The Twentieth century in Carrara: exhibition-event at Palazzo Cucchiari with more than one hundred and twenty works of sculpture and graphics


Carrara and sculpture. An inseparable pair, almost a synonym, since time immemorial. In Carrara, in fact, the tradition of sculpture has ancient roots. It is a centuries-old habit of adapting to the transformations of expressive languages and handing down the techniques, and the many secrets, of a craft that can never disregard individual flair, as well as great manual skill.

It is with this original fact in mind that at Carrara’s Palazzo Cucchiari, the 2023 exhibition-event entitled“Novecento a Carrara. Artistic adventures between the two wars,” curated by Massimo Bertozzi, which will continue until next Oct. 29.

In the elegant halls of the prestigious Carrara exhibition venue, more than 120 works of both sculpture (in marble, bronze, plaster, terracotta) and graphics (paintings, drawings, pastels) can be admired, with the clear intent of providing the broadest possible view of a major artistic season in the Tuscan city.

Dedicated to the paths of updating figurative languages and the artistic panorama of Carrara in the first half of the last century, the exhibition will unravel through two very precise directions: on the one hand, that of the line, which from Art Nouveau leads to Novecentismo and abstractionism; on the other, that of volume, from solid verism to poetic naturalism and “spatial fragmentation,” in a continuous interweaving of sculpture, painting and neighboring artistic expressions.

Precisely following these two directions of approach, works by many artists who marked the “short century” will be on display, from Libero Andreotti to Leonardo Bistolfi, from Carlo Carrà to Domenico and Resita Cucchiari, from Arturo Dazzi to Carlo Fontana, from Moses Levy to Arturo Martini, from RAM and Thayhat to Gino Severini, from Carlo Sergio Signori to Mario Sironi, from Sergio Vatteroni to Lorenzo Viani, just to name a few.

Also of significant importance is the provenance of the works in the exhibition, which, in addition to private collections, arrive from the Uffizi Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Mart in Rovereto (TN), the Museo Novecento in Milan and that in Florence, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and that in Turin, the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Viareggio, the Museo Civico in Casale Monferrato (AL) and the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca in Rome, among others.

Curatorial Notes

Time and Sculpture-The path of the renewal of modern sculpture in Italy in the first decades of the last century follows a thread in Carrara that knots along the Bistolfi-Martini-Viani axis.

In the first decades of the 20th century, Bistolfi introduced in Carrara, in his workshops, in the technical and formal background of his craftsmen, the themes and models of Symbolist sculpture, the taste for line and two-dimensional composition that contributed to renew the language of sculpture, at least until the first signs of the return to order directed also the Carrara workshops along the paths of classical recomposition of form.

During the 1930s, the classical purity of Francesco Messina and the Novecentist forms of Mario Sironi and Fausto Melotti arrived in Carrara. But Arturo Martini also arrives who, thanks precisely to Carrara and to his relationship with Apuan studios and artisans, discovers unexpected possibilities for reinvigorating, from within and precisely in relation to what seems the most compromised material, the art of sculpture.

The Martini who alludes to the process of breaking down form, who wracks his brains around the plastic function of shadows, who conceives and closes in a form the Atmosphere of a head; the sculptor who senses that the sculpture of tomorrow will be what his pupil, Alberto Viani, is making, is nevertheless convinced that he must consume to the full every expressive potential of the figure.

Viani would later arrive in Carrara where he would give marble texture to the soft volumes of his plaster casts. Meanwhile, however, abstract sculpture had found another way to land on Carrara marble.

In 1946 Carlo Sergio Signori arrived from Paris, with the requirement to create the Monument to the Rosselli brothers for Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, and the exact measure of the ability to renew an ancient tradition is given precisely by what might appear to be only an occasional episode, because in the end it will not be only by chance that the first “abstract monument” in Europe is made in Carrara and in a material under strong suspicion of passatism.

Thus Carlo Sergio Signori, a “Parisian” from Milan, will become a “Carrarino,” inserting himself within the tradition of the marmorari, but in collision with the academic tradition, as was that of the continuity between Carlo Fontana, Arturo Dazzi and their numerous progeny who made their bones in the great public building sites and in the proliferation of monuments in the 1930s: Valmore Gemignani and Sergio Vatteroni, Aldo Buttini and Romeo Gregori, and then Francesco Piccini, Giorgio Salvi, Luigi Venturini, ending with the “professors,” also continuers of school teaching, Alderige Giorgi, Ugo Guidi, Felice Vatteroni.

Time and painting – The paths of sculpture are intertwined with those of painting, sometimes as a parallel discipline of the same artist – practiced painting assiduously both Arturo Dazzi, Sergio Vatteroni, Carlo Sergio Signori, Arturo Martini; while on the other hand, the painter Mario Sironi made himself a sporadic “sculptor” in Carrara.

Just as some suggestions to the updating of painting arrive in Carrara through the sculptors, Dazzi and Carrà and Soffici, Signori and Magnelli and Severini. And then the growth of painters in the academic scene, with the emergence of a figure like that of Pietro Pelliccia who of the Carrara Academy would become, first among painters, director.

Accompanied by those for whom Carrara, its quarries and landscapes become pictorial motifs, starting with Lorenzo Viani, protagonist of the “Republic of Apua,” but also a friend of Arturo Martini, who with the portrait of the Viareggio man will create one of his first works in marble. The latter will be accompanied by a long series of painters: some “natives” such as Giuseppe Viner or Giulio Marchetti and Gino Montruccoli; others, on the other hand, “outsiders” such as Domenico Cucchiari, Uberto Bonetti, Ernesto Michahelles (Thayaht).

In those years, young people studying at the Academy of Fine Arts easily found the opportunity to complete their training by attending workshops, where it was possible to perfect the craft and at the same time to witness the making of all sorts of sculptures, to get to know the artists, to see the artisans at work.

A context in which everyone teaches something just as they are there to learn something else: because sculpture is learned only where sculpture is made.

The exhibition concludes at the years of reconstruction, on the threshold of Italy’s “second modernity,” when with the economic boom and the Council reviving the social as well as religious function of sacred art, a new season opened for sculpture and Carrara marble.


Giorgio Conti Foundation
Curated by Massimo Bertozzi
From 06/24/2023 through 10/29/2023
Palazzo Cucchiari, via Cucchiari 1, Carrara
Hours: until 09/17/2023: MA-ME-THURS 9.30-12.30 and 16-20; VE-SA: 9.30-12.30 and 16-23; from 09/19/2023 until 10/29/2023: MA-ME-THURS 9.30-12.30 and 15-20; VE-SA: 9.30-12.30 and 15-21; closed LU
Special openings: LU 14.08.2023 9.30am-12.30pm and 4pm-8pm; WY 07.09.2023 9.30am-12.30pm and 3pm-11pm
Admission: € 10; concessions € 8; groups 10-29 people € 8; 30 and over € 7; schools € 4 (2 chaperones free for school groups); free for young people up to 18 accompanied by parents, handicapped people and chaperone, journalists with national card; Unicoop, Coop, Touring Club Italiano conventions provided
Tel. +39 0585 72355