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Gino Severini (1883-1966)
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Gino Severini (1883-1966)

Al solco

Details
Gino Severini (1883-1966)
Al solco
signed 'Severini' (lower right)
oil on canvas
35 1/8 x 75 in. (89.2 x 190.5 cm.)
Painted in 1903-1904
Provenance
Private collection, Amsterdam, by whom acquired in Rome in 1905, and thence by descent.
Acquired by the present owner in 2008.
Literature
G. Severini, La vita di un pittore, Milan, 1965, p. 28.
P. Pacini, 'Percorso prefuturista di Gino Severini', in Critica d'Arte, vol. XIL, no. 139, January - February 1975, no. 9, pp. 50 & 59-60 (illustrated pl. 5, p. 50; dated '1904').
P. Pacini, 'Quattordici lettere di Gino Severini a Mons: Lorenzo Passerini ed una testimonianza del 1963',  in Annuario XVIII, Nuova Serie, vol. XI-1979, Cortona, 1980, nos. III-IV & VI, pp. 426-427 & 429.
D. Fonti, Gino Severini: Catalogo ragionato, Milan, 1988, no. 17, p. 76 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
G. De Marco & P. Pettenella, eds., Fondo Severini: Inventario, Rovereto, 2011, p. 28.
Exhibited
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 74. Esposizione Internazionale di Belle Arti della Società Amatori e Cultori di Belle Arti, 1904, no. 994.
Rome, Teatro Nazionale, Salone dei Rifiutati, 1905.
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Lot Essay

Painted in 1903-1904, Gino Severini’s Al solco is a monumental hymn to the golden light and serene atmosphere of the Italian countryside at the turn of the Twentieth Century. One of the largest of Severini’s early canvases, it depicts a romantic view of rural life in the small Tuscan hamlet of Dicomano, where the artist spent some time during the summer and autumn months of 1903. A local farmer and his two oxen occupy the centre of the composition, their muscular forms bathed in intense sunlight as they plough a field, churning the ground to make way for the new season’s crops. Flanked by rows of grapevines and spindly, twisting trees these figures appear to embody the bucolic way of life that Severini witnessed first-hand at Dicomano, illustrating man in perfect harmony with nature.

With its meticulous application of paint and jewel-like spots of colour, the landscape becomes a showcase for Severini’s growing interest in the optical science of colour harmonies and his experiments with the technique of divisionism. The tilled ground, for example, is constructed using a plethora of small dots of pure colour, built in multiple layers of pigment that create a richly impastoed surface in the foreground. These spots of colour vary in size, from the delicate, almost invisible combination of pigments in the bark of the trees, to the larger, more defined strokes of paint in the foreground. By juxtaposing these small, round touches of pure colour alongside complementary shades, the artist creates beautiful modulations of blue, red, orange, purple, pink, yellow and green, capturing the scene with maximum luminosity and conveying an impression of the dazzling brightness of the Italian sunshine as it hits the landscape.

From the moment of its conception, Severini recognised Al solco as one of the most important compositions he had undertaken. Shortly after he began the painting, he wrote to his patron Monsignor Passerini to tell him of the grand new composition he was working on, while in his autobiography, Severini recalls clearly the early success of the painting: ‘At that time in Rome, there was an annual exhibition called “Amatori e Cultori” (equivalent to the “Artistes Français” in Paris), where young artists were sometimes asked to contribute small works… In 1904, two works of mine were accepted, one of which was quite important, … Al solco… I received flatteringly good reviews and praise from the artists’ (Severini, The Life of a Painter, transl. J. Franchina, Princeton, 1995, p. 20).

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