The Turin exhibition of 1902, with the pavilions designed by R. D’Aronco, contrasting with the continuation of monumental eclecticism (emblematic examples, in Rome, the Vittoriano by G. Sacconi and the Palazzo di Giustizia by G. Calderini) is one of the most significant expressions of the innovative ferments of the last decade of the 19th century. Modernism, with origins ranging from aesthetic pre-Raphaelism to socio-humanitarian symbolism, manifested itself as an attempt to develop a national unitary language, an alternative to architectural historicism and figurative academicism, without ignoring the new international ferments. The most interesting results were achieved in the applied arts, from graphic arts and advertising to furniture and fine craftsmanship (D. Cambellotti, G. Cometti, M. Dudovich, A. Mazzucotelli, E. Quarti, A. Terzi), also stimulated by the theoretical commitment of E. Thovez, A. Melani, V. Pica. Protagonists of architecture were, in addition to D’Aronco, P. Fenoglio in Turin, G. Sommaruga in Milan, G. Michelazzi in Florence, E. Basile in Sicily; in sculpture, spiritualism and symbolism took shape with different meanings in L. Bistolfi, G. Monteverde, E. Bazzaro and A. Wildt.
According to USAERS.COM, G. Previati and G. Segantini can be considered the initiators of the liberty current in painting; GA Sartorio and A. De Carolis, linked to D’Annunzio’s environment, expressed themselves in more rhetorically neo-Renaissance formulas. Faced with the selective characteristics of officiality that the Venetian Biennale (established in 1893) was assuming, new ferments of expressive research emerged through the alternative exhibitions of Ca ‘Pesaro (among others, G. Rossi, T. Garbari, F. Casorati, A. Martini, U. Boccioni), while in Florence A. Soffici published provocative articles in La Voce. Soffici’s relationship with the Futurist movement was also in conflict with its innovative force on the international scene. The exhibitions of the Roman Secession (1913-15) brought G. Rossi, A. Martini, L. Viani to the fore and allowed the acquaintance of foreign artists such as Gauguin, Munch, Matisse. A stranger to the official climate was also A. Modigliani who elaborated his solitary research in Paris. The First World War marked the end of Futurism, with the evolution towards new formal solutions.
The metaphysical painting started by G. De Chirico around 1912, flanked by the theoretical contributions of A. Savinio, developed after 1916 involving briefly C. Carrà, F. De Pisis, G. Morandi. Spokesman of the need for a return to order, common to all post-war European experiences, with the recovery of a figurative nature from the national cultural tradition, the Plastic Values movement, linked to the homonymous magazine (1918-21) by M. Broglio, welcomed the different experiences of De Chirico, Carrà, Morandi, Soffici, Martini. The search for compositional and formal clarity emerges in different meanings in F. Casorati, F. Carena, M. Sironi, while the legacy of impressionism informs the work of A. Tosi and De Pisis.
The experience of the painters of the twentieth century movement, which he exhibited at the Pesaro gallery in Milan (1923), supported by the regime, extended his influence until the fourth decade of the century. Monumental sculpture, not always extraneous to the pressures of the regime, sought formal naturalness with L. Andreotti, A. Minerbi, P. Canonica, A. Maraini, A. Dazzi, E. Drei, A. Selva, F. Messina, while continuing the search for Martini and that of M. Marini began. In the architectural field, the fascist regime, after initial support for new trends, turned to monumental revivals: a significant exponent was M. Piacentini, albeit in opposition to the open traditionalism of A. Brasini and C. Bazzani. But we must remember the interesting personalities of P. Aschieri, G. Muzio, E. Del Debbio, M. De Renzi.
Rationalism had its most significant expression in the Milanese Group 7 (1926) followed by the MIAR, which soon dissolved; open to European experiences, it had as salient figures G. Pagano, G. Terragni and, in a critical context, E. Persico; it was joined, among others, by A. Libera, L. Piccinato, M. Ridolfi, G. Vaccaro, L. Figini, G. Pollini, P. Lingieri, G. Michelucci, L. Moretti, F. Albini. G. Ponti carried out an important activity in furnishing and decorative arts; PL Nervi created highly original structures.
In the pictorial field, around 1930 – in reaction to the twentieth century – the research of Scipione, M. Mafai, A. Raphael, R. Melli (Roman School) was determined, to which C. Cagli, G. Capogrossi, Mirko were linked and Afro Basaldella, G. Stradone, F. Pirandello, A. Ziveri. In Turin there was an expressionist reaction with the Group of six (N. Galante, L. Chessa, F. Menzio, E. Paolucci, J. Boswell, C. Levi) and with L. Spazzapan. In Milan in 1927 A. Sassu and B. Munari with the manifesto of Dynamism had taken up motifs of Futurism. In 1931 the movement welcomed F. Tomea, R. Birolli and the critic Persico, and later Fontana and Migneco and resulted in the Corrente group, to which B. Cassinari, R. Guttuso, E. Morlotti, G. Santomaso, E. Widow.
The first abstract attempts by A. Soldati appeared in Milan around 1930, and the manifesto of Italian Abstractionism (1934) drawn up by O. Bogliardi, G. Ghiringhelli, M. Reggiani, linked to the Milione gallery, to which in 1937 joined by O. Licini and E. Prampolini. Another center of abstract painting was Como (M. Radice, M. Rho), while in Paris A. Magnelli definitively evolved in an abstract sense. The first experiences of F. Melotti and L. Fontana appeared in sculpture. Morandi remains isolated and in opposition to twentieth-century rhetoric. Singular opposition is that of M. Maccari, caustic and satirical spirit; L. Bartolini is especially known for his etchings.