Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Aleksandr Deineka: 3 weeks in Rome, 1935

Metaphysical Rome, shades of de Chirico.  Superb colors.
He was only in Rome for 3 weeks, 80 years ago (and the chances are good you've never heard of him), but out of that moment came some extraordinary images of the city.  His work reminds us of three of our favorite 20th century Italian painters: Pio Pullini, Renato Guttuso, and Giorgio de Chirico.

Aleksandr Deineka (1899-1969), painter, sculptor, illustrator, theorist, would come to be recognized by his homeland, the Soviet Union, as one of the nation's most distinguished artists, receiving the Lenin Prize in 1964 as a hero of Soviet socialism.

Foro Italico or, when Deineka was there, Foro Mussolini.
He was 36 when he arrived in Rome on April 12, 1935, and it took him by storm.  "My God what a city," he wrote.  "Beyond even Paris!  And I'm not referring to Michelangelo and the other greats of the, one looks ahead!"

Deineka walked the streets tirelessly, enjoying the surprises the city offered, savoring the contrasts between old and new.  "There is an 'interessantissima architettura moderna,' severe and traditional; the [Foro Mussolini] is extraordinarily impressive for its
scale and layout."

Italian workers on bicycles
Walking about in the evening, he remarked that the Romans were "still in the street," not like New York, where there was activity only on Broadway.

It seems likely, though it can't be said for sure, that while in Rome Deineka found his way to the 2nd Quadriennale di Roma at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, where he would have come into contact with some of the best Italian modern art, and with the dominant aesthetic of the Fascist state and era.  

With thanks to the 2011 exhibit catalog,
Aleksandr Deineka: Il maestro sovietico della modernità (Skira, 2011).

A bit of distortion captures the enormity, and emptiness, of the Piazza del Quirinale.  The building is the Scuderie (the stables of Palazzo Quirinale).  

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