Modern Period

As the art world entered the Modern Period, in the 18th Century, Italy was known as a training center for world-class artists. It was not, however, on the cutting edge of artistic innovation.

Things began to change in the mid-19th and early-20th Centuries. The Macchiaioli group presaged the Impressionist school of painting technique, and produced incredible works with great freshness. Their technique was a reaction against the older, stilted traditions, and they emphasized aspects of immediacy in their work. They are best known for their landscapes and portraits.

Other modern schools were also well-represented by Italians. As the 20th Century opened, the Cubist and Dada schools were well-represented by Italian artists. Marinetti introduced Futurism as the Italian version of Cubist art, and this school was taken to its peak by Severini.

The Italian Futurist school attempted a modern synthesis of all arts, and tried to imbue their painting with movement. They looked to modern dance for inspiration in painting dynamic forces, and as a group, they tended to be enthusiastic about science and machines. This enthusiasm was parodied ruthlessly by the Italian Dada school in the mid-20th Century. The Dadaists derived most of their uniqueness and style by twisting the forms of the Futurists.

While Italian painters were probing the limits of their art in the 1900s, the sculptors were looking in different directions. Their Classical influences steered them toward a simpler style, and as they tried to shed the sentimentalism of other neo-Classical syles, they emerged with a vigorous art of their own. It remains to be seen what the future will hold for Italian artists.