A HOMAGE TO WOMAN IN THE BELLE ÉPOQUE FROM TOULOUSE-LAUTREC TO EHRENBERGER

A HOMAGE TO WOMAN IN THE BELLE ÉPOQUE FROM TOULOUSE-LAUTREC TO EHRENBERGER

A new permanent hall containing paintings, sculptures, posters, engravings and magazines by Boldini, Bonzagni, Corcos, Dudovich, Helleu, Martini, Ehrenberger, Rops, Toulouse-Lautrec and other turn-of-the-century European artists.

November 5th 2016 – January 31th 2018

Curators Fausto Gozzi and Valeria Tassinari
Catalogue published by Edizioni Minerva

This section includes some of the most important French magazines of the day, including Le Sourire, Gil Blass, Le Frou Frou, L’Assiette au Beurre, L’Eclipse, La Lune Rousse, Fantasio, Le Humoristes, La Vie Parisienne and a very rare copy of Le Rire dated 1895-96, containing some of the finest lithographies of Toulouse-Lautrec (Albi, 1864 – Saint-André-du-Bois,1901).
Reference to transgression is also present in the Seven Capital Vices by Adolphe Willette (Châlons-sur-Marne, 1857 – Paris, 1926), reflecting a society that has freed itself of bourgeois respectability and takes an ironic look at the new, freer morals.

The myth of the Belle Époque, with its image as a golden age and a time of great euphoria, is a reflection of European breadth and of the desire for innovation that marked important changes in society, taste, lifestyles and communication in contemporary society. This effervescent atmosphere, which still exerts an attraction on today’s public, relives at MAGI’900 in an installation focusing on the subtle theme of female seduction, one of the most popular themes in the visual arts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Beautiful and intriguing, objects of desire but also highly aware and well on their way to emancipation, women appeared in art, decoration, publishing, fashion and advertising in their thousands, and their lineaments, suspended between reality and imagination, are still recognisable as icons of an unrivalled style.

With the intention of giving visibility to an idea that originated with its founder, entrepreneur and collector Giulio Bargellini, who always loved this period in history, Museo MAGI’900 opens a new section in which original works, many of which are included in its permanent collection, appear alongside magazines, posters, documents, prints and objects from the day to pay homage to the significance of the female figure in the aesthetics and society of those magical decades of the turn of the century.

The exhibition includes a vast selection of photographs and documents tracing an international interpretation of the theme, centring around a number of well-known masterpieces such as the painting Il Cappellino azzurro by Giovanni Boldini as well as practically unknown works such as Lutz Ehrenberger’s tempera illustrations, which inherit the spirit of the Belle Époque and carry it over into the early decades of the twentieth century.

The image of woman and everything that evokes the idea of the “eternal feminine” are given visual form through paintings, engravings, posters, and miniature sculptures in a refined bourgeois taste produced by the artists of the Scapigliatura movement in Lombardy and other turn-of-the-century movements in the plastic artists, presenting a vast selection of their works in the museum. Plenty of room is reserved for illustrated magazines: very popular publications that worked with the best artists of the day, making an essential contribution to the dissemination of more open-minded, seductive models of beauty and behaviour.

bellaThe exhibition route

In an international scene that leaves behind the legendary France of the Moulin Rouge for Italy, passing through Austria, Germany, Belgium and the United States, many of the best-known names in art and illustration appear alongside those of lesser-known artists whose work is equally relevant for representation of this unmistakeable style.

The exhibition starts with the atmospheres of Paris, equally well reflected by the transgressive dancers of the Moulin Rouge and by the “jolies femmes” of high class society, well represented in two beautiful portraits of women by Giovanni Boldini (Ferrara,1842 – Paris,1931) and a series of graphic works by his great friend Paul César Helleu (Vannes, 1859 – Paris,1923).

This section includes some of the most important French magazines of the day, including Le Sourire, Gil Blass, Le Frou Frou, L’Assiette au Beurre, L’Eclipse, La Lune Rousse, Fantasio, Le Humoristes, La Vie Parisienne and a very rare copy of Le Rire dated 1895-96, containing some of the finest lithographies of Toulouse-Lautrec (Albi, 1864 – Saint-André-du-Bois,1901).
Reference to transgression is also present in the Seven Capital Vices by Adolphe Willette (Châlons-sur-Marne, 1857 – Paris, 1926), reflecting a society that has freed itself of bourgeois respectability and takes an ironic look at the new, freer morals.

Another section is dedicated to the subject of costume, defined in terms of fashion, interpreting the influence of the silhouettes proposed by the best-know ladies’ fashion houses and the great impact of advertising posters, including the masterpieces of Marcello Dudovich (Trieste,1878 – Milan,1962), whose images open the section on Italy, standing out for their modernity and intensity. Here the idea of female elegance is represented by a refined chromolithograph by Vittorio Corcos (Livorno, 1859 – Florence, 1933), while Aroldo Bonzagni (Cento, 1887 – Milan, 1918), a satirical painter and illustrator whom Giulio Carlo Argan called “the Italian Toulouse–Lautrec”, adds a touch of humour to the female image in an interpretation of the Belle Époque of Milan incorporating shrewd social criticism. This section also includes numerous specimens of the most popular illustrated magazines of the day, such as Novissima, Poesia, Fantasio, Italia ride, L’Asino, Il Mulo, La scena illustrata, La Grande Illustrazione, Il Mondo Umoristico, Sigaretta, Satana Beffa, Il Giornalino della Domenica, La Lettura, Ars et Labor, and Il Secolo XX. The work of local artists is also included, with an in-depth study of two artists born in Pieve di Cento, painter Remo Fabbri (1890 – 1977) and sculptor Antonio Alberghini (1888- 1979), whose quality work demonstrates perfect knowledge of the spirit of a time characterised by an emphasis on sensuality in female iconography.

And so, in this voyage on the edge of the senses, it is essential to include a section on “eros and its depths”, toward which the femme fatale leads her prey: here, alongside the provocative works of Francesco Cangiullo (Naples, 1888 – Livorno, 1977) and Alberto Martini (Oderzo, 1876 – Milan, 1954), appear some of the most transgressive engravings of Belgian artist Félicien Rops (Namur, 1833 – Essonnes, 1898) and books on the subject by Eduard Fuchs (Göppingen, 1870 – Paris, 1940) in the early years of the twentieth century.

But, as the idea of the femme fatale gained popularity, a breath of fresh air from the other side of the ocean had brought to Italy the alternative model of the “Gibson girl”, an icon of the beautiful, emancipated, dominant woman appearing in the famous albums of Charles Dana Gibson (Roxbury, 1867 – New York, 1944) right at the turn of the century.

The section on Austria and Germany offers magnificent examples of graphics, starting with the famous cover of Ver Sacrum magazine designed by Gustav Klimt (Vienna, 1862 – Neubau, 1918) in March 1898 for the exhibition that consecrated the Viennese Secession, as well as unique works by Ferdinand Reznicek (Vienna, 1868 – Munich, 1909) such as the 1907 Wiener Tanz Album, and some of the most beautiful German magazines, Jugend, Simplicissimus, Lustige Blätter, true exercises in style and irony for the best European illustrators of the day. And it is precisely to illustrate the lifestyle magazine Lustige Blätter that many of the forty or so original temperas by Lutz Ehrenberger (Sohn eines Weinbauern, Graz,1878 – Saalfelden, 1950) recently acquired by MAGI’900 were produced: the series of playful, seductive “little women” that closes the exhibition. Starting with this exhibition, the museum will be embarking on a process of study and appreciation aimed at restoring the success the Austrian artist enjoyed in his lifetime, when, after an intense period in Paris in the first decade of the century, he kept the spirit of the Belle Époque alive in the decades following the Great War.

cartoline_bella epoque