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Discoveries and Massacres

The exhibition has taken its inspiration from Discoveries and Massacres. Essays on Art, a memorable work published by Attilio Valecchi in 1919 containing a selection of Soffici’s essays on art history, most of which previously published in the famous Florentine journal La Voce. The essay marked a fully-fledged watershed between two eras: the European Avant-Garde, and the “Return to Order.”
It was the donation by Ardengo Soffici’s heirs of a self-portrait that sparked the idea of an exhibit showcasing paintings spanning from those of the subject himself to the most important subjects of his criticism such as Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, Giovanni Segantini, Edgar Degas, Medardo Rosso and Giorgio de Chirico. Works are accompanied by excerpts of Soffici’s writings to allow the spectator to participate in the showcase – agreeing or disagreeing with the master – rather than floating passively from painting to painting.
A painter, writer, polemicist and art critic, his articles published in the first and second decades of the 20th century and the cultural events that he promoted and organised (such as the First Italian Exhibition of Impressionism held in Florence in 1910), Soffici played a fundamental role in modernising and renewing Italian art.
Soffici, in fact, was not simply a significant art critic, painter, polemicist, and intellectual of the early twentieth century: he also had an integral role in bringing the avant-garde to Italy, and to Florence in particular, ferrying Italian figurative culture into the modern era.
Soffici published the first ever comprehensive study of Cézanne published in Italy in 1904, asserting the artist as a forefather of modernity rather than a mere Impressionist leader. After returning from France in 1910, he arranged in Florence the first exhibition of impressionist painting in Italy that included works by Cézanne, Renoir, Monet, and Van Gogh.
Soffici, who also wrote important essays on Picasso and Braque, admitted after World War I to have become a “new man” seeking to reconstruct “the values and the vocabulary of figurative art,” while still evading the academic constraints of the Italian Renaissance. During the years immediately following the war, he produced some of his mature masterworks, such as a sequence of still-lifes which was painted in 1919.
About this exhibit, Eike Schmidt, Director of the Gallerie degli Uffizi, said that “rather than simply producing a monographic reconstruction of the career of this artist, we have come at him from a more complex angle, reconstructing his controversial approach and his intellectual commitment through the works of art on which he focused his attention, many of them the most significant (in both a positive and a negative sense) in a discourse that never beat about the bush but always went straight to the point, invariably adopting a strong and decisive tone.”

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