Roman holiday

Well it’s been a while since I’ve been on here so I suppose I’d better make the effort. A fair bit has happened of late including a very nice week long trip in Rome which was a revelation (artistically not spiritually) in many ways. We had plans of the things we wanted to see over the break which included the obvious – Sistine Chapel, Borghese Gallery and in terms of specific artists, Caravaggio. It soon got out of hand though with a couple of unexpected stops. One at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna and another at Scuderie del Quirinale. Describing paintings in words is about as useful as attempting to paint a novel so I’ll just dish out the names. At the Quirinale, after recently only going on about the lack of Franz Kline’s work (my favourite painter) available to view in this country we were presented with three by the boy – including one of the signature large black and white oils. I couldn’t believe my luck. The show was concerned primarily with the Italian painter Alberto Burri and included a beautiful black and red piece of his from the fifties – and you could walk round comfortably without the usual crush and rush of somewhere like Tate Modern – bonus indeed. At the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (the nearest equivalent I can think of is Tate Britain) we were again presented with unknown (to us) names – which will present endless opportunities for digging around bookshops and the like:
Adolfo Wildt, Giulio Turcato, Ettore Colla, Mario Schifano, Achille Perilli, Arturo Martini, Afro Basaldella, Renato Guttuso, Mario Sironi, Felice Casorati, Giulio Bargellini.
The list isn’t quite endless but I think you get the idea. It just goes to show how limited international interest is in a specific set of canonical artists; and it was exciting to have so many, new to me, names to look out for. There’s also the whinging internal worry that the political sympathies of some of these artists may have been questionable if you’re not a fan of ‘Il Duce’. To be honest I was just looking at the work, and there was work that was far more polemically right-wing than those I’ve listed. It’s a strange area – the politics of the artist – mind you the anti-Semitism and misogyny of Degas doesn’t seem to have diminished critical interest in his work alone. Perhaps I worry too much. Perhaps I’m justifying it to myself.
Another eye-opener was seeing so much of the sculpture of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the flesh. I’ve always considered his work to be perhaps too decorative in comparison to that of Michelangelo Buonarroti. But seeing the work just overawed me with the man’s ability. When you visit the churches, basilicas and museums of Rome you are subjected to such a wealth of sculpture, old and new, that after a while you’re able to filter out work that previously you would have thought great solid work and those that pushed the boat out just that little bit further. It sounds like an insult but it’s not meant to be one (I certainly couldn’t even begin to imagine myself attempting sculpture on that scale) but the likes of Bernini and Buonarroti make the others look like ‘jobbing sculptors’.
Various people warned me that I’d get hooked on Rome – they weren’t wrong.
Unfortunately we didn’t get time to do the Museo d’Arte Contemporaneo Roma so we’ll just have to go back to probably the most beautiful city in Europe. No hardship.
Oh – and I’ve also just picked up a beautiful book on Jenny Saville – here’s someone whose painting deserves every ounce of praise it gets. And she now works in Italy – what a star.


Roman holiday


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