Biography

The first World War and beyond

Proceeding with our historical excursus, if  war was tearing Europe apart, many artists could not be indifferent and soon got involved into the conflict.

As it is wellknown, the First World War broke out in July 1914, but Italy, despite having signed an alliance treaty with Austria and Germany (the Triple Alliance) remained at first neutral. A double campaign then began across the country: on one side those who wanted to remain neutral and pacifist forever, and on the other the ones who wanted to intervene ‘against’ Austria, in order to free Trento and Trieste, still Austrian zones at the time. The Futurists become the leaders of this party, called ‘interventionism’, with a tough campaign in the squares and by press on the newspaper “Lacerba”, which after more than nine months finally led Italy to declare war to Austria.

Proceeding with our historical excursus, if  war was tearing Europe apart, many artists could not be indifferent and soon got involved into the conflict.

As it is wellknown, the First World War broke out in July 1914, but Italy, despite having signed an alliance treaty with Austria and Germany (the Triple Alliance) remained at first neutral. A double campaign then began across the country: on one side those who wanted to remain neutral and pacifist forever, and on the other the ones who wanted to intervene ‘against’ Austria, in order to free Trento and Trieste, still Austrian zones at the time. The Futurists become the leaders of this party, called ‘interventionism’, with a tough campaign in the squares and by press on the newspaper “Lacerba”, which after more than nine months finally led Italy to declare war to Austria.

The tones were burning, and taken to the extreme, as in the poster signed by Marinetti titled Per la guerra, unica igiene del mondo (For war, the only hygiene in the world), of August 1914, which later on, after the Second World War, became one of the main accusation points against Futurism. Actually, the manifesto, like other writings, should not be understood in the “literal” sense, but  from a “literary”view, that is, as a hyperbole Marinetti launched to promote and incite entry into war, and in particular against the enemy, identified with Austria.

To close this introduction, it must be remembered that together with Futurists, supported the entrance into war  also a large part of the Italian cultural and intellectual world of the time. Then the harsh reality of war during the following years, led the majority of people, many Futurists included, to change their mind.

Baldessari in those moments had recently arrived in Florence, from Venice, with the whole family, fled from Rovereto town, suddenly situated on the front line. Bearing in his mind the stories on war he had heard, he did not even skim the idea to enlist … He had already understood that it would have been a carnage.

Baldessari, however, remained in contact with his friends in Trentino, who from time to time told him what was happening ‘up there’, so  that at some point, in his art, the theme of war began to creep. But in his works we do not see a futurist heroic, warlike vision, but on the contrary a tragic and social vision of what happened on the front, as, for example, in Treno dei feriti (The train of the wounded), 1918, which introduces a ‘ human meditation ‘on the theme of  war, certainly far from the crackling interventionist proclamations of orthodox Futurism, and  rather approaching an ideological-social revision as reflected in a kindled outburst by Rosai which Baldessari later on recalled in his autobiographical writings.

The tones were burning, and taken to the extreme, as in the poster signed by Marinetti titled Per la guerra, unica igiene del mondo (For war, the only hygiene in the world), of August 1914, which later on, after the Second World War, became one of the main accusation points against Futurism. Actually, the manifesto, like other writings, should not be understood in the “literal” sense, but  from a “literary”view, that is, as a hyperbole Marinetti launched to promote and incite entry into war, and in particular against the enemy, identified with Austria.

To close this introduction, it must be remembered that together with Futurists, supported the entrance into war  also a large part of the Italian cultural and intellectual world of the time. Then the harsh reality of war during the following years, led the majority of people, many Futurists included, to change their mind.

Baldessari in those moments had recently arrived in Florence, from Venice, with the whole family, fled from Rovereto town, suddenly situated on the front line. Bearing in his mind the stories on war he had heard, he did not even skim the idea to enlist … He had already understood that it would have been a carnage.

Baldessari, however, remained in contact with his friends in Trentino, who from time to time told him what was happening ‘up there’, so  that at some point, in his art, the theme of war began to creep. But in his works we do not see a futurist heroic, warlike vision, but on the contrary a tragic and social vision of what happened on the front, as, for example, in Treno dei feriti (The train of the wounded), 1918, which introduces a ‘ human meditation ‘on the theme of  war, certainly far from the crackling interventionist proclamations of orthodox Futurism, and  rather approaching an ideological-social revision as reflected in a kindled outburst by Rosai which Baldessari later on recalled in his autobiographical writings.

Baldessari, since 1917 had moved to Padova to replace a relative ( left as volunteer) in the management of a factory, and Rosai, who had also enlisted, went there to pay him a visit. Then, after a few days, Baldessari led  him to the station to take the train to the front, and Rosai while leaving, told him he had killed a soldier-painter, also showing him a small notebook full of writings and drawings:

Read, you know German,” he said, handing the notebook to him. “Do you understand? I want to send it to his people after the war, I want to tell them that I’m not to blame. He came down like an avalanche, I couldn’t avoid him even if I wanted … you understand? And he was a painter like us, a brother! Do you understand? And now I have to go back up there to kill other brothers …! Do you understand? … bloody dirty war! ».

For Baldessari it was the beginning of a sort of crack, a flaw in the system that changed his relationship with the futurist orthodoxy.

Shortly thereafter, the artist found himself  to face the obvious formal outcomes of Florentine Futurism which, having exhausted its analytical path, firmly turned to a remeditation of Cézanne (the so-called neo-Cézannian figurative crisis), then set off on a serious plastic reconstruction and, with the new decade. approached the poetics of the Novecento movement, a return to rigor, primitivism, order, that  actually characterized a bit across all Europe the general retreat of the post-war art towards a more ‘reassuring’ sphere, after the avant-garde fury. And that wind of revision, which blew over artistic Europe, transformed the anxieties and fury of the avant-garde into existential anxieties, in the search for a fixed point, a reference, which was identified in the ‘return to the craft’, to a solid planning. So  the artists looked at Giotto, Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca … and in 1916 Picasso, after having broken every order in the image, went on ‘pilgrimage’, to Pompei to rediscover Classicism. In February 1919, at the Galleria Bragaglia in Rome, Giorgio de Chirico with his metaphysical mannequins shocked the headquarters of Futurism. Baldessari did not stand by … But this is a way on which Baldessari, unlike many artists, walked with alternate vicissitudes, and with many abrupt deviations of direction to come finally to a precise expressive turn, thanks to his continuous travels and his contacts with the best representatives of the European culture.

Baldessari, since 1917 had moved to Padova to replace a relative ( left as volunteer) in the management of a factory, and Rosai, who had also enlisted, went there to pay him a visit. Then, after a few days, Baldessari led  him to the station to take the train to the front, and Rosai while leaving, told him he had killed a soldier-painter, also showing him a small notebook full of writings and drawings:

Read, you know German,” he said, handing the notebook to him. “Do you understand? I want to send it to his people after the war, I want to tell them that I’m not to blame. He came down like an avalanche, I couldn’t avoid him even if I wanted … you understand? And he was a painter like us, a brother! Do you understand? And now I have to go back up there to kill other brothers …! Do you understand? … bloody dirty war! ».

For Baldessari it was the beginning of a sort of crack, a flaw in the system that changed his relationship with the futurist orthodoxy.

Shortly thereafter, the artist found himself  to face the obvious formal outcomes of Florentine Futurism which, having exhausted its analytical path, firmly turned to a remeditation of Cézanne (the so-called neo-Cézannian figurative crisis), then set off on a serious plastic reconstruction and, with the new decade. approached the poetics of the Novecento movement, a return to rigor, primitivism, order, that  actually characterized a bit across all Europe the general retreat of the post-war art towards a more ‘reassuring’ sphere, after the avant-garde fury. And that wind of revision, which blew over artistic Europe, transformed the anxieties and fury of the avant-garde into existential anxieties, in the search for a fixed point, a reference, which was identified in the ‘return to the craft’, to a solid planning. So  the artists looked at Giotto, Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca … and in 1916 Picasso, after having broken every order in the image, went on ‘pilgrimage’, to Pompei to rediscover Classicism. In February 1919, at the Galleria Bragaglia in Rome, Giorgio de Chirico with his metaphysical mannequins shocked the headquarters of Futurism. Baldessari did not stand by … But this is a way on which Baldessari, unlike many artists, walked with alternate vicissitudes, and with many abrupt deviations of direction to come finally to a precise expressive turn, thanks to his continuous travels and his contacts with the best representatives of the European culture.

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