press release

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents Giovanni Segantini: Light and Symbol 1884-1899, an exhibition dedicated to works of the late symbolist period of Giovanni Segantini (1858-1899), from February 10th - April 29th, 2001. The project is presented in the context of the program "ENEL Light for Art" and is organized in collaboration with FAI (Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano) with support from ENEL and Pro Helvetia.

To mark the centenary of Giovanni Segantini's death, the exhibition brings together 30 works of the artist's mature period from international museum and private collections. 10 masterpieces of the exhibition were on view through January 28, 2001 in the Scuderia Grande of the Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza in Varese, owned and managed by FAI.

In the more intimate spaces of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the exhibition will be enriched by the inclusion of three additional paintings and a nucleus of drawings which provide a comprehensive insight into the artist's evolution. Among the thirteen paintings to be shown in Venice is the famous Rose Petal (1891, private collection), a portrait of the artist's companion Bice Bugatti; the painting is indicative of Segantini's rich symbolist style and has not been on public view since 1926. In addition to this work, others which deserve special recognition include Springtime in the Alps (The Allegory of Spring) (1897), now in a private collection, celebrated last year in the international press for establishing a record for a work of 19th Century Italian art at a Christie's New York auction, and Return from the Wood (1890), for its rich tones and dense symbolism.

The seventeen drawings, to be exhibited exclusively at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, represent graphically the evolution of Segantini's thematic symbolism. The drawings occupy an important place in Segantini's oeuvre, functioning often as reflections and meditations on the subject rather than as simple sketches or preliminary drawings. With them Segantini developed further the themes of his paintings, producing copies or variations and reinterpreting specific works. This practice of elaboration, fundamental to the artist's working process, moved him closer to the symbolism. Through the drawings, realistic works would be transformed into lyrical interpretations. Examples of this practice include Nature (1898), which appeared on the Zürich art market as recently as 1995, a rare Self-portrait (1895), and Ave Maria on the Lake (1890-93) which has not been on public view since 1922.

Giovanni Segantini was one of a group of modern painters who pioneered the scientific investigation into the thematic rapport between light and perception. Each of the paintings exhibited is, in its way, evidence of the evolution of Segantini's divisionist techniques, and his gradual development from an artist of a single vision derived from nature to one of a pantheist symbolism, characterized throughout by a powerful naturalism. In the visionary universe of the artist, the animals and humans are prisoners of a thankless destiny, short-lived elements in nature, a benevolent but also destructive mother almighty.

"The concept of this exhibition is novel in its scope and in its goals. Its purpose is to provide some intuition of the richness of Segantini's Symbolism and of the originality of his pictorial language, and a reanalysis of the painter and his work in the context of a European Symbolism" according to Annie-Paule Quinsac, curator of the exhibition and author of the catalogue raisonné published in 1982. "For this reason almost all of the works come from the artist's Swiss period, from 1884 onwards."

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue (published in a bilingual version in Italian and English by Skira), written by Annie-Paule Quinsac, with an essay by the noted American critic and historian Robert Rosenblum (Stephen and Nan Swid Curator of Contemporary Art, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York).


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Giovanni Segantini. Light and Symbol, 1884-1899