Palazzo Reale, in the Teatro del Falcone, opens to the public from April 19 to September 8, 2019, a large exhibition organized in collaboration with the Wolfsoniana - Palazzo Ducale Foundation for Culture and dedicated to the work of the Genoese artist Antonio Giuseppe Santagata (Genoa , 10 November 1888 - 13 September 1985), inspired by his direct participation in the war conflict. With respect to the theme of war, the aspect that the curators have chosen to celebrate - and around which the exhibition event is built - is that of memory because the memory of that terrible conflict, even today, mixes feelings of dismay and marked accents rhetorical, well persistent in a certain imaginary war and patriotic.
The re-enactment and the echo of the conflict in the years between the two wars were on the other hand marked by ideological characters that sprang from the propagandistic action of the fascist regime and which contributed, in a decisive manner, to the formation of an aesthetic of politics that found its most natural linguistic expression in the figurative culture of the Italian twentieth century. The resumption, in this field of research, of ancient pictorial techniques and the close dialogue established between artists and architects represented one of the most significant moments of this tendency that, beyond its ideological compromises, has been central in the national artistic panorama of that period.
It is no coincidence that the exhibition route will be built around the substantial nucleus of Santagata cartoons lent by a precious private house and referred to his main mural paintings, from the frescoes for the hall of the assembly of the Mutilated Mother House in Rome (1928) to those for the Vittorie courtyard (1936) in the same building designed by Marcello Piacentini, from the stained glass window and fresco for the Casa dei Mutilati in Genoa (1938-1939) to the large fresco Vita vitaica by Antonio Locatelli for the Casa Littoria in Bergamo ( 1940). Together with these large cartoons, works will be exhibited from the Wolfsoniana - Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la Cultura, the Risorgimento Museum of Genoa and several private collections.
The choice to lay eyes on the representation of the war proposed by Santagata can offer a precise and documented narration of the main historical and military events of the Italian army, but also a sincere testimony, less rhetorical and more human, about the daily life of the foot soldiers . Thanks to his friendship with Carlo Delcroix, president of the National Mutilated and Invalids of War Association since 1924, Santagata, author of the pictorial cycles for the Mother House of the Mutilated in Rome, was also involved in the decoration of the main Houses of the Mutilated, built in those years throughout the peninsula, and thus became one of the main protagonists of the great mural season, which marked the Italian artistic research between the two wars.
Focused on the main events of the Italian participation in the Great War and on the heroic sacrifices endured by the soldiers along the bloody path to victory, the great mural and decorative cycles of Santagata, despite some more allegorical representations - as in the case of the depiction of the stained glass on the main facade of the House of the Mutilated in Genoa - testify to the artist's profound participation in the subject treated and document, almost in direct contact, the daily life and the most common episodes of the trench warfare.
For these reasons the exhibition La memoria della guerra, focused on the artistic production of Santagata, but supplemented by some cartoons and sketches by other Italian artists active in the same field, can offer food for thought and interest for a wide audience. In particular, the exhibition will be accompanied by in-depth events and meetings on the topics covered in the exhibition and by educational programs for schools, dedicated not only to the history of the Great War, but also to an investigation into the ancient techniques taken from the Italian artists on the occasion of the twentieth century decorative cycles.
To enhance the original approach of the exhibition and strengthen its educational value, a section is dedicated to the houses of the mutilated, as an architectural typology present only in the Italian context, unlike the many memorials, ossuaries and shrines scattered in the rest of Europe. The buildings in which Santagata worked will obviously be highlighted: in addition to the already mentioned Casa Madre in Rome and Casa del Mutilato in Genoa, also those in Palermo, Ravenna, Milan, but also in Padua, Florence and Bologna.