Siro Penagini. The poet of nature
Palazzo Viani Dugnani, via Ruga 44, Verbania
The exhibition, which includes more than seventy works and avails itself of the collaboration of the VAF-Stiftung, reconstructs the Milanese artist’s entire career, bringing his painting, now almost forgotten and unusual on the Italian scene, back into the limelight. Penagini in fact studied in 1907-1909 at the Munich Academy, and was perhaps the first artist in Italy to understand Van Gogh and Gauguin, whom he saw in the Bavarian capital. In 1913-16 he gravitated to the Roman Secession, where he became fascinated with the works of Matisse. The result of these suggestions, combined with the light of Terracina and Positano, where he moved due to uncertain health in 1914-1919, is a painting of intense, sunny colors, which has nature (landscapes, animals, flowers) as its main subject.
In the 1920s Penagini experimented instead with highly original greenish tones, as seen in the works he painted in Dormelletto (Novara) in 1920 and in Sardinia (1921-22). He then approached the Novecento Italiano, participating in its major exhibitions. From 1923 he moved permanently to Solcio, on Lake Maggiore, where he painted landscapes and naturalistic themes, especially with luminous clear ranges of intense poeticism.
The Museo del Paesaggio exhibition brings together all of the artist’s major masterpieces, including Putto, flowers and pears, 1911, from the VAF Stiftung, Mart collection, influenced by the Viennese Secession; Verso la sorgente, 1912, and Nudo con mascherina, 1915, with sunny Vangoghi colors; the fiery still lifes of the Positano period (Carciofi; Vase of Squash Blossoms; Plate with Fish and Citrus Fruit, all from 1918); the powerful Blind Man Spinning, 1921-1922, VAF Stiftung collection, Mart, and Women Reaping, 1921-22, from the Sardinian period; Apples on a White Stand, 1925, exhibited in 1926 at the First Exhibition of the Italian Novecento; the candid Winter Landscape, 1930, and Piazza S. Stefano, 1935, both from the Museo del Paesaggio.
Born in 1885 in Milan, Penagini after a brief experience at the Brera Academy studied in Munich, but in the German city he rather saw French postimpressionism (Van Gogh, Gauguin’s pupils) and the Viennese Secession (Povolny, Klimt), acquiring an early knowledge of them for Italy. Then, in 1914-16, he was one of the few Milanese artists who gravitated to the Roman Secession, where he became interested in the works of Matisse. Then, having returned to Milan, he frequents the circle of Margherita Sarfatti as early as 1920. Around 1924-25 he exhibited in the last exhibitions at Ca’ Pesaro, while in the second half of the decade he participated in various reviews of the Novecento Italiano. In 1930 he broke away from the Sarfattian movement, but remained alien to primitivism, chiarismo and expressionism, because he always retained a classical sense of drawing. His was thus an independent path, divided between the suggestions of Paris, Vienna, Milan, Rome, and Venice, made more solitary by the fact that in 1923 he went to live in Solcio, on Lake Maggiore, where he died in 1952.