L. Dudreville - Amore: discorso primo
(Venezia, 1885 – Ghiffa, Verbania, 1975)
Amore: discorso primo / Love: First Discourse, 1924
oil on canvas, cm. 266 x 364
Signed bottom centre: "Leonardo Dudreville" Dedication bottom left towards the centre: "A mia madre, a mio padre / finito il giorno 23 marzo 1924."
Milano, Collezione d’arte della Fondazione Cariplo
Shown in 1924 at the exhibition Sei Pittori del Novecento at the 14th Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia and purchased by the Cariplo Foundation on the antique market in 1989, Love: First Discourse represents an important turning point for Leonardo Dudreville.
The painting depicts the façade of a Venetian building by night, which is inhabited by various groups of people. The complex iconography presents six "pictures” based on the theme of love: the ground floor shows married love, romantic love (on the right) and adultery, even for money (on the left); the first floor shows filial love from adolescence to adulthood. In the various interiors sexual love is also alluded to (the caged doves, the cats on the cornice), as is the love of art (the statue of Cupid and Psyche by Canova), and sacred love (the picture of The Madonna and Child).
This iconography has many elements in common with the work by the German artist Otto Dix, An die Schönheit (in the Von der Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal, Germany). Shown in the same Venice exhibition, this work on beauty contains all the features of the most radical branch of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), which was concerned with truth and social criticism.
This painting also has an explicit autobiographical component. The setting is Venice, Dudreville’s birthplace, and it is dedicated "to my father and mother". It includes a portrait of the artist (holding a glass), of his father (reading the newspaper) and of his first partner Marcella (washing the baby). The picture presents a pessimistic view of the family, perhaps conditioned by the disagreements between the artist’s parents that had a negative influence on him when he was growing up.
After his early Divisionist work and his Futurist period with Nuove Tendenze, in 1926 Dudreville became one of the founders of the group Sette pittori del Novecento. Hoswever, the critic who showed a particular interest in this group, Margherita Sarfatti, did not appreciate this work. The presence of so many minute details and the absence of a neoclassical dimension that was atemporal and synthetic was considered inappropriate, and became the pretext for Dudreville’s departure from the Novecento Italiano group.