Twentieth Century Art – Alberto della Ragione Collection, Florence

Florence Art museums open and close according to Covid 19 restrictions, and many have kept us entertained and informed with online presentations.Museo Novecento, Florence

One such Museum is Museo Novecento (Twentieth Century Art Museum) of Florence which is often ignored except for passionate art lovers of the 1900’s like me. Housed in the old hospital of Saint Paolo behind the beautiful Renaissance loggia by Michelozzi. The Museum’s collection is impressive and an important representation of the period. When open the Museum also holds some interesting temporary exhibitions of International artists. However the Alberto della Ragione collection has been the major contribution to the Museum with some of Italy’s well known artists of the time.

An online presentation gave an insight into this fascinating man and somewhat unlikely art collector, Alberto della Ragione. He was a newcomer to Art,  who followed his feelings and often ignored comments from art critics of the time, buying what he liked while delving into the lives of the artists who produced the work.

Born in 1892 in Piano di Sorrento near Naples, he transferred to Genoa for his profession as a naval engineer. He was highly esteemed in his profession, traveling widely around Italy to port cities where he specialized in recuperating sunken vessels. A lover of music and books he ventured into Art buying his first painting in 1928 a Still Life for his dining room. The joy it gave him, started what would become a lifetime passion for Art and a great distraction from his work.

Fortunato Depero 1932 Nitrite in Speed

Fortunato Depero 1932

His spare time became consumed studying Art, visiting exhibitions, being disappointed in some and wanting to understand more about the actual artists active at the time, particularly those not approved of by the fascist regime.

The major part of his collection was bought between 1932-45 crucial years of political turmoil, racial discrimination and World War. In the end he cultivated great friendships with his group of artists, playing an important role as Patron in their development as well as offering refuge to some fearing prosecution for their anti-fascist views and/or Jewish heritage. He bought a Gallery in Milan, offering contracts to the artists thereby giving them a permanent income so they could concentrate on painting.

Renato Guttuso 25.7.43 Portrai of Alberto della Ragione Renato Guttuso, one of the artists in his group and with whom he had a great friendship, rang him on hearing that Mussolini and the fascist regime had fallen. and went immediately to Genoa to celebrate with him. Guttuso insisted on painting his portrait as record of that important day 25/7/1943, including another of his own paintings in the background.

His collection is a wonderful  mix of futurists work – Fortunato Depero, Gino Severini, portraits – Renato Guttuso, Virgilio Guidi, Ottone Rosai: still life – Mario Mafei, Antonio Donghi and landscapes particularly connected to his love of the sea – Filippo de Pisis, Carlo Carra` to name just a few.

Museum Novecento Twentieth Century ArtThe collection is displayed in various sections under themes – Cavalry, Gestures, Suspended Poses; The artist and his world; Still Life; Nudes, the Female; Landscape; Sculpted Paintings, painted Sculptures; Farces; and Faces, Portraits. Here you see only a small selection of  the 250 works of Art that make up the collection.

Gino Severini The Window with Doves 1931In the end the Milan Gallery closed in debt and della Ragione looked for a solution for his collection, drawn to Florence and his Florentine friends as the ideal artistic city. In 1970 he donated his collection to the Council of Florence but unfortunately it never became visible to the public until its inclusion in the Museo Novecento in 2014 when the Museum first opened. . Alberto della Ragione died in 1973, so fortunately never knew of the years delay before his collection could be fully appreciated. The Museum certainly deserves to be included in the list of Florence Art Museums to visit  when life returns to ‘normal.’Francesco Menzio Head of a Woman 1933


 

 

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A new year and new projects – Florence

Florence CathedralA new year has begun and we are still in the midst of Covid19, slowly mulling our way through. On a positive note vaccinations have started, most of our medical staff have been vaccinated and a large number of residents in aged care as a priority. It will be a long process.

Florence has been relatively lucky although the English and Brazilian variants have also appeared recently and we now face additional restrictions as we downgrade into an ‘Orange’ region.  From Monday restaurants and museums will close, more limitations on shopping and restrictions on moving outside Council areas. Already the Piazzas seem unbelievably quiet.Florence Palazzo Vecchio

But this is not to be a post about Covid 19, as I am sure you are all dealing with it in various ways in your own countries and hopefully seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

It has been a time for new project approvals which I thought may be of interest. In Florence approval has been given for the redevelopment of the St Orsola Convent – an enormous complex in a derelict state as long as I have been here! Centrally located behind the Food Market it has had a chequered existence since its foundation as a Convent in 1326, to Monastery, Tobacco Factory in the 1800’s, to Finance Police barracks in the 1980’s when the final destruction to the original architectural feature was done.St Orsola Complex

The Complex is to be developed by a French group Artea and to house a mix of activities and uses – ‘a higher education school, convention center and co-working space, museum / event space housing the grave of Mona Lisa, urban garden that can accommodate permaculture workshops, Artist workshops, café-library, Shops and craft workshops, guest house, fitness and well-being area, and toy library.’Project design Sant'Orsola

The curiosities of its past include the possible grave of the Mona Lisa – Lisa Gheradini considered to be Da Vinci’s model and buried in the convent in 1542. (See my earlier post of 2013)

The second curiosity being the production of the famous Florentine cigar – ‘i Toscani’ which happened by accident in St Orsola when a downpour in August 1815, drenched a large batch of Kentucky tobacco in the convent now a Tobacco Factory. The accident risked turning into a disaster but management decided to produce cigars with the wet tobacco to sell at cost to locals. What no one took into account was that the fermentation initiated by contact with water gave the cigars an unmistakable taste making them famous and  sought after. Production continued in St Orsola until around 1945 when the factory moved to the outskirts of Florence. And here again those buildings are now being used for artistic/cultural events.

The second project is the new bike path between Florence and Prato ( a major city to the North of Florence) The tweet below by the Florence mayor – Dario Nardella indicates “a path of 12km illuminated with recycled asphalt. We will have 600 tons of Co2 less per year. The only time in Italy that two cities of this size have been connected. The work will start within the year, and finish in 2022″Bike Path project Florence-Prato

The project is considered to be a super cycle path of high-capacity, a long-distance cycling infrastructure of European standard, and the first in Italy. The track is to be 4 meters wide equipped with Led lighting and sensors to increase light intensity when people pass and video cameras in strategic points. The project is to also redevelopment  the green areas crossed and shade the runway….. in line with the Green mobility and the EU Green New Deal.

Great to see both projects approved and ready to go, at a time when there has been little to look forward to. Now all we need is to get Covid19 under control and we can fill our Piazzas in Florence again!San Lorenzo church

 

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