by Morbelli is my favourite of the selection provided in the article. To see the image gallery click on this link.


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