22 October 2020

Angela Prati: Sudden Light

"Glory of expanded noon
when the trees give up no shade,
and more and more the look of things
is turning bronze, from excess light.

Above the sun - and a dry shore;
so my day is not yet done"
the finest hour is over the low wall
closed off by a pale setting sun."
  - "Glory of Expanded Noon" by Eugenio Montale, translated from the Italian by William Arrowsmith, from The Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale, edited by Rosanna Warren, New York, W.W. Norton: 2012.

The first thing we notice in this photograph is the imperious quality of the light, the sun as master stage-crafter. Arches that we cannot see give the effect of proscenium arches silhouetting an open doorway and a cart full of harvest produce, pumpkins and squash. The door, the cart, the earth, and the terracotta walls just happen to be the palette we associate with autumn. And we have seen this light in Angela Prati's photograph before in the paintings of Italian painters.

There is a quality to light in the paintings by the 19th century Italian artists called I Macchiaioli that appears abrupt, as definitive as a spotlight trained on a stage.  It is as unlike as possible from  the blurriness and deconstruction of objects in paintings by the French Impressionists.  When this light reappeared in the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico around 1910, the artist decreed a new movement - the scuola metafisica - where stillness and emptiness spoke louder than words could. In their paintings the Macchiaiolli let macchia (patches or spots) of contrasting colors determine the composition, a practice on display in this contemporary photograph by Angela Prati and also in the painting Peasant Woman in the Sun by the short-lived Florentine  Guseppi Abbati (1836-1868) whose life was cut shot when his dog Cennino, infected with hydrophobia, bit im.

Angela Prati was born at Piacenza and divides her time between Milan and Trento.  She has traveled around Africa in a Land Rover, As well as writing for magazines and newspapers both Italian and intternational, Prati took the photograph's for Trentino: The Enchantments of Art and Nature (1987) and Alvisi Zorzi's book Luce di Venizia (The Light of Venice) (1989) among others. Pati has specialized in anthropologic research photography, focused on peoples and cultures that are often overlooked.  In 2015 she was chosen by the Alinari Archives of Photography in Florence to interpret travel photography for their new project Alinari Contemporary

For more about the Macchiaioli go here and here and here and here.

1, Angela Prati - Mantova (Mantua), photograph, Alinari Archives, Florence.
2, Giuseppe Abbati - Peasant Woman in the Sun, oil on canvas, Pinacoteca Provincale, Bari


Tania said...

"There's a silence between one page and another" (Valerio Magrelli) Thank you for continuing to introduce I Macchiaioli, not very well known.
I thought when I read this post about what I heard in a recent report on Jo and Edward Hopper: he wanted to paint light on a wall.

Jane said...

Tania, very interesting point. I wonder whether Edward Hopper ever saw any of these paintings. He made three trips to Europe as a an aspiring young artist but he ws always adamant in denying any European influences on his work. That doesn't prevent us from noticing certain similarities whether from influence or accident.