Against Mussolini: Art and the Fall of a Dictator


Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London


22 September - 19 December 2010

Curators: Christopher Adams (Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art), Roberta Cremoncini (Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art), Stephen Gundle (University of Warwick), Giuliana Pieri (Royal Holloway, University of London), Simona Storchi (University of Leicester). 

MussoliniWhilst several major exhibitions have explored the propaganda imagery of Fascist Italy, art produced by those hostile to Mussolini and his regime has received surprisingly little attention in recent years. Against Mussolini brings together works produced in Italy and abroad throughout the Fascist era, but focuses particularly on the period immediately after the dictator’s fall from power in 1943 following Italy’s disastrous Second World War campaign. These tragic years saw the re-emergence of Mussolini as the puppet leader of a Fascist administration in the north of the country – now occupied by German forces – and the onset of a bitter civil war, as the Resistance fought alongside the Allies to restore democracy and liberate Italy from tyranny.

For the vast majority of Italians, the failings of the dictatorship and the horrors of war were sufficient to end any attachment to Fascism’s dreams of building a mighty nation.  These years witnessed the destruction of many Fascist symbols and images of Mussolini, reflecting the widespread anger generated by the hardships and setbacks of the conflict. Artists such as Renato Guttuso, Mario Mafai and Mino Maccari shared these feelings, and in several cases anticipated them.

Many of the works in the exhibition are characterised by a demonisation and a desecration of the man who had once been hailed as a demi-god, depicting a grotesque figure of tragic or comic proportions. Others represent meditations on the tragedy of the Nazi occupation and civil war in powerful imagery foreshadowing the revival of realism that was to become the dominant aesthetic tendency of post-war Italian art. Together they offer a unique insight into the way the visual arts responded to a period of transition that still remains controversial today.

They also offer something more: a stark condemnation of the vanities of dictatorship and of the violence that is an intrinsic part of Fascism. To this extent they offer a universal message of humanity and peace that is no less urgent in our troubled times than it was in the middle of the twentieth century.

Note that as part of the events surrounding this important exhibition, Dr Simona Storchi will be giving a talk entitled 'Mussolini's Iconography from Creation to Destruction' at the Estorick gallery; Saturday 11 December at 3.00pm.

A leaflet with details of how to get to the Estorick gallery, and of the exhibition itself, is available from Dr Storchi.

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