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Friday, 30 March 2012

Telemaco Signorini and Russian Art

In a previous post I noted the similarities between a painting by Telemaco Signorini and one of the great classics of Russian art: Ilya Repin’s ‘Barge Haulers on the Volga’. A visit to the Tretiakovskaya Gallery a few months ago on Krymsky Val suggested that the link between Telemaco Signorini and Russian art was more than simply hypothetical. Although the great Russian artist is better known for his works on historical and religious or biblical motifs, the time spent in Italy clearly shows how Ghe was influenced by the macchaioli movement and, in particular, by Telemaco Signorini. He spent a number of summers in the Gulf of Poets near La Spezia which was to influence not only Shelley and Byron but also D.H.Lawrence and Mario Soldati. Many of Ghe’s landscapes of San Terenzo or Carrara bear the unmistakeable stamp of the macchaiolo technqiue of Signorini or Cabianco. One more link in the chain of mutual Italian-Russian influences. And one more indicator that Liguria and Tuscany are the most ‘Russian’ of Italian regions. The great Mordovian sculptor Stepan Erzia who I blogged about yesterday would also spend time in Italy precisely in this Ligurian-Tuscan borderland so rich in artistic and literary history.  Other names linking Russia to Liguria include those of Marina Tsvetaeva, Tchaikovsky, and Vrubel. An early twentieth century writer from the La Spezia region who has written some fascinating pages on the Cinque Terre and Lunigiana Ettore Cozzani also had many links to late 19th century Russian exiles living in Liguria.

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