Art in Italy between Hayez and Segantini

9th February - 16th June 2019

The 2019 exhibition at the Musei San Domenico in Forlì presents the great art of nineteenth century Italy, in the period between the closing phase of Romanticism and the artistic experiments of the new century, between the Unification of Italy and the Great War.
The well-known phrase attributed to one of the protagonists of Italy’s Risorgimento, Massimo d'Azeglio, “Now that we have made Italy, we must make Italians”, encapsulates a key reflection on Italian history and on how, in the years following the Unification of Italy, a national identity was created and developed and how the autobiography of a nation was depicted. It leads to a consideration of how Italians, who had previously been divided among different local political, social and cultural realities, experienced the aspiration and the reality of becoming one people, sharing a common history.
By retracing the events of Italian art in the half-century that preceded the revolution of Futurism, through an extraordinary comparison of architecture, painting, sculpture, illustration and decorative arts, we can understand critically how art functioned as a formidable tool of celebration and communication to create consensus, while also being the most popular and “democratic” means of informing Italians on the exciting and contradictory course of their ancient and recent history, characterized by shared passions as well as strong tensions and divisions. Art was a formidable laboratory that enabled a discovery, or rediscovery, of the natural wonders of the “bel paese” and the artistic riches of the cities that were being irreparably transformed to meet the needs of modernity, as witnessed by the changes in Florence and Rome when each rose to become the nation’s capital. Art also served as the medium for presenting the variety and charm of the habits and customs of the differing local identities and transmitted the excellence of artistic techniques from sculpture to jewellery, to outstanding craftsmanship, that were still in demand world-over, just as they had been during the Renaissance, in the days of Giambologna and Benvenuto Cellini.
The exhibition contains a selection of excellent works, many chosen from those presented at the great National Exhibitions, from the earliest edition in Florence in 1861, to those hosted in Rome, Turin and Florence in 1911 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Italian Unity; while many of these were award-winning works, others were considered outrageous. The division of the selected works into sections enables the exhibition to retrace the course of different genres, from the historical genre, to the representation of modern life, to the art of social commentary, to portraiture, to landscape, to veduta and to the new experimentations.
After the debut in Florence in 1861, the National Exhibitions were hosted in Milan, Turin, Rome, Naples, Venice and Palermo. They featured not only the arts, but also manufacturing, thus providing an exceptional testimony of the country’s development, projected towards Europe and modernity. In many cases, the very extent of the areas involved meant the Exhibitions changed the face of the host cities, for example, Palermo in 1891, pushing them towards modernization. The documentation of these urban interventions provides an original and particularly significant means of understanding the styles and architectural solutions proposed as a model for a united Italy.
An immersive journey through time and space permits us to encounter new cultural and social themes, with a popular impact and universal significance. The variety of languages with which they were represented makes it possible to retrace the stylistic experiments that characterized the course of Italian art in the second half of the nineteenth century and on the threshold of the new century, in an engaging dialectic between tradition and modernity.
This presentation of masterpieces takes us from the last phase of Romanticism and Purism to Realism, from Eclecticism to Symbolism, from the Neo-Renaissance to Divisionism, with many protagonists of those tormented decades who are still to be reevaluated.
The exhibition presents the important production of artists such as Hayez, Induno, Molmenti, Faruffini, Maccari, Muzzioli, Costa, Fattori, Signorini, Ciseri, Corcos, Michetti, Lojacono, Michetti, Previati, Morbelli, Nomellini, Tito, Sartorio, De Nittis, Pellizza da Volpedo, Segantini, Boccioni and Balla; of sculptors such as Vela, Cecioni, Monteverde, Gemito, Canonica, Bistolfi and Medardo Rosso. Yet it provides also an extraordinary opportunity to present many other unjustly forgotten and surprising artists.
Among the events of the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification, in 1911, the truly epic collection in the Exhibition of Italian portraiture from the end of the 16th century to 1861 was particularly impressive. The idea was conceived by Corrado Ricci and implemented thanks also to the design and energy of Ugo Ojetti. The exhibition, hosted in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, used the testimony of a genre less constrained by rules, namely portraiture, to provide an extraordinary narrative of how the image of Italians had been outlined in the centuries preceding national unity.
This exhibition will present, for the first time, a comparison between some of the masterpieces then displayed in Florence and the new protagonists of art who lived in the same period of the exhibition.
The opening and closing fireworks of Hayez and Segantini undoubtedly trace a symbolic boundary. Yet this boundary encompasses the recovery of classicism and the renewal of a century. Both forms in both artists.
Hayez is the first and last of the Romantics, he is the artist linked to the Risorgimento of Italian art and of the nation, the protagonist able to produce an Italian figurative model in the form of European painting, according to a widely shared evaluation that goes from Stendhal to Ojetti. If there is one artist who has been able to rework the canons of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the long nineteenth century, reconsidering Raphael and Titian, Reni and Tiepolo, this is Hayez.  
Segantini was fully part of the modern revolution of Divisionism. And while progressively aligning himself with the great European post-impressionists, and through comparison with Millet, as Arcangeli states, “he begins to master the phrase”, suddenly “Italian painting fires him onwards”. In this sense, the comparison and correspondences with Pellizza da Volpedo, Previati and Michetti are fundamental in the exhibition.
While the Venetian Hayez rendered Milan a true cultural capital of the Italian nineteenth century, the chosen venue for his revolutionary artistic militancy; Segantini found in the Alps the eternal, solitary, unspoilt and epic backdrop for his innovative paintings, just as Van Gogh had Provence and Gauguin had Tahiti.
Hayez remained close to the centre of history’s making, while Segantini centred himself far away: “Here in Savognino” Segantini wrote, “my art took on the character it still retains. That mysterious divisionism of the colours you see in my work is nothing but a natural search for light”. And it is precisely the lightening of his palette in this natural search for light, his contemplation of the blue of the sky and the white of the snowy peaks, the descent to the grey of the rocks and the green of the meadows, that allowed him to open up to the innovations and experiments of the new century and build his very personal weaving of modernity.
While one stands at the beginning and the other at the end of the century, both painters played an essential part in the renewal of Italian art. While Hayez was ordained by Mazzini as the nation’s painter, Segantini would receive an equally significant tribute in D'Annunzio’s Ode, written on the artist’s death.

Information and booking
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tel. +39.0543.36217 (groups only)

Visiting hours
From Tuesday to Friday: 9.30 am - 7.00 pm
Saturday, Sunday, holidays, April 22th and 29th: 9.30 am - 8.00 pm
The box office closes one hour before time stated.
Closed on Mondays.

Adult € 12
Reduced fee € 10: for groups (more than 15 people),
children 15-18, senior (over 65), special conventions
holders (see the list at the entrance of museum), students.
Reduced fee € 5: children 6 -14
Free: children under 6 years, one guest for each group,
helpers, journalists, tour guide, disabled.
Guided tours in foreign languages € 110

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How to get to Forlì
By plain: Guglielmo Marconi Airport in Bologna
(via Triumvirato, 84)
tel +39.051.647.96.15
By train: main north-south rain links through the
Milano-Bologna-Ancona and
Milano-Bologna-Firenze-Roma lines

By car: motorway A14 from Bologna to Rimini, exit Forlì;
Strada Statale n. 9 (via Emilia)

Galleria Mostra
Convegno di chiusura della mostra e presentazione del nuovo progetto espositivo
Sabato 8 giugno, Sala del Refettorio, Musei San Domenico
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