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Ottocento: Romanticism and Revolution in 19th Century Italian Painting

Ottocento: Romanticism and Revolution in 19th Century Italian Painting
Roberta J.M. Olson

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The Ottocento (literally ""eight hundred""), or the nineteenth century, witnessed the creation of a united Italy. This century, which was the age of nationalism throughout Europe, gave birth to modern Italy as a definable political entity after a long period of regional fragmentation and foreign domination. The political struggle for unification was known as the Risorgimento, meaning to rise up again (evoking similar powerful alliterative like renaissance and resurrection). The term was chosen because Italians hoped that their land might overcome internal political divisions and regionalism to regain the prominent place in Western Civilization it had enjoyed during the Roman and Renaissance times, when the Italic peninsula had been a rich and vital center. The Ottocento was an epoch of major upheavels and drastic changes, or revolutions, in the fabric of Italian thought and society, not least in the area of the arts, especially painting. One of the major themes of this exhibition is that the art of the epoch reveals a national consciousness long before Italy's actual political unification in 1870. A second them is that Italian artists were not as isolated as formerly thought (as a perusal of the biographies of the artists included in the exhibition as well as those of other Ottocento artists reveals). They participated in broader European crosscurrents, though always painted with a decidedly Italian timbre. When they adopted overly Italianate subjects and styles, it was frequently as an intentional regional and/or nationalistic statement. Sometimes to avoid censureship they employed Italian historical subjects as a guise for contemporary political issues. A third theme of the exhibition is that the entire century, and thus the risorgimiento itself, was motivated vy a romantic spirit. A seminal factor was the city of Rome, a cosmopolitan centre from the mid-eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries for native and foreign artists alike. Even in the second half of the nineteenth century, when artists also visited Paris, then preeminent in the art world, and travelled extensively throughout Europe, Rome remained an artistic mecca and an eloquent muse.

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd
Publisher: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd

ISBN: 9780812232073
Publication Date: 11 Dec 2001
Number of Pages: 293
Height: 292
Width: 223
Illustrations: 56 colour and 160 mono illustrations

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