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La sottilità dell’aria. Arezzo and its territory in the Alinari Archives
The exhibition "La sottilità dell'aria. Arezzo and its territory in the Alinari Archives", from December 2, 2022 to October 31, 2023 at Casa Museo Ivan Bruschi in Arezzo, opens a window on one hundred years of history of the Arezzo area, from 1856 to 1954.
What emerges is a natural context characterized by a grandiose landscape discontinuity and, well beyond the intentions of individual photographers, a focus of its social landscape: a system of valleys delimited by hilly arches and high mountains, punctuated by a great wealth of Medieval art; an economy mainly based on agriculture which however sees the launch of important industrial initiatives. In short, a land of farmers, laundresses, shepherds, monks, men and women of ingenious industriousness.
If compared to today, these images bring out elements of continuity and relevant landscape and social changes. The breadth of the varied horizons and the vivid traces of a long history of creativity can be summarized in that 'subtlety of the air' to which Michelangelo, jokingly with Vasari, attributed his own talent.
This is the first of a series of exhibitions that the Alinari Foundation wants to dedicate to Tuscan cities.
Exhibition produced byFondazione Ivan Bruschi, part of the Intesa Sanpaolo heritage
In collaboration withFondazione Alinari per la Fotografia
AcknowledgementsMINE Museum - Museo delle Miniere e del Territorio di Cavriglia (AR)
Exhibition curated byRita Scartoni, with the cooperation of Muriel Prandato
Onde Michelangelo ragionando col Vasari una volta per ischerzo disse: "Giorgio, s' i' ho nulla di buono nell'ingegno, egli è venuto dal nascere nella sottilità dell'aria del vostro paese d'Arezzo; [...]
Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Florence, 1568.
In 1856 the Alinaris photographed the Chiusa delle Chiane, near Arezzo. Starting from that date, Alinari and Brogi, photographers and publishers, as they called themselves, will capture the lands of Arezzo, within their monumental work of documentation of the Italian cultural heritage.
In 1908, Vittorio Alinari embarked on a photographic journey along the course of the Arno starting from the Arezzo area.
In the twentieth century Aurelio Monteverde and Vincenzo Balocchi gave a new visual reading to the territory.
And again, a precious album preserved in the Alinari Archives collects the extraordinary documentation of the work in the Valdarno lignite mines.
The exhibition itinerary, which develops into four sections, consists of 56 photographic prints as well as digital reproductions of the album Miniere di lignite del Valdarno.
Alinari and Brogi: photographers and publishers
Fratelli Alinari presso Luigi Bardi, View of the 'Chiusa delle Chiane' near Arezzo, 1856, albumen print, 32,3 x 42,5 cm, Alinari Archives, Florence
Fratelli Alinari, Piazza Grande in Arezzo with the Church of Santa Maria della Pieve and the Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici, ca. 1890, silver gelatin dry glass plate negative, 21 x 27 cm, Alinari Archives-Alinari archive, Florence
Fratelli Alinari, The Vasari Loggias in Piazza del Municipio in Castiglion Fiorentino, 1930, silver gelatin dry glass plate negative, 21 x 27 cm, Alinari Archives-Alinari archive, Florence
Fratelli Alinari, Monument to Francesco Petrarca, detail, marble, Alessandro Lazzerini, Passeggio del Prato, Arezzo, 1929, silver gelatin dry glass plate negative, 21 x 27 cm, Alinari Archives-Alinari archive, Florence
Stabilimento Giacomo Brogi, The courtyard of the castle of the Counts Guidi in Poppi, ca. 1920, silver gelatin dry glass plate negative, 21 x 27 cm, Alinari Archives-Brogi archive, Florence.
Link to the news
Link to the digital catalogue
Alinari and Brogi, photographers and publishers, carry out the first major visual census of the Italian art and landscape, handing down to us a monumental 'civic' work of our heritage.
The Alinaris do it through their "style": a construction of the image inspired by compositional criteria of symmetry, axiality and perspective order under a diffused light that makes the smallest detail legible.
In the Alinari photography sales catalogues, the subjects relating to the Arezzo area see a progressive increase starting from 1876, and show a significant work of reconnaissance of the main places of Medieval art, Piero della Francesca's masterpieces, as well as contemporary art, such as the monument to Francesco Petrarca inaugurated in 1928.
At the end of the 1950s the archives of the Brogi and Anderson photographic establishments merged into Alinari. Since then, the three great photographers and publishers have been gathered together in the Alinari Archives.
The Florentine Giacomo Brogi (1822-1881) began his career as a photographer around the 1850s. He will shoot art, landscape and costume in Tuscany and Italy, together with a refined production of portraits. In 1881, on Giacomo's death, the management of the company passed to his son Carlo (1850-1925), who consolidated its industrial dimension. The Brogi selection on display favors landscape and architectural photographs, two categories for which the Brogi firm had already won first prize at the 1880-81 "Melbourne International Exhibition".
Vittorio Alinari's Arno
Vittorio Alinari, From the Album “L’Arno 1”, View of Stia in Casentino with the Arno river and the Staggia stream, 1908, gelatin bromide silver print with toning, 9 x 14 cm, Alinari Archives-album collection, Florence
Vittorio Alinari, From the Album “L’Arno 1”, The Castle of Romena in Pratovecchio in Casentino, 1908, gelatin bromide silver print with toning, 9 x 14 cm, Alinari Archives-album collection, Florence
Vittorio Alinari, From the Album “L’Arno 1”, Buriano Bridge over the Arno, 1908, gelatin bromide silver print with toning, 9 x 14 cm, Alinari Archives-album collection, Florence
Vittorio Alinari, From the Album “L’Arno 1”, The Chiusa dei Monaci on the Canale Maestro della Chiana near Arezzo, 1908, gelatin bromide silver print with toning, 9 x 14 cm, Alinari Archives-album collection, Florence
Fondazione Ivan Bruschi
Vittorio Alinari (1859-1932), an enlightened entrepreneur, took over from his uncles in running the family business, which would lead to a real industrial dimension capable of responding to the needs of international art and travel publishing.
The images presented here are a wonderful testimony of his personal research. In fact, in 1909 the work L'Arno by Vittorio Alinari and Antonio Beltramelli was published in Florence by Fratelli Alinari, with a preface by Isidoro del Lungo. Vittorio personally takes the photographs, following the itinerary of the river from its source to its mouth. A passionate work in which clear references to contemporary pictorial photography emerge, as well as to atmospheres and compositions directly borrowed from Tuscan painting and Macchiaioli.
Vittorio here abandons the rigorous lesson of the 'fathers', which he continues to adopt with conviction at a company level, to explore new approaches which, during the twentieth century, will lead to the full affirmation of photography as a subjective gaze on the world.
Aurelio Monteverde: the carefree gaze on the roaring years
Aurelio Monteverde, Group portrait at the Camaldoli Monastery, May 1920, silver gelatin dry glass plate negative, 9 x 12 cm, Alinari Archives-Monteverde archive, Florence
Aurelio Monteverde, Visitors to the Camaldoli Monastery, May 1920, silver gelatin dry glass plate negative, 9 x 12 cm, Alinari Archives-Monteverde archive, Florence
Aurelio Monteverde, Group of visitors on the walls of the Counts Guidi Castle in Poppi, 19-20 September 1919, silver gelatin dry glass plate negative, 9 x 12 cm, Alinari Archives-Monteverde archive, Florence
Passionate about cars, Aurelio Monteverde (1872-1934), son of the esteemed sculptor Giulio Monteverde, after moving to the villa "Il Mulino" in Rovezzano, Florence, installs a darkroom in the house and organizes long four-wheeled trips along the roads of Tuscany.
The liveliness of this light-hearted group fills the shots: childish jokes in the snow, playful poses. His are memories of carefreeness, joyful and lively. The photographs express all the exuberant spontaneity of the days spent together with young travel companions. Photographic notes of car trips to La Verna and casual young people posing among the battlements of the castle of Poppi as if on a stage. Or who for fun snatch a smile for the camera from the reluctant monks of Camaldoli.
Locals appear in the photos as part of the landscape, a little amazed and amused by the novelty of these eccentric visitors: satisfied young men and exuberant young ladies with long gloves and fashionable shoes savoring the first undeniable signs of female emancipation.
Vincenzo Balocchi: fragments of a landscape
Vincenzo Balocchi, The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Arezzo, ca. 1930, gelatin silver print, 24,2 x 17,8 cm, Alinari Archives-Balocchi archive, Florence
Vincenzo Balocchi, Women at the washhouse, Arezzo, 28 September - 4 October 1931, silver gelatin cellulose nitrate film, 9 x 12 cm, Alinari Archives- Balocchi archive, Florence
The Florentine Vincenzo Balocchi (1892-1975) was Director of the photomechanical department of Alinari IDEA spa. After the experience with the Alinari company, in 1928 he founded his own graphic establishment, the Istituto Fotocromo Italiano. His passion for photography will make him a prominent protagonist of the Italian photographic-artistic landscape.
Balocchi's images, calm and silent, fall outside the documentary intent, rather they enhance the evocative and artistic value of architectures and landscapes.
More than showing, Balocchi loves to tell about Tuscany, people, objects, with poetic charm and minute "Mediterranean" sensibility. Lyrical and experimenter, he creates the image with few signs: landscapes and monuments become two-dimensional geometric shapes. The objects lose consistency and are transformed into graphic lines. Thanks to the unusual framing or even to the unusual point of view, often from above, he express his subtle aesthetic.
The black gold of Cavriglia: Valdarno lignite mines
Unidentified author, Strip mining at the Lignite Mines of the Upper Arno Valley, 1918 ca., 19 x 18,8 cm, Alinari Archives-album collection, Florence
Unidentified author, Workers at work in the Rosseto lignite mine, Upper Valdarno, 1917, 19 x 19 cm, Alinari Archives-album collection, Florence
The protagonist of this story is lignite, a fossil fuel. Around it are miners, pickaxes, tunnels and rails. Men who have dug and burned the subsoil for years.
Since the end of the 19th century, the Valdarno has learned to coexist with quarries. At first the farms began to be leased to the mine operators. From open-air excavation we soon moved on to tunnels. Lignite was used for the first power plant, for the briquettes factories (lignite tiles) and as an energy source for the San Giovanni Valdarno ironworks which went into operation in 1873.
In 1905 the Valdarno Mining and Electricity Company (SMEV) was born. Two years later the power station was built. Soon the farmers of the valley replaced the hoe with the pickaxe and became miners.
With the mines the landscape was transformed. The countryside had given way to the extractive industry, with its chimneys, sheds, cableways and railways; and also the Valdarno society would never be the same again.
The narrative relies on memory, and memory on photography. It remains to be clarified who the authors of these photographs are. This will be the object of research in the Alinari Archives, with the precious collaboration of Paola Bertoncini, director of the MINE Museum.
The album Miniere di lignite del Valdarno (album size cm 25x34x3) is part of the Reteuna collection, acquired by the Alinari Archives on February 17th, 2020.
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