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Artistic innovation à l’italienne: re-experiencing the twentieth century through the works of Virgilio Guidi and Pietro Annigoni

The Twentieth Century was a time of experimentation. Society was rapidly changing and, especially after the devastating and unexpected World War I, there was the urgent need for an alternative answer to the status quo. Culture had the task of rebuilding society and a variety of answers were produced, particularly in the field of art. Along the Italian peninsula, the artistic movement that best characterised the creative revolution of the twentieth century was undoubtedly Futurism, which embraced modernity in its entirety, using decomposition as a way to express time and dynamism. Many artists joined this movement, amongst which Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà and Virgilio Guidi.

Born in Rome in 1891, Guidi was an important personality in the formation and flowering of Futurism. Having studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti of Rome, the artist developed a reputation as talented painter, and had the opportunity to exhibit several times at the Venice Biennale and at the “Italian Twentieth Century” and “Ten Artists of the Twentieth Century”, both held in 1927. 

In recent years, his work was extensively displayed in numerous shows in prestigious international institutions and museums, including Villa Contarini in Padua, Italy, and the Gagliardi Gallery, a prominent contemporary art gallery located in central London. In spite of being an enthusiastic Futurist, Guidi always kept his independence from the group, which resulted in his adherence in the Fifties to Spatialism, the artistic movement founded by Lucio Fontana.

While Guidi was changing his style, another Italian artist was writing a manifesto: in fact, in 1947 Pietro Annigoni, together with Sciltian and the Bueno brothers, produced the manifesto of the Modern Realist Painters. In deep contrast with the tendencies of Modernism and Postmodernism, unlike the Futurists, who were in search of metaphysics and motion, and in strong opposition to Fontana’s will to express the three-dimensional onto a canvas, Annigoni developed a realist approach to painting, influenced by the geniuses of the Renaissance.

Realism became Annigoni’s trade mark, as he would realise portraits and frescoes with such details as to seem life-like. Having moved to England, his work was highly appreciated to the point, where in 1955, and again in 1968, he was asked to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which will confer upon him the title of “Painter of the Queens”. Annigoni can boast several exhibitions in England, as well as abroad, including numerous shows at the Royal Academy of Art and the Gagliardi Art Gallery of London, which not only celebrated his artistic genius and strong passion for painting, but also praised the artistic and cultural  richness that has characterised Italy in the course of the past century.



Top image: Volto by Virgilio Guidi, presented at the Gagliardi Gallery, Contemporary art gallery in London

Bottom image: Untitled by Pietro Annigoni, exhibited at the Gagliardi Art Gallery, London