Italy is Art

Art IS Italy! As one travels throughout its many regions, it is apparent that the arts have been and remain prominent in the Italian culture and way of life. The grand architectural masterpieces found all over Rome (fig. 1) are well known to most, with its innumerous treasures; not only seen in its many museums, but often also in little, mostly unknown sites. A few years ago I happened to stop by a small village at lunchtime, and ended up wandering into an old, rarely used church nearby.

An incredible surprise was there waiting for me! Several frescos (fig. 2,3) adorned the walls of the semi-abandoned chapel. The artist was unknown to the locals, but clearly had exceptional skills and a beautiful vision for his creation. I found the features of the angels and the other figures surrounding Mary to be quite delicate and very detailed, with a prominent "northern" influx suggested by their blond hair (fig. #4). As I left the church to continue our trip, the frescos remained clear in my memory for a very long time with their simple but elegant beauty, and we began hoping that a restoration effort could someday take place.

Small art galleries (fig. 5) are not uncommonly found along the way, outside the large cities, given the interest and appreciation for the Arts shared by so many Italians. Most homes will feature paintings and prints often in the family for generations yet with an eye toward new additions to their collection, however modest it may be. A "Bottega dell'Arte" (fig. 6) is usually a working studio, often shared with other local artists, where one finds unusual objects and perhaps commissions unique works. Religious themes are clearly dominant among the artists of five to six centuries ago as churches (fig. 7) and the palaces of the wealthy (fig. 8) were the usual destination for most paintings and sculptures. However, not uncommonly small votive altarini were built outdoors, a sign of devotion to the Madonna or to a local Saint (fig. 9) as seen in this image from Venice.

As the art world evolves and generates new tendencies and expressions, Italy remains always at the forefront: modern Art is prominently featured in Museums and often in urban venues, with strong national and world-wide support. Probably the best example is the Venice Biennale, an international exhibit with often very large works and installations from internationally known artists. This sculpture (fig. 10) was on view at the Giardini walkway, along the Laguna, towards the Biennale's entrance last October... quite a sight!

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