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Carlo Bossoli, Balaklava, 1857. Gouache with watercolor on paper laid down on canvas, sheet: 76.5 x 112.6 cm (30 1/8 x 44 5/16 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Florian Carr Fund.

WASHINGTON, DC.- A new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art will introduce visitors to a period that is largely neglected by art history, yet produced extraordinarily varied, vital, and often stunningly beautiful art. From Neoclassicism to Futurism: Italian Prints and Drawings, 1800–1925—on view from September 1, 2014 to February 1, 2015—features some 70 prints, drawings, and illustrated books by 52 artists ranging from works inspired by the ancient past to magnificent set designs, poetic landscapes, and striking approaches to non-representational art. 

« Italian art of 19th and early 20th centuries included certain groups whose names still resonate—like the Macchiaioli and the futurists, » said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. « But unlike its European neighbors, especially France, the newly forming country did not have a common style, much less one that developed according to the conventional history of modern art. Italian art had its own varied forms, distinctive life, and development. » 

Over the past several years, the Gallery has built its holdings of Italian prints and drawings from this period, creating what has already become the largest and finest collection of its kind in the United States. As much as a presentation of Italian art of the period, this exhibition introduces the results of the Gallery’s efforts. 

Notable are the groups of drawings by distinguished academics Luigi Sabatelli (1772–1850) and Bartolomeo Pinelli (1771–1835); grand topographic views like Balaklava (1857) by Carlo Bossoli (1815–1884) etchings from the technique’s revival in the second half of the century, especially those by Antonio Fontanesi (1818–1882) and Giovanni Fattori (1825–1908); and books by the Futurists that combine imaginative texts with abstract imagery. Two promised gifts, the watercolor A Priest in a Church Interior (1900s) by Giovanni Boldini (1842–1931) and Study for « Ballerina » (c.1913-14) by Gino Severini (1883-1966) are critical additions from private collections. 

Filling three galleries, From Neoclassicism to Futurism spans Italy’s turbulent history, from Napoleonic rule to the splintering and reunification of the nation and its subsequent descent into fascism. 

The first gallery features works that reflect the persistence and weight of tradition through the first half of the 19th century in engraved interpretations of old master paintings, drawings inspired by antique models, and theatre designs. 

Luigi Sabatelli I, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1809-1810, etching, 
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund.

Giuseppe Cornienti, after Gaetano Monti, Alessandro Manzoni, 1858, acquatint and roulette, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund

Giuseppe Cornienti, after Gaetano Monti, Alessandro Manzoni, 1858, acquatint and roulette, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund.

Works in the second gallery reveal a late but passionate embrace of Romanticism and an individualistic approach to art according to the geographic centers where it flourished: Turin, Milan, Rome, and Naples. 

Vincenzo Gemito, Portrait of a Youth, 1923. Black chalk with stumping and white chalk heightening on tan multifiber wove paper, sheet: 41 35.5 cm (16 1/8 14 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Faya Causey in memory of Catherine Lees Causey.

Francesco Paolo Michetti, Southern Italian Woman Dressed for Church, c. 1885-1888, pastel, black and white chalks on faded blue-gray paper, Florian Carr Fund and The Ahmanson Foundation.

The final gallery features works by all the major figures in the Futurist movement, from its founder Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944), to Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916) and Carlo Carrà (1881–1966), who all consciously rejected the past and celebrated the dawn of a new age. It also includes works by important precursors of this explicit modernism, such as works by Fattori and Telemaco Signorini (1835–1901), and other responses to the new age, like Still Life with a Basket of Bread (1921) by Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964). 

Giovanni Fattori, Donna al Gabbro (Woman of the Gabbro), 1886-1887, etching, The Ahmanson Foundation.

Telemaco Signorini, Via Santa Maria della Tromba, 1886, etching, 
The Ahmanson Foundation.

Prints, Drawings, and Illustrated Books at the National Gallery of Art

The Gallery’s collection of prints, drawings, and illustrated books consists of more than 111,000 European and American works on paper and vellum, dating from the 11th century to the present. Because works on paper are highly susceptible to overexposure to light, they can be exhibited only for short periods. For that reason, the Gallery maintains a schedule of changing exhibitions drawn from its own collection or on loan from other institutions and private individuals. Prints and drawings not on view may be seen by appointment by calling (202) 842-6380. 

This exhibition is curated by Jonathan Bober, curator of old master prints, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Luigi Conconi, Vita contemplativa (self-portrait), c. 1883, 
etching with aquatint, 
Purchased as the Gift of Matthew and Ann Nimetz.

Mosè Bianchi, Woods in the Park near Monza, 1895, 
etching and aquatint, Purchased as the Gift of Matthew and Ann Nimetz

Giacomo Balla, Ti Ta Tò, 1918, color lithograph, William B. O’Neal Fund.

Anselmo Bucci, Place Blanche à Montmartre, 1915, 
drypoint, Purchased as the Gift of Matthew and Ann Nimetz.

Carlo Carrà, Testa di Ragazzo (Head of a Boy), 1919, etching, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund.