A painting by Italian master, Sebastiano Ricci, long presumed to be lost, has turned up in Texas after a 300-year journey from the hands of a European nobleman playboy to a fur trader and finally through generations of one family.

Italian Painting

Italian art has influenced several major movements throughout the centuries and has produced numerous great artists. Today, Italy has an important place in the international art scene, with several major art galleries and museums. Major artistic centers in the country include its capital city, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples and Turin.

Until the 13th century, art in Italy was almost entirely regional. After 1250 the art of the various regions developed characteristics in common, so that a certain unity, as well as, great originality was established. During the Middle Ages, painters and sculptors tried to give their works a spiritual quality. They wanted viewers to concentrate on the deep religious meaning of their art work. But Renaissance painters and sculptors, like Renaissance writers, wanted to portray people and nature realistically.

During the early 1300s, the Florentine painter, Giotto, became the first artist to portray nature realistically. He produced frescoes (paintings on damp plaster) for churches in Assisi, Florence, Padua and Rome. Giotto attempted to create lifelike figures showing real emotions in realistic settings.

Another Florentine painter, Masaccio, produced his finest work in a series of frescoes he painted around 1427 in the Brancacci Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. The frescoes realistically show Biblical scenes of emotional intensity. In these paintings, Masaccio utilized Brunelleschi’s system for achieving linear perspective, a mathematical system with which painters could show space and depth on a flat surface.

Art in the late 1400s and early 1500s was dominated by three artists: Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo excelled as a painter, architect and poet. He was a master of portraying the human figure. For example, his statue of the Israelite leader, Moses (1516) gives an overwhelming impression of physical and spiritual power. These qualities also appear in the frescoes of biblical and classical subjects that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. The frescoes, painted from 1508 to 1512, rank among the greatest works of Renaissance art.

Raphael

Raphael’s paintings are softer in outline than those of Michelangelo. Raphael was skilled in creating perspective and in the delicate use of color. He painted a number of outstanding portraits. One of his greatest works is the fresco, The School of Athens. The painting was influenced by classical Greek and Roman models. It portrays the great philosophers and scientists of ancient Greece in a setting of classical arches.

Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci painted two of the most famous works of Renaissance art: The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci wanted to know how everything that he saw in nature worked. In over 4,000 pages of notebooks, he drew detailed diagrams and wrote his observations. Leonardo made careful drawings of human skeletons and muscles, trying to learn how the body worked and, as a result, he became a symbol of the Renaissance spirit of learning and intellectual curiosity.

Other Italian Art Movements:

  • Futurism was an Italian art movement that flourished from 1909 until about 1916. It was the first of many art movements that tried to break with the past in all areas of life. Futurism glorified the power and speed of the machine age.
  • Metaphysical Painting is an Italian art movement, born in 1917 with the work of Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico in Ferrara. The word metaphysical, adopted by De Chirico himself, is core to the basics of the movement. They illustrated a dreamlike imagery, with figures and objects seemingly frozen in time and in unusual arrangements as dummy-like models in strange, illogical contexts depicted in unreal colors.
  • The Novecento Movement, a group of Italian artists formed in 1922 in Milan, advocated a return to the great Italian representational art of the past. This group sought to renew Italian art by rejecting European avant-garde movements and embracing Italy’s artistic traditions.
  • A movement founded by the Italian artist, Lucio Fontana, was the Movimento Spaziale (1947 and 1954) that combined elements of concrete art, dada and tachism. The movement’s devotees rejected easel painting and embraced new technological developments, seeking to incorporate time and movement in their works and utilized dabs or splotches of color to define this art form.
  • Arte Povera, an artistic movement that originated in Italy in the 1960s, combined aspects of conceptual, minimalist and performance art that made use of worthless or common materials, such as bricks or newspapers, in the hope of subverting the commercialization of art. The phrase is Italianand literally means, “impoverished art.” Arte Povera, was introduced in Italy during the period when artists began attacking the values of established institutions of government, industry and culture. The movement centered on a group of Italian artists who attacked the corporate mentality with an art of unconventional materials and style.

Modern Italian and Italian American Painters

Michelangelo Pistoletto was born in Biella (in the northern Italian region of Piedmont) in 1933. His artistic training began in the studio of his father, a painter and restorer, where he went to work at the age of fourteen. He subsequently attended Armando Testa’s advertising design school.

In 1955 he began to exhibit self-portraits that characterized his painting in the late fifties. He received the San Fedele Prize in Milan in 1958. In 1960 he had his first solo show at Galleria Galatea in Turin. That same year he made several life-sized self-portraits on gold, silver and copper monochrome backgrounds. In 1961 he created a series of works entitled, The Present, painting his own image on a black background to which a layer of transparent varnish gave a mirror gloss.

Mirror Painting: Man and Woman on a Balcony, 1962

In 1962 he perfected the technique of Mirror Painting: he produced an image on tissue paper by enlarging a photograph to life size, painting it with the tip of a brush and then affixing it onto a sheet of mirror-finished stainless steel. After 1971, the painted tissue was replaced by a silkscreen of the photographic image. The Mirror Paintings, shown for the first time in March 1963 at Galleria Galatea, quickly brought Pistoletto international acclaim and led to his inclusion in major exhibitions of Pop Art and Nouveau Realisme. During the sixties the artist had solo shows in important galleries and museums in Europe and the United States: in 1964 at Galerie Sonnabend in Paris, in 1966 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, in 1967 at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels and in 1969 at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam. In 1967 he received the Belgian critics’ prize and the São Paulo Biennale award. Pistoletto is considered one of the leading figures of Arte Povera because his works, which precede the official birth of the movement, are most representative of the utilization of common materials in an art form, like the piece, Venus of the Rags, 1967, containing the rags that were initially used by Pistoletto for cleaning the mirror paintings.

Maltagliati with Leek Sauce

A favorite pasta dish in the Piedmont region of italy.

Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 6 leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup light cream
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Garnish with thin strips of leek

Directions

Mix the flour with the eggs in a processor, mixer or by hand.

Roll out the dough thinly, using a pasta roller or rolling pin.

Cut the pasta sheets into medium-size diamonds.

In a large skillet, brown leeks in butter. Salt to taste.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in abundant boiling salted water: drain and add to the browned leeks in the skillet.

Add the cream, adjust salt and mix well. Finish with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and leek strips.

Bice Lazzari (1900–1981), whose career balanced design and fine arts, created compositions by drawing free-hand lines, often over washes of soft color. Her poetic works resemble graphs, maps, and representative of her lifelong passion for music—musical staffs and notes.

Born in Venice, Lazzari, who would become one of Italy’s most revered modern artists, was discouraged from studying the human figure in art school in the 1910s because of her gender. She pursued the visual arts, adopting the informal style of the prevailing movement, abstract European painting in the mid-twentieth century. Lazzari’s earliest works, including still lifes, landscapes and portraits, demonstrate her skill as a figurative painter. However, she began to experiment with abstraction as early as 1925. Lazzari increasingly explored abstract form while continuing to work in the applied and decorative arts.

As her career developed, she further simplified her imagery, drawing or painting grids, lines, rows of dots and dashes and irregular shapes against a monochromatic background. Though her marks are exact and rigorous, Lazzari created her compositions freely and drew by hand creating rhythms that interact, emphasizing the play between surface and depth and brilliantly bringing her works to life.

Self Portait in oil.

Bice Lazzari: Signature Line was on view at NMWA May 10–September 22, 2013, as part of the 2013—Year of Italian Culture in the United States, an initiative organized by Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Italy, Washington, D.C. This exhibition presented a selection of 25 paintings and drawings from the Archivio Bice Lazzari in Rome.

Zaletti

(Cornmeal, pine nut and raisin cookies)

Zaletti are a traditional cookie from the Veneto region. They are often enjoyed together with a glass of sparkling wine, like Prosecco.These cookies are called zaletti due to their yellow color. “Zaletti” means “little yellow things” in the Veneto dialect.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb cornmeal
  • 3 ½ oz sugar
  • 1/2 lb all-purpose flour
  • 5 oz butter
  • 3 oz raisins, soaked in warm water
  • 2 ½ oz pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 easpoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated

Directions

Mix the cornmeal, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Beat the butter with the sugar in a mixer, then add the flour mixture. Add the raisins, previously soaked in warm water, the pine nuts, milk, grated lemon zest and vanilla. Mix well.

With your hands, shape the mixture into small oval cakes about 3 inches long. Place them on a lightly buttered baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven set at 375 degree F. Cooking time is generally 20-25 minutes, but it can vary according to the size of the “zaletti”.

Robert Henry De Niro (May 3, 1922 – May 3, 1993) was an American abstract expressionist painter and the father of actor Robert De Niro. Robert De Niro, Sr. was born in Syracuse, New York, to an Italian American father, Henry Martin De Niro (1897–1976), whose parents emigrated from Ferrazzano, in the province of Campobasso, Molise and an Irish American mother, Helen (née O’Reilly; 1899–1999). Robert De Niro Sr. studied at the Black Mountain College under Josef Albers from 1939 to 1940. While Albers’ highly analytical approach to painting did not appeal to De Niro’s more instinctive style, the experience and international perspective of the Bauhaus master, nonetheless, left a lasting impression. De Niro next studied with Hans Hofmann at his Provincetown, Massachusetts summer school. Hofmann’s teaching focused on Abstract Expressionism and Cubist formalism that had a strong influence on De Niro’s development as a mature artist.

After getting married in 1942, De Niro moved to New York’s Greenwich Village, where he was able to paint and surround himself with an illustrious circle of friends including writers, Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, playwright Tennessee Williams and the famous Berlin dancer, Valeska Gert.

Being a self-proclaimed perfectionist, De Niro painted and repainted his canvases again and again. He would do hundreds of studies before he decided to paint the subject. In 1945, De Niro was included in the Fall exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s, The Art of This Century Gallery on 57th Street in New York. Reviews of the exhibition praised the work of De Niro, as well as, that of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. He had his first solo exhibition at The Art of This Century Gallery the following year.

Flowers in a Blue Vase

De Niro had a series of solo exhibitions at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York and by the mid-1950s, De Niro was regularly included in important group exhibitions, such as the Whitney Annual, the Stable Annual and the Jewish Museum.

From 1961-1964, De Niro traveled to France to paint in Paris and in the surrounding countryside. Collector Joseph Hirshhorn purchased a number of the artist’s paintings and works on paper during this period through De Niro’s gallerist, Virginia Zabriskie, which are now in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. In 1968, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work is included in several museum collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, Mint Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, Kansas City Art Institute and the Yellowstone Museum Art Center. Robert De Niro was a visiting artist at Michigan State University’s Department of Art in the early 1960s. He died of cancer at age 71, on May 3, 1993.

Spicy Stewed Octopus

In this dish, typically found in Molise along the Adriatic coast, the octopus is flavored with spicy peperoncino (chili peppers), giving it an extra kick.

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb baby octopus
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • Whole chili peppers, to taste
  • 1 ½ oz parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean the octopus in salted water and rinse well. Saute the onion in a skillet with the olive oil and peperoncino.

Add the octopus, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Cover the pan with a lid and cook over low heat for 2 hours, stirring the octopus from time to time with a wooden spoon.

Add a little water to keep the pan from drying out. Serve warm.

 

Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia (June 14, 1909 – September 17, 1982) was an American impressionist painter. DeGrazia is known for his colorful images of Native American children of the American Southwest and other Western scenes. Born to Italian immigrants, DeGrazia’s family emmigrated from Amantea, Calabria (Southern Italy). His parents, Dominic and Lucia DeGrazia, were strong people who worked very hard for their family of seven children. His father and uncles were copper miners in Morenci, Arizona Territory, where DeGrazia was born in 1909. After graduation from high school, DeGrazia worked the mines with his family. It was then he realized, he did not want to live life as a miner and said that he couldn’t live without the sunlight.

“Market #29,” by Ted DeGrazia

With almost no possessions, DeGrazia caught a ride and headed for Tucson. With fifteen dollars in his pocket, he enrolled at the University of Arizona in 1933. He played his trumpet at night and landscaped at the University of Arizona during the day, to pay for his classes. He studied music and received his first Bachelors degree in Art Education. His second Bachelors degree was in Fine Arts. DeGrazia would eventually go back to school to earn a Master’s degree in Art Education in 1945.

Any money he could save went towards art supplies. Any extra time he had went to his art. He was searching, trying to find his own style. In 1941, Arizona Highways Magazine began to publish DeGrazia’s work. In 1942, DeGrazia traveled to Mexico City where he met Diego Rivera, Mexico’s master muralist. Rivera was taken with DeGrazia’s artistic talent and agreed to take him on as an apprentice. DeGrazia assisted Rivera with murals at the Palacio Nacional and the Hospital de Jesus. DeGrazia also worked with José Clemente Orozco during this apprenticeship. The two Mexican masters sponsored an exhibition of DeGrazia’s paintings at the Palace of Fine Art in Mexico City in 1942.

Excerpts from DeGrazia’s politically-based mural painted on a University of Arizona interior wall circa 1932. Photograph by Reggie Russell

DeGrazia returned to the University of Arizona, studying under Katherine Kitt. In 1944, DeGrazia was hired by the University of Arizona, to complete a mural in exchange for the cost of art supplies for the project. He was given freedom to paint whatever subject he wanted in a portion of the Old Main building located in the center of the campus. Since this mural painting took place two years after his apprenticeship under Diego Rivera, DeGrazia chose to paint a politically based mural. The mural was titled, “Power of the Press.” DeGrazia was rebelling against commercialism in education. He felt that universities were growing too political, greedy and corporate minded. DeGrazia’s mural depicted the lives lost in World War II and how the interests of businesses were what really controlled the educational system- not the educator.

By the late forties, the city of Tucson began encroaching on DeGrazia’s gallery. He felt cramped with so many people moving to Tucson and he wanted to escape its growth. In 1949, he bought 10 acres of land in the Santa Catalina Foothills, north of Tucson. Once DeGrazia had his new home, he was free to start work on his dream gallery, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. During this time, the gallery replaced the first DeGrazia gallery constructed in 1944.

From 1960 to the mid-1970s DeGrazia became very successful and the gallery flourished with hundreds of thousands of yearly visitors. To protest inheritance taxes on works of art, DeGrazia hauled about 100 of his paintings on horseback into the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix and set them ablaze in 1976. This infamous event was reported in such publications as, “The Wall Street Journal” and “People Magazine”, becoming part of DeGrazia’s legend before his death in 1982. By this time, the artist had established the DeGrazia Foundation to ensure the permanent preservation of his art and architecture for future generations.

Eggplant Meat-less Balls

This version of traditional meatballs, made with eggplant rather than meat, is a typical Calabrian appetizer and is quite easy to prepare.

Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb eggplant
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 ¾ oz Pecorino cheese, grated
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chives
  • Tomato Sauce, optional

Directions

Peel the eggplants, cut them in half, put them into a pot and cover with water.

Bring the water to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes; drain and cool.

Mix the bread crumbs with the chopped garlic, parsley, basil, grated cheese and salt.

Squeeze out the eggplants and mash them with the bread crumb mixture and the whole egg, mixing until thoroughly combined.

Shape  this mixture into elongated, fairly flat ovals and fry them in vegetable oil. Drain.

These may be served hot or cold and, if desired, covered with a spicy tomato sauce.

 

Artist Georgia O’Keeffe was of Italian descent. Her mother was Ida Totto and the artist was named for her maternal grandfather, Giorgio Totto, who was born in Italy. Georgia O’Keeffe was born on a wheat farm near Sun Prairie, WI, on Nov. 15, 1887.

Soon after 1918, O’Keeffe began working in oil, a shift away from having worked primarily in watercolor in the earlier years. By the mid-1920s, she began making large-scale paintings of natural forms at close range, as if seen through a magnifying lens. In 1924 she painted her first large-scale flower painting, Petunia, No. 2, which was first exhibited in 1925. She also completed a significant body of paintings of New York buildings, such as City Night and New York—Night, 1926 and Radiator Bldg—Night, New York, 1927.

By 1929, O’Keeffe acted on her increasing need to find a new source of inspiration for her work. Between 1929 and 1949, O’Keeffe spent part of nearly every year working in New Mexico. She collected rocks and bones from the desert floor and made them and the distinctive architectural and landscape forms of the area subjects in her work. O’Keeffe became increasingly frail in her late 90s and moved to Santa Fe in 1984, where she died on March 6, 1986 at the age of 98.

As an interpreter and manipulator of natural forms, as a strong colorist and as the depictor of her beloved New Mexico landscape, Georgia O’Keefe left her mark on the history of American art and made it possible for other women to explore a new gamut of symbolic imagery.

Petunia, No. 2

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