An important early oil on canvas, Al solco by Gino Severini (1883-1966), one of the leading members of the Divisionist and the Futurist Movements, will be offered for sale in the Impressionism & Modern Art sale at Bonhams
in New Bond Street, London on Thursday 11 December 2008. The work is estimated at £800,000-1 million.
Al solco, produced in 1903, can be celebrated not only as a seminal example of Severini's early Divisionist work but also as a vital step towards the development of techniques that characterised the Futurist Movement. In contrast to its French counterpart, Pointillism, Italian Divisionism was characterised by longer brush strokes rather than dots, which were used to intensify colour and luminosity. The recent exhibition 'Radical Light' at the National Gallery, which highlighted the Divisionist Movement.
Of critical importance to the development of his work and arguably to the progress of early 20th Century art was Severini's association with artists, such as Boccioni and Balla. Balla acted as a mentor to Severini, instructing him on exciting and modern developments in French painting. Together with Carra and Russolo these artists would: absorb the startling light effects realised by the Impressionist painters, push Divisionist practice to its limits, inject Cubist composition and space with energy and movement. Eventually, through Futurism, they would define the concept of a European Avant Garde.
Severini was clearly influenced by the Florentine Macchiaioli painters of the 1860's. Macchiaioli with its root in the Italian word 'macchia' for spot or stain, aimed to capture the impression received from reality by using patches of colour and light and dark: for instance a single patch of colour for the face.
In his early works, from which Al solco dates, Severini sought to explore and exploit light effects and colour harmonies by the Divisionist technique. The work, Al solco portrays a Tuscan farmer ploughing a field with his oxen near the town of Dicomano not far from Florence. This image can be represented as idealised symbols of a new modern Italy, resonating with strength and energetic youth. Behind the farmer, copious vines fill the picture - a symbol of abundance. The scale of Al solco is impressive, reinforcing the heroic grandeur of the piece. The dimensions of the work and Severini's writings suggest that the artist himself believed Al solco to be an important work within his early oeuvre. In October 1903 he wrote of Al solco with great excitement exclaiming that he had almost finished a painting '2 metres in length and one in height' while in his autobiography Severini described the pleasure he had in rendering the effect of golden sunshine on the Tuscan landscape.