The road of the art in Mantua
Museums, and famous local artists
The art road in the south of the province of Mantua
Among the misty plains in the south of the province of Mantua we could never expect to find something other than the immovable farms, from the hard work of the farmers in the fields, to the rows of the silent poplars that frame the Po. However, it is just this dimension which has inspired the creativity and kindled the emotions of various masters, who produced a very peculiar art, nourished by the observation of and by the meditation on the intimate relationship between man, his daily toil and the space where his life and work go on. This rural environment and the "Padana" landscapes act as the scene of different stories, which converge towards the unique direction of artistic expression. Many of these artists, who left us remarkable evidence of their sensibility, are excellently represented along an ideal route that passes through the museums of contemporary art of the area. These museums, in particular those of San Giacomo, San Benedetto, Suzzara and Quistello, are closely connected to a common origin –the world of the farmer- which has a leading role in the contents of artistic expression: naive painting, the bond between art and work, the cultural substratum which permeates the artistic language of Gorni or Semeghini or Viani, or the fairy universe of Viviani, where apples become a unicum as well as a single and polyhedral whole. Moreover, the motivation which gave rise to the premio Suzzara (Suzzara prize) is to be found in the innumerable rivulets which branch off a central motor based on the life of the soil. The world of work, the industrial direction of an evolving society, has never lost sight of the concept of mother earth as the origin of all things. A prime example is the artistic conception of Ruggero Giorgi, his commitment to hand down traditions and his knowledge of a decomposing a rural world. Giorgi helps us go beyond the tecniques and the cultural messages best liked by the different artists. He helps us understand that there is a common path which draws inspiration from the millenary canvas formed by the world of farmers, and whose identity today is increasingly the subject of analysis and rediscovery.
The town from which the itinerary begins is just across the provincial border in the province of Reggio Emilia. From Mantova take the SS 62 national road; it is also within easy access of the A 22 motorway exits of Pegognaga and Reggiolo-Rolo. It is the charming little town of Luzzara, seat of the famous "Cesare Zavattini" National Museum of Naïve Arts, founded in 1967 following an idea of the famous citizen of Luzzara from whom the Museum draws its name. Zavattini was a painter, writer, journalist and film script-writer (he worked with De Sica, Germi, Visconti and other well-known directors).
The collection began at the same time as the National Award of Naïve painting, which every year attracts naïve artists from all over Italy. A jury chooses the best works, some of which are kept by the gallery, and when the competition closes the exhibition goes on tour so that naïve art can be appreciated in every region of Italy. The exhibition takes place every year from the third Saturday of March to the third Sunday of May. Today the gallery contains more than 200 works of art, including paintings and sculptures, and this heritage is growing steadily richer thanks to the exhibition, which can be said to offer a significant panorama of the naïve world. In addition, the Museum also owns a collection of 67 paintings dating back to 1975 on the theme of "The Resistance", realized on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Liberation, as well as a collection of documents, tapes, archives papers, and articles from newspapers and magazines on the activity of the gallery from its origins up to the present day.
National Museum of the Naïve Arts "Cesare Zavattini"
Ex Convento degli Agostiniani, Via Villa Superiore 29, Luzzara (Re) tel. 0522 977283-977667 fax 0522 224830
Only 5 kilometres from Luzzara, going towards Mantova, we reach the little industrial town of Suzzara, where in 1948 the Premio Suzzara was founded, thanks to Dino Villani and Cesare Zavattini. They conceived the idea of a very unusual artistical show, in which the main theme would be work, and in which there should also be a symbolic exchange between the products of art and those of work. The intention was to bring the people and artists together. All this was bound to attract a large number of artists right from the first edition of the Prize, and since then this event has been a costant success. The judges themselves included not only experts, but also a workman, a clerk and a farmer. Thanks to the exchange between art and work (agricultural, handicraft and industrial products in exchange for works of art), the prize-winning works became the property of the town of Suzzara. So, with the passing of time, in the Galleria Civica d`Arte Contemporanea (Civic Gallery of Contemporary Art) one of the main collections of realist and neorealistic art in Italy has been established. Among the artists partecipating, we must mention Renato Birolli, Carlo Carrà, Umberto Boccioni, Aligi Sassu and Renato Guttuso. Galleria Civica d`Arte Contemporanea (Civic Gallery of Contemporary Art) Via Guido da Suzzara 48/A Suzzara (Mn) tel. 0376 535593
Passing through Pegognaga, we arrive at the beautiful little town of San Benedetto Po, which can be reached also by river. Here, inside the Benedictine complex which houses the Museo della Cultura Popolare Padana (Museum of Popular Padana Culture), a department is dedicated to another personality who reflects rural life and local traditions: Antonio Ruggero Giorgi, an excellent artist, from a farming family, and who worked in the early decades of the twentieth century. We can see his drawings, sketches, and paintings. Born in Reggiolo, in the province of Reggio Emilia, in 1887, Giorgi paid for his studies in Mantova by working as a painter and decorator. In 1910 he entered the Accademia Cignaroli in Verona and shortly afterwards he began a series of journeys which led him to Munich where he attended courses by Professor Knir, Paul Klee`s teacher. There he became an assistant to Oskar Kokoschka. His favourite techniques are first of all pencil, oil colours, and "dry-point", an engraving-tecnique of fifteenth century origin, appraised again at the end of the nineteenth century by German Expressionists. The themes dealt with by the artist are the human figure, the works in the fields, the animals, the portrait and historical episodes. In his maturity, instead, he concentrate on still life.
Collezione Giorgi (Giorgi Collection)
Chiostro degli Abati, Piazza Teofilo Folengo S. Benedetto Po (Mn) tel. 0376 623036
Driving along the road which leads from San Benedetto to Poggio Rusco, after 7 kilometres we reach Quistello, and a little more north the hamlet of Nuvolato. In the second half of the nineteenth century in the little village of Quistello important masters such as Giuseppe Gorni, Defendi Semeghini, Pio Semeghini, Alberto Viani, Teresita Vincenzi were born. In 1985 the Pinacoteca Comunale di Quistello (Town Picture-Gallery.) collected some works of these artists, in order to demonstrate their value to everyone. The collection also includes a recent acquisition of 120 graphic works by Vanni Viviani, better known as the painter of the "disquieting apples".
Pinacoteca Comunale (Town Picture-gallery.)
Via Martiri di Belfiore, 7 Quistello (Mn) tel. Biblioteca 0376 619739
At Nuvolato, a hamlet in the borough of Quistello, two museums dedicated to Giuseppe Gorni, a great artist and architect born in Nuvolato in 1894, are going to be established. The Fondazione Giuseppe Gorni (Giuseppe Gorni Foundation) is going to open a permanent museum in the building which once housed the primary school. In it, the collections belonging to the artist`s family and to the borough of Quistello will be put together, so that the visitors can get an exhaustive impression of the work and life of the artist. The territorial museum is expected to be even more charming. In fact, it will consist of an itinerary along the various buildings which Gorni decorated with external graffiti. Among them, there is the house of the artist, the portal of the cemetery, some tombs, and the building which will house the museum.
Going on along the road to Poggio Rusco, the next stop of our route is San Giacomo delle Segnate. In 1998 the artist Vanni Viviani, native of that village, returned after having exhibited very successfully his famous paintings, in which apples are symbolically protagonists, all over the world. At San Giacomo he founded the Ca` di Pom (House of the apples), which is a house and at the same time a very lively cultural centre, where Viviani, lost in the fog and in the silence, found again a sort of lost innocence. Recently, Viviani gave the Ca` di Pom and 40 historical works to the Bam Foundation, whose purpose is to safeguard the artistic, cultural and environmental values of our area. These works, therefore, will remain in the place where they were realized, and this place will become a little permanent museum.
Ca` di Pom,
Via Cantone 13 S. Giacomo delle Segnate (Mn) tel. 0376 616611 Fondazione Bam Corso Vittorio Emanuele 13 Mantova tel. 0376 311861
Arrived at Poggio Rusco, following directions to Revere-Ostiglia, we get to the end of our route, Revere. In the splendid Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) of Revere, built by Luca Fancelli for the Gonzagas, beside the charmingMuseo del Po, in the garret of the palace, rearranged on purpose, there is a collection of contemporary works of art: it is the Young Museum, which aims at promoting contemporary art dealing with international works. As well as the permanent exhibition, which includes over 300 works, the museum is the seat of exhibitionswhich take place also thanks to the collaboration with important international galleries. In the artshop of the museum books and art objects are available, whereas the next door library contains about 4000 volumes concerning poetry.
Palazzo Comunale, Piazza Castello 12 Revere (Mn) tel. Comune 0386 46001-2
(Pictures: Toni Lodigiani, APT archive and Cà di Pom)