The Thirties: The Arts in Italy Beyond Fascism, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

'The Family' (1932), by Mario Sironi

‘The Family’ (1932), by Mario Sironi

Rare is the exhibition devoted to Italian art during Fascism that does not mystify and prevaricate, and this show at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is no exception. The aim is to consider the works “beyond ideological pressures or the artists’ own ideological stands”, as curator Antonello Negri puts it in the catalogue: when it comes to 1930s Italy, however, that attempt is misguided. At that time, all artists were working under a dictatorship which, through a grand public art programme and through institutional infrastructure – major exhibitions including the Venice Biennale, a series of prizes, and an artists’ union – controlled much of the territory. (One has only to travel through northern Italy by train to see how neo-classicism satisfied Mussolini’s thirst for imperial identification.)

To be fair, Italian artists were not alone in

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