Artwork of the month - June 2022

Mario Tozzi
(Fossombrone, PU, 1895 - Saint Jean du Gard, 1979)
In riva al mare, 1935
Oil on panel, 65.5x46.5 cm
inv. AM 1093

Mario Tozzi - In riva al mare, 1935

The painting In riva al mare is a significant example of the mature poetics of Mario Tozzi, who was interested in the themes of still life and the nude brought back to the perfection of archetypal, universal and timeless forms: in a composition with a cinematic cut, the foreground objects ̶ two seashells, a pink fan and a glass bottle resting diagonally on an empty glass ̶ introduce the "long field" in which three naked bathers (a man and two women) are caught in various attitudes on the sandy seashore.

The classical and Mediterranean theme of the bathers ̶ that reaches from the Renaissance to the great modern painters such as Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse (from the latter's La joie de vivre derives, quoted verbatim but in counterpart, the reclining figure) is revisited by Tozzi in the light of his peculiar reception of the Italian tradition and contemporary French painting and of a classicism that veers perceptibly towards symbolic and idealised representation: "A woman who petrifies herself," writes the artist, "is at bottom a being who escapes life, she also escapes death in a certain sense: she is there, eternal like a mountain. I think my female figures are all a bit [...] of such an accurate plasticity as to make one think at times of sculptures and, rather than living, of mineral creatures, the work of the chisel rather than the brush. I like them serene and far from the drama that has been in us since birth, I would like them to remind us that this geometric, ordered and serene ideal world exists'. Tozzi's is therefore a world removed from the chaos and corruption of time, which translates, from a formal point of view, into firm, crystalline drafts, a chalky light and a dry, almost fresco-like colour.

After studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna, Tozzi moved to Paris in 1919, participating several times in the Salon d'Automne and the Salon des Indépendents. In 1926 he was included by Margherita Sarfatti in the First Exhibition of the 20th Century and formed the 'Groupe des Sept' (also known as 'Les Italiens de Paris') with Campigli, De Pisis, Paresce, De Chirico, Savinio and Severini. From the beginning of the 1930s  and in particular from Oggetti dinanzi al mare of 1931 and Le bagnanti in riva al mare of 1932  the themes of water and bathers became recurrent, while the pictorial modelling became increasingly limpid and compact, the atmospheres became suspended and immobile and everyday objects took on the value of disquieting amulets, which not by chance led to talk of "second metaphysics" (Valsecchi).

Perfectly ascribable to this phase of his production, In riva al mare was exhibited at the 2nd Quadriennale in 1935 together with six other contemporary works (Natura morta, Il Villaggio dei nudisti, Pausa nell'atelier, Il dopolavoro, Frutta in riva al mare, L'autunno) and at the same time purchased by the Governorate of Rome for the civic collections.

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