Realism Collection, Milan Modern Art Gallery

Realism is the precise, detailed and accurate representation in art of the visual appearance of scenes and objects i.e., it is drawn in photographic precision. Realism in this sense is also called naturalism, mimesis or illusionism. Realistic art was created in many periods, and it is in large part a matter of technique and training, and the avoidance of stylization.

Realism especially noted for precise and careful depiction of visual appearances, often depicted with great skill and care scenes that were contrived and artificial, or imagined historical scenes. It is the choice and treatment of subject matter that defines Realism as a movement in painting, rather than the careful attention to visual appearances.

Genre painting
The Induno brothers affirm themselves as two of the main advocates of the transition from academic painting, with its codified language in the tradition, to a new way of approaching reality. The two artists dedicate themselves with this renewed spirit both to history painting, with the episodes of the wars of Independence which Gerolamo had actively participated in, and to the multiform universe of genre painting. The works in the room are referable to this fortunate and appreciated pictorial vein: alongside conventional or certainly effective themes ( An antiquarian , The refugees from a burned village ) they approach subjects characterized by new social implications and by the representation of the lower classes ( School of seamstresses, La vivandiere , Sciancato playing the mandolin , Hurdy-gurdy player ).

Giovanni Carnovali called Piccio
A monographic hall is dedicated to this restless artist, who lived apart from the great official exhibitions and the academies of his time, to reaffirm his role as a forerunner of what will be the most modern later in Lombard painting. Its solitary grandeur ahead of its time, celebrated by critics and by the most advanced artists only in the twentieth century, is exemplified by the intense portraits, mindful of the Lombard masters of reality, with very modern landscapes (the Landscape of large trees is emblematic ), and finally by some precious examples of sacred painting. The biblical theme of these last works is also found in the sculpture by Giovanni Strazza depicting Ishmael abandoned in the desert , here to complete the room.

The Scapigliatura
A large monographic hall is dedicated to the movement that owes its name to the writer Cletto Arrighi (1858): Scapigliatura indicated a way of living and creating in the name of an irregular and intolerant existence for every constraint, shared by a cenacle of Lombard painters, sculptors and writers who find themselves living the disappointment in Milan following the hopes of the Risorgimento. In the pictorial field, dominated by artists such as Tranquillo Cremona and Daniele Ranzoni, of which some of the most important works are exhibited here, this existential attitude translates into a deconstruction of the form by light and color, and in a search for impalpable psychological allusions, which are also marked by the first phase of Gaetano Previati, represented by some portraits of surprising modernity. The same characteristics can be found in the sculptures of Giuseppe Grandi, of which we can see some refined small bronzes, which stand out for their subtle material effects

Italians in Paris
In this small room there are some precious testimonies of the fruitful exchange with France, and with Paris in particular, which crosses all the Italian culture of the second half of the nineteenth century. Three Italian artists, Giovanni Boldini from Ferrara, Giuseppe De Nittis from Puglia and Federico Zandomeneghi from Venice, reside for a long time in the French capital, maintaining contacts with the Impressionists and the high society of the time. A reflection of these are the portraits of Boldini’s international and worldly taste, which show remarkable pictorial refinement and compositional boldness, the works of Zandomeneghi, which can be compared to the research conducted in the same years by Degas, the twelve small views of De Nittis’ Vesuvius. A bronze, a masterpiece by the great Rodin, completes the show.

Divisionist Segantini
Here begins the long excursus in Divisionism: this term indicates the pictorial current that unites the study of light and colors with new scientific knowledge on visual perception. The protagonist of the room is The Two Mothers by Giovanni Segantini, exhibited at the first Milan Triennale in 1891 alongside the Maternity by Gaetano Previati (Banca Popolare di Novara). The subject, very widespread in the literary and figurative culture of the time, is rendered with the stroke in small brushstrokes typical of divisionist painting. Despite this, the scene still appears permeated with a solid naturalism, clearly evident also in the other canvases exhibited here, depicting the clear landscape of the Maloja and animal figures.

Vittore Grubicy and Emilio Longoni
Vittore Grubicy de Dragon is an important figure for Italian art in the second half of the nineteenth century: merchant and collector, he exhibited in London in 1888 a series of masterpieces of Italian painting, thus obtaining enormous visibility. At the same time his activity as a painter took place and the eight canvases, which make up the great Pantheist Poem or Winter Poem , are evidence of the research conducted by the divisionists on atmospheric effects in landscape painting. The works are arranged on the wall according to the layout prescribed by the artist at the time of their donation to the Municipality of Milan. One of the artists promoted by Grubicy is Emilio Longoni, who the merchant encourages to join Divisionism together with his friend Segantini.

Paths of naturalism
In this room we can see how Lombard painting of the second half of the nineteenth century is often suspended between divisionist experimentation and a dreamy re-enactment of the true natural. The lyric Portrait of Giovanni Sottocornola ‘s daughter Anita breaks up the color, reduced to the ranges of the blue of the background and to the white of the dress, in wide fields of light. Plinio Nomellini, perhaps the most original of the divisionist painters, represents a moment of family life with a painting with acidulous tones and pervaded by an elegant vibration of small areas of light and shadow. Next to these important paintings are genre scenes with idyllic tones, such as The Return from the Feast of Moses Bianchi and Morning in Summer by Pietro Chiesa, examples of a more traditional way of rendering the effects of light.

Social painting
Towards the end of the nineteenth century Milan was transformed, saw the rise of industrial plants and welcomed masses of workers, attracted to the city from the perspective of work and a better life. What awaits them, often, are harsh living conditions and a widespread misery that the most sensitive artists do not hesitate to denounce through their works, executed with the divisionist technique. Morbelli is perfectly at ease in representing so much the symbols of the modern city ( Milan Central Station in 1889) as the negative implications of the life that takes place there (such as the grim resignation of the paintings set in the Pio Albergo Trivulzio). Social unease is also at the center of the works of Attilio Pusterla and Giovanni Sottocornola and is made even more evident by the powerful social icon of Enrico Butti ‘s Miner .

Medardo Rosso
A monographic environment, recently revamped, is dedicated to the works of one of the most significant sculptors in the evolution of the international figurative language. Medardo Rosso, after a brief attendance at the regular courses of the Accademia di Brera in Milan, was formed in the years marked by the later results of the disheveled production and by the contemporary, increasing attention to the social context of the city. In this context, the works of Rosso are born, whose subjects refer to a popular Milan (brats, old men, prostitutes, concierges): realistic ideas faced with a quick and raw look, fixed without descriptive complacency in figures with moving and vibrant surfaces of light. Since 1889 Rosso has been staying in Paris for thirty years,

Gaetano Previati
After an academic training and a first experience in the field of Scapigliatura (as evidenced by the works in room XXI), Previati from Ferrara gives life to a language characterized by attention to the great universal themes, rendered with an increasingly dematerialized and made painting of only light: he affirms himself as a leading interpreter of the two great moments of the figurative culture of the second nineteenth century, Divisionism and Symbolism. The hall, set up around the Madonna dei Gigli , which represents one of the arrival points of symbolist research, shows a selection of the various stages of the artistic journey of Previati, from works such as the Madonna of Chrysanthemums or Maternity, still close to the disheveled painting, up to the dreamy historical re-enactments of the Sun King and of Journey into the blue , to arrive at the extreme results of his poetry with Meriggio and Le caravelle pisane , based on a more simplified and already in many ways twentieth century language.

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The hall communicates through three arches with the adjacent ballroom (room XV), almost forming a single space. From the windows overlooking the courtyard you can enjoy a wide view of the nearby Indro Montanelli Public Gardens of Porta Venezia, originally designed by Giuseppe Piermarini, an architect active in Austrian 18th century Lombardy. Here they find their place, in a pause with respect to the chronological path of the rooms, but in accordance with the neoclassical decorations of the room, two tempera lunettes of mythological subject by Andrea Appiani and two bronze busts, Napoleon I by Antonio Canova and the Portrait of Eugene of Beauharnaisby Gaetano Manfredini. This last effigy transmits to us the face of the one who, as viceroy of Italy, made the villa his palace, commissioning those completion works according to the magnificent Empire style that characterizes the decorations of the main halls of the first floor.

Symbolist Segantini
The visit to the first floor ends with the results of Segantini’s work closer to Symbolism. In the Trentino artist’s work Divisionism is bent to express symbolic contents, as can be seen in works such as the pagan goddess , the angel of life or love to the sources of life , akin to international idealism and a linearism almost secessionist. Together with these is the sculpture L’Alpeby Leonardo Bistolfi, linked to the development of a monument to Segantini. Finally, the visitor is dismissed with a work by Alberto Martini, deposited by the Museo del Novecento in Milan: exhibited at the Sala del Sogno of the Venice Biennale in 1907, with its extreme rarefaction of form introduces the instances of renewal and modernity typical of the avant-gardes of the new century, perfectly embodied by Wildt’s sculpture displayed next door.

Nineteenth-century Collection
This collection began to take shape in 1861, when lawyer Fogliani – executor for the sculptor Pompeo Marchesi’s will – wished to donate to the City of Milan this artist’s collection made up of celebrated works from Canova to Marchesi himself. This was the first of many donations that would enrich the Municipality with art that, in 1903, would be gathered together in a Contemporary Art Gallery. In fact, starting in 1865 – with Count Gian Giacomo Bolognini’s endowment – up to an important addition in 1902 with works by professors and students from the Brera Fine Arts Academy and Picture Gallery, the modern art collection grew to such an extent it was separated from the ancient art collections. Inaugurated in 1877 in the Public Gardens Hall, the works remained here until 1903 when, with the addition of the National Archeological Museum, a new venue was found in the Sforzesco Castle: the Modern Art Gallery was born that year, as an independent section.

Right from the start, the Gallery, intended for the City, has hosted and enhanced local works and masterpieces thanks to endowments and donations. This bears witness to the expectations and recognition of this Museum on the part of citizens, who are also associated with other institutions: the Society for Fine Arts which, from 1843, purchased on a regular basis from art exhibitions, especially those at Brera. These works were subsequently divided among members and donated to the Gallery.

In 1920, when the State gave Villa Reale to the City of Milan, the Modern Art Gallery found its definitive location. That same year, the collection grew thanks to a donation by Vittore Grubicy De Dragon (with works by Giacomo Campi, Giovanni Carnovali, Giovanni Costa, Tranquillo Cremona, Federico Faruffini, Silvestro Lega, Filippo Palizzi, Gaetano Previati, Daniele Ranzoni, Giovanni Segantini) and, in 1921, with sale by public tender, The Fourth Estate by Pellizza da Volpedo entered the Gallery’s collections.

If for decades Villa Reale co-existed with other institutions (for example, the Naval Museum or as a venue for civil weddings), which limited the growth of its collections, since 2006 it has been the sole and exclusive showcase for the Modern Art Gallery and its activities.

Galleria d’Arte Moderna – Milano
From 1903 the Galleria d’Arte Moderna preserves the modern art collections of the City of Milan, an artistic heritage of about 3,500 works. The collections are displayed from 1921 within the Villa Reale, one of the masterpieces of milan’s neoclassical era. Designed by the architect Leopoldo Pollock, it was built between 1790 and 1796 as the house of the earl Lodovico Barbiano di Belgioioso. Villa Reale later became the residence of the Viceroy Eugenio di Beauharnais, stepson of Napoleon.

Among the undisputed protagonists of the Milanese and Italian art history present in the collection there are Antonio Canova, Andrea Appiani, Francesco Hayez, Tranquillo Cremona, Giovanni Segantini, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Giovanni Boldini, Medardo Rosso, Gaetano Previati.

Thanks to private collections and to the donations of important families, such as Grassi and Vismara, the artistic heritage of the Gallery has been enriched with masterpieces of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The exhibition activity of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna dialogues with applied art, the contemporary languages and the thematic analysis of artists present in the permanent collection.

What makes Milan’s Modern Art Gallery of international stature is the value and quality of the works on display and housed here: Francesco Hayez, Pompeo Marchesi, Andrea Appiani, Tranquillo Cremona, Giovanni Segantini, Federico Faruffini, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Antonio Canova, Daniele Ranzoni, Medardo Rosso, Gaetano Previati are some of the important artists present, as they are undisputed protagonists of Art History for both Milan and Italy. Their works represent art as it unfolded from the 18th to 19th centuries, in particular the current that originated in the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and slowly took hold even beyond national borders. Thanks to 20th-century art collectors and donations by some prominent families (Treves, Ponti, Grassi, Vismara, for example), over the years these masterpieces have enriched the Gallery’s art heritage and confirmed its fundamental mission of perpetuating the diffusion of culture. Visitors can admire in the Villa’s halls works by Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Giovanni Boldini, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and other key players on Italy’s 20th-century art scene.