“Marco Lusini: The Colours of the Human Soul” Opens Tomorrow at Fiumano Fine Art Gallery

What immediately strikes you while going through Italian artist Marco Lusini’s biography (1936-1989), are the many art forms he experimented with before finding his ideal medium, painting. Photography, lithography, illustration, black ink drawing, not to mention sculpture and poetry, were all fertile ground in which the Siena-born “astronaut of inner space”, as Riccardo Belloni defined him, started his exploration of the human condition. His influences are as numerous as the media he delved into, including sources such as German playwright Bertold Brecht, French poet Arthur Rimbaud, and the primitive Sicilian landscape.

Marco Lusini as photographer on location – Florence 1960s – Private Collection

In the career of an artist, when dust has settled, the time has often come to look back at the whole production with a fresh perspective. The occasion for this for Lusini is the retrospective which opens tomorrow at Fiumano Fine Art Gallery, which hopefully will be a path to a wider, international audience for his work.

Marco Lusini "Untitled" – (late 1970s) – Lithograph – 50x70cm – Private Collection

Marco Lusini: The Colours of the Human Soul is a collective effort curated by London-based filmmaker Laura D’Asta, with New Yorker art historian Gerhard Gruitrooy. As such, the exhibition is also the first organic attempt to go beyond Lusini’s best-known cycles like the Oneiric Landscapes. It aims to shed light on his wider research with a specific focus on universal themes such as loneliness and internal emotions frozen in time, represented by his iconic melancholic human figures set in dream-like worlds.

Marco Lusini, "Untitled" – from Oneiric Landscapes | Acrylic | 80 x 80 cm | 1982 | Private Collection

It’s not by chance that whole project started from the curators’ personal memories and first encounters with Lusini’s art, as The Colours of the Human Soul is explicitly “dedicated to the artist for his lasting inspiration to a younger generation and to a visionary who sincerely believed in the importance of staying true to one’s own artistic values.” The fact that this message comes from London, a city where everything seems to be possible but also stands as a burial of broken dreams, is even more fitting.

The exhibition is on display until 7th July at Fiumano Fine Art Gallery, while other artworks by Lusini will be simultaneously showcased at the American West Valley Art Museum in Peoria (US).


‘Inventing Impressionism’: How Dealer Paul Durand-Ruel Created One of the Most Enduring Trends in the Art Market

When you’re an artist who’s desperately trying to make it, no matter in which discipline, there is something more important than having good press coverage, your own space to create, the budget to set up your first show, or even the money to pay the bills. All of these are key success factors for sure, but they come as a second step. Because that ‘something’ that has to be there when you start, is actually ‘someone’. Someone who sees potential in you that maybe not even you see at the beginning of your career.

These people have a unique gift, which is a talent in itself: they can foresee how the qualities of an artist can be translated into a concrete business. Even more importantly, they can project this potential into the future and build a business around it, and they’re ready to invest and commit themselves to this enterprise. If we think about the film industry, these individuals are called producers and financers. If we look instead at the art market, they’re of course the art dealers.

Paul Durand-Ruel in his gallery in Paris, c1910.

Looking at trends in the art market is very interesting, but usually the perspective from which we consider them is focused on the artists, and less on who’s operating behind the scenes. Yet, behind each and every artist there is a merchant that allowed him or her to express their talent and meet their first client or commissioner. Too often these players have been denied their proper recognition. This is why an exhibition like Inventing Impressionism, which I recently saw at The National Gallery, is so enlightening.

As exhibition co-curator Christopher Riopelle points out in this video, Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel might not be widely known to the general public, but his role in launching the Impressionists on the market was nevertheless crucial. And I would dare say that there would have been no Impressionism without Durand-Ruel (or at least not in the form it successfully came to be known).

Poster for the exhibition 'Inventing Impressionism', on display at The National Gallery until 31 May.

This is a story about passion, obsession and, of course, business. Shunned by the art establishment at the beginning of their careers, painters such as Renoir, Courbet and Monet found a friend, a collector, an ambassador and a merchant in Durand-Ruel, whose effort to establish the new movement on the market was paired by his innovative approach to the profession of the art dealer. He adopted a mix of instinct and methods borrowed from the world of finance: networks of galleries, lectures, solo exhibitions, smart PR campaigns and illustrated art reviews were just a few of the techniques he exploited and that, later on, became a standard in the field.

Inventing Impressionism is on display for a few more weeks. If you want to know how Durand-Ruel reluctantly joined his family’s business, got to the verge of the bankruptcy and finally managed to build an empire while pushing the boundaries of the art market, you have until 31 May. Don’t miss the chance to discover his history and the legendary birth of the most sought-after masterpieces of painting.

From France to The Jungle of Imagination: Henri Rousseau’s “Archaic Candour”

A few years ago I was writing the dissertation for my BA in Communications delving into the History of Cinema. I approached this field by focusing on a very specific film: Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Vittorio Storaro’s mesmerising cinematography struck my eye immediately and I started to research what influenced the Italian “master of light” when he conceived the film’s unique visual design.

Back then I was lucky enough to visit “Scrivere con la luce/Writing with Light”, an exhibition at Palazzo della Gran Guardia in Verona which covered his career, and I got the unique chance to have a private tour with Storaro himself. While the cinematographer was going through some of the painters that had an impact on his sensibility, most notably Caravaggio, he spent some time on an artist that was less known to me: Henri Rousseau, a.k.a. Le Douanier (the customs officer). During the tour Storaro noted how a very specific painting of the French painter, titled Snake Charmer, had been crucial in his attempt to conceive the illumination of the jungle in Apocalypse Now.

"The Snake Charmer" by Henri Rousseau (1907).

This week I took advantage of the Easter break to spend a few days in Italy and had the chance to visit another exhibition that, in some respects, comes full circle to the one in Verona. “Henri Rousseau. Il candore arcaico/Archaic Candour” is hosted at Palazzo Ducale in Venice and provides an overview of Rousseau’s unique contribution to the avant-garde movements. Among the over 100 paintings showcased in the event organised by Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Snake Charmer was there in all its seductive beauty, as part of a cycle focused on jungle landscapes that the French painter visited only through his imagination.

Finally I realised why Storaro was so impressed by Rousseau’s style, and it’s not something completely clear when you just see a reproduction of his works. You have to see them in the flesh to understand why staring back at the gaze of the Snake Charmer is one of the most captivating experiences you can get in front of a painting.

Henri Rousseau, "War or The Ride of Discord" (1894).

The plus of the exhibition, which is on display until July 5, is the wide angle under which Rousseau’s contribution to the avant-garde movements is framed, not to mention an interesting comparison between his unique style and a selection of Old Masters and Rousseau’s own contemporaries. His relationship with intellectuals and artists is therefore under the spotlight, as well as former misleading interpretations of his art as dominated by an ingenuous archaism and naiveté.

The minus is that a few works are still not showcased due to a delay in obtaining the documentation required to have the paintings shipped to Venice (not to mention the overabundance of typos in the Italian translations from English and French). Anyway this does not undermine the genuine attempt of going back to Rousseau’s unique life and career with a fresh point of view.