Pinacoteca – Art Gallery
Palazzo Viani Dugnani
Via Ruga 44 - Verbania
Offices: +39 0323 557116, Exhibition rooms: +39 0323 502254
The Palazzo Viani Dugnani piano nobile is home to the new Museo del Paesaggio art gallery. The exhibition opens with work by Luigi Litta, a Ferrara born painter who trained in Milan at Accademia di Brera and moved to Intra in 1848, teaching drawing to Daniele Ranzoni amongst others. Litta’s paintings mainly depict urban scenes (the engraving series focusing on Intra is well-known) supplemented by human figures with the intention of representing not only the landscape and architecture but also town life.
In addition to Litta, the first room also contains work by Daniele Ranzoni. Morra Players (painted on a mat and datable to 1864) dates to the early period of the artist’s career in which he also painted shop and restaurant signs in Intra. His portrait of Margherita di Savoia (1869-1870) is perhaps the work which best represents Ranzoni’s allegiance to the Scapigliatura school: the female figure, in fact, seems to melt away into a sort of luminous dust, renouncing well-defined contours. This is a characteristic which is also to be found in the work of Paolo Troubetzkoy who had stayed at Villa Ada for several long periods.
The second room is devoted to Milanese painter Federico Ashton, four of whose paintings remained in the museum’s storerooms for many years. Ashton trained at Accademia di Brera and focused almost exclusively on landscape painting, developing a preference for mountain subjects over time which he frequently depicted with a strong Romantic component designed to exalt nature’s beauty and power. Frequent trips to neighbouring Switzerland took him to discover Ossola and its valleys, which became his area of choice together with Canton Vallese.
In the second half of the 19th century local painting was dominated by Lombard Naturalism, a movement which focused principally on landscape painting, to some extent influenced by early 19th century French and English experiences. The school’s leader, Milanese Filippo Carcano, spent long periods in Verbano and in Mottarone, in particular, which became a full blown meeting place for many artists (Eugenio Gigonus, Mosè Bianchi, Leonardo Bazzaro, Uberto Dell’Orto) who found inspiration here both for its landscape and a more direct contact with the rural world.
It was in this context that Carcano came into contact with the young Guido Boggiani, who lived in the family’s Stresa villa and became his pupil at Accademia di Brera. At a very young age Boggiano achieved great success which took him increasingly frequently to Rome where he came into contact with many centre stage players in its cultural milieu including D’Annunzio.
In some of these travels he showed an increasing interest in geography and ethnography, which also took the form of various scientific publications and prompted him to travel to South America many times in the years to come in search of native tribes in the Amazon forests.
The three paintings exhibited belong to the first phase of the artist’s career which preceded his move to Rome. Lake Maggiore from Mottarone (1881) and Chestnut Forests above Stresa (1884) are dominated by the natural element, with human figures relegated to a decidedly marginal role. Road in Carciano (1882) is a town view, however rural, and seems almost a photograph of a group of men playing an improvised boules game and a variegated group of spectators.
A specific element characterising the last decade of the 19th century was Divisionism. This was not a full-blown art movement but rather a painting technique used by various artists many of whom had previously signed up to the Scapigliatura or Naturalism schools. On the example of French Pointillism, Italian Divisionism did not use colour in wide brushstrokes but rather in dots or small lines, then synthesised by the spectator’s human eye which perceives the various colours together. The technique was used to represent the idea of movement, in particular (and Futurism was to return to it in this sense in the early 20th century), and light effects.
A powerful supporter of the new language was Vittore Grubicy, painter and then art dealer whose Milanese gallery came into contact with, and linked up, many artists. Ganna Cemetery (or At Grandi’s Tomb, 1894), was painted by the artist in the wake of the strong feelings triggered by the death of his friend Giuseppe Grandi, Scapigliato sculptor. The cemetery is confined to a corner of the painting and it is the valley landscape which dominates, painted at sunset with great attention to light effects.
After his first contact with the Scapigliatura movement, Eugenio Gignous came into contact with Carcano and the Naturalism milieu. Whilst he cannot be labelled a full-blown Divisionist, in a work such as The Fletschhorn (1900) he demonstrated an attention to light effects on various surfaces, one of its most beloved themes.
Achille Tominetti was also a friend of both Gignous and Grubicy. From a poor family, after his studies at Accademia di Brera, financial problems obliged him to return to Miazzina, his parents’ hometown. He continued to paint, keeping up contacts with Grubicy and the Milanese milieu and coming into contact with the local milieu. He stayed at Villa Ada and was summoned to teach Pierre Troubetzkoy (note the bust of the painter by Paolo Troubetzkoy in the Gipsoteca). His work shows a preference for mountain subjects (Mountain Hut, undated) and rural life. Ploughing in Miazzina (1900 approx.), which shows stronger Divisionist allusions, also constitutes a raw portrait of the harshness of peasants’ lives.
The next room contains Divisionist work dating to the early years of the 20th century. The preference for mountain themes and light effects, especially snow, is visible in three panels (Snowfall 1908, Snow 1908 and Snowfall 1911) mounted into a single triptych by Cesare Maggi: the work belongs to the early phase in the artist’s career which was profoundly influenced by Giovanni Segantini’s lessons and contacts with Vittore Grubicy.
Winter evocations also dominate the work of Carlo Cressini (The Icy Waters of Lake Märjelen, 1908 approx.) and Guido Cinotti (Snowfall, undated). In both these paintings the use of Divisionist techniques enables the light effects on expanses of snow, water and ice to take shape. Of note in Cressini’s work (as a mountaineer and sort of mountain ‘specialist, like Ashton) is the quasi-Romantic aspects, especially in the depiction of such a majestic and towering nature.
The exhibition ends with Two Walnuts (1921 approx.) by Carlo Fornara, a masterpiece by an artist who made considerable use of Divisionist techniques in his painting, linked to French Neoimpressionism, always attentive to exalting light effects in his compositions to the full.
Completing the itinerary, in chronological order, are paintings which testify to Mario Tozzi’s artistic evolution as a painter with strong bonds to the local area and our museum.
The Stroll (1915), showing the Suna lakeside promenade, dates to the beginning of his career with a style still to some extent bound up with 19th century Impressionism and Naturalism traditions.
The Lignorelles Garden, on the other hand, dates to 1920, after Tozzi moved to Paris and after he made contact with the avantgarde (Cezanne and the Fauves) and other Italians, contacts which led to him signing up to the Valori Plastici movement which espoused a return to the plasticity of the Italian Renaissance tradition.
After a period of crisis, in the 1960s the artist got back on track with a new language inspired by geometric abstraction and which breathed life into a series of Small Heads like that shown here (1970).
€5 full price
Entrance tickets include a visit to the Gipsoteca Troubetzkoy, the art gallery and the Martini Collection.