As part of the ongoing research into the work of the painter Matteo Olivero (Acceglio 1879-Saluzzo 1932), this exhibition offers a selection of 25 unpublished paintings, all of which have been recovered from private collections, as well as nine rediscovered paintings, i.e. paintings that were measured by Angelo Dragone in 1959 but have rarely been seen by the public. Quality, for too long associated with a fixed core of paintings in the discontinuous focus on this master, is now being recognised in a whole range of expressions, different in genre, medium and format, thanks to extensive research coordinated by Prof. Antonio Musiari of the Accademia Albertina in Turin, of which the exhibition itself is a recent result..
In the exhibition path and the catalogue, two works serve as milestones and points of comparison for the Cottian Alps landscapes and the self-portraits respectively. Re-reading a famous masterpiece like Tramonto (sunset): Marmora, sketches, studies and paintings on the theme of the mountains are juxtaposed here, using Olivero’s resources in a field that has always been almost exclusively associated with him. On loan from the City of Acceglio, Uno strambo in Piazza San Marco never ceases to amaze, first and foremost for its effective synthesis, in which Olivero depicts himself as a performer in one of his many masks – the Strambo – in a setting dominated by St Mark’s Basilica, to which the separation of colours, combined with the skilful design of the architecture, lends the magic of an oriental setting. Uno strambo in Piazza San Marco has been chosen as the main image of this exhibition for a number of reasons, the most important of which is its position of absolute importance in the parable of the artist’s life. Actually, Olivero painted this canvas in 1919, after his discharge from the Aerostieri during the First World War, at a time when he felt the need to reaffirm his own complex identity. To reconnect with the past, Venice – his favourite city of all those he made his home in Italy without settling there – was the perfect place.
The symbolic level, entrusted to the sophisticated chromatism as well as to the mastery of composition and peculiar brushstrokes, is in turn revealed in its strong connection with other genres practised by Olivero himself. Among these, there is also the portrait Gino Bissoni all’età di tre anni, the hitherto unknown result of an agreement between the painter and his faithful critic Emilio Bissoni, father of the portrayed child. As a matter of fact, regarding the other painting, Il bambino Bissoni (The Bissoni Child) in the Pinacoteca Matteo Olivero in Saluzzo, long believed to be the only one on this subject, one wondered why a child portrait had remained in the painter’s studio instead of being collected by his parents. If we compare the two paintings, we can see in the Saluzzo one Olivero’s customary melancholy in the depiction of children, bewildered and precociously wise in their innocence, which explains how he was led to make this lighter version definitive.
In the emblematic figure of the Mother, Olivero concentrated, with love and gratitude, the awakening of a spirituality irreducible to current religious practice. The beloved figure, dressed in black, can be seen walking through winter landscapes and in the poignant Ritratto dei tempi ultimi.
The colours of the snow, which aroused and continue to arouse such admiration, give way in this exhibition to the fascination of the reflections of light on water in Venice and the memory of the stay in Paris in 1910. Moreover, as two series of small works in the process of reconstruction show, both cities remained lifelong theatres in which memories and passions were poured out, transcending biography. This strand of the veduta is consistent with the landscapes en plein air for the rapid, concise style characterised by the power of the stroke.
Other subjects are valuable both to better understand the working method in preparation for masterpieces – such as the two studies for Solitudine – and to appreciate the ability to create variants, such as the two extraordinary ones to be referred to in Funerali a Casteldelfino.
The large painting Il raccolto (The Harvest) stands out among the remarkable new additions to Olivero’s catalogue: a double homage to Giovanni Segantini and Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, the first was an ideal master and the other a friend with a deep artistic understanding. The discovery of this masterpiece makes it possible to reconsider Olivero’s position within Divisionism, a position that is personal in its interpretation of painting technique and yet perfectly aware of the basic models.
The exhibition is curated by Antonio Musiari and will be open on the following days and times:
30 september – 8 december 2023
Visiing times: from Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. On Saturday guided tours on reservation
Opening: saturday 30 september 2023 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
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