Artwork of the month - March 2022

March 2022
Max Ihlenfeldt (Massimo Campigli)
(Berlin 1895 - Saint-Tropez 1971)
Le spose dei marinai, 1934
Oil on canvas, 148x180 cm
inv. AM 1015

Antonio Donghi, Donna alla toletta, 1930 (particolare)

The painting The Brides of the Sailors by Massimo Campigli, alias Max Ihlenfeldt, shows the artist's brilliant discovery of the Etruscans art: "It was only in 1928, during a visit to the Villa Giulia museum in Rome, that I found myself ready to receive the coup de foudre. I recognised myself in the Etruscans [...] However, it was from that encounter [...] that my typical painting began. And starting in 1928, it is a happy painting.

The women represented from behind, alone or in groups, at rest or standing, are characterised by the compositional discipline and style typical of the Etruscans art and by the structural harmony that Campigli had discovered in Paris with Picasso and Léger. The figures are linked by their gaze turned to the horizon, towards the sea, outlined in the distance by a line of deep blue, and they are placed on a large section of beach, a rough and undefined timeless space, painted in soft tones, sometimes raised by chromatic accents. The depiction is undoubtedly influenced by a pleasant childhood memory, as the painter himself writes: "My little umbrellas come from a childhood memory. I see myself sitting in a garden next to my mother and she reveals to me - to my amazement - how easy it is, while sitting, to draw a small umbrella on the ground in the gravel with the tip of the parasol".

The painting was presented to the public on the occasion of the II Quadriennale d'Arte in Rome in 1935 and was then purchased by the Governatorate for the municipal collections, confirming the artist's success on the national scene. After starting out as a writer and journalist, Campigli began painting as a self-taught artist, exhibiting at the Salon d'Automne in Paris in 1921 and later joining the Novecento group. His archaic and geometric painting interprets the season of the "return to order" in a completely original way and is translated into a poor palette, mainly made up of earth, and a deliberately opaque and chalky finish, which gives the paintings a certain "fresco air".

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