Archive for January, 2010


Stanisław Wyspiański was the best known artist in the turn of the Century Poland, as well as the leading painter and poet from ‘Młoda Polska’ , the Polish declination of Art Nouveau.

He was author of play, poet, painter: a pure eclectic artist as commonly used at the Turn of the Century. Many information over his life and artistic production could be found on the quite complete reference page on wikipedia.


What we are presenting here in is one of the masterpiece of the Polish artist, as well one of the greatest and fairly known Art Nouveau styled decoration. In August 1894 Wyspiański was in his birth city again, after an experience abroad. And in Kraków, he got heavily involved in the modernist movement. It was then he designed and partially made a polychrome for the Franciscan Church that was composed of flowery, geometrical and heraldic motifs.


These fitomoprphic motives constitute a real enhancement towards the symbolic decorative characteristic of Art Nouveau. The catholic Wyspiański conceived the illustration of a church using floral thus claiming for the creative and vivificate  attitude of God. The growing flowers are then symbols of the God creative power; the abstract geometric decorations are symbols too of the mysterious force which is hidden behind the Creation.


Floral elements are typically feminine ones. The unlimited and outstanding mysterious presence of God can’t be restricted to a single gender. It it also can’t be restricted to any human like representation. Abstract is the aesthetic predominance in San Francis church, intuitive but never acknowledgeable the Logos of God.




Sometimes I feel that the time really flows accordingly to the concept of time of the Greek mythology. Sometimes I really feel that that eventually it could be true, at least as far as history of art is concerned.

We are descending from the Classic Greek Art, in which the human beings, and specially their bodies, were constructed after the artistic ideal, and the artistic ideal after the daemonic (aka supernatural) essence. The Greek artist conceived her composition as a sort of representation of the daemonic perfection, depicting bodies who eventually were actual representation of that ideal. And the idealistic art should represent a model to which the real human beings tend to approximate, in order to tend toward the upper nature of the daemons. The concept itself of KaloKagathia, the marriage between the Beauty and the Good, was symptomatic of this attitude: the ideal beauty should be paradigmatic of an ethic social behavior, thus pushing the ethic attitude to copy the perfection (ideal) of the work of art. In other terms, social should have been a sort of imitation of the perfection of the art. Notwithstanding Plato.

The Platonic revolution, assigned to the art the infamous role of copy of the copy, copy of the Nature which was considered copy of the upper Metaphysic world of the Eidolon (Ideas). This was so impacting that basically the art production which followed was conceived as an imitation, at least, of the Nature. Being inspired, the naturalistic artist should take inspiration from the beauty of the nature, a mirror of the divine perfection. On the other hand, the plein-air painting of the Impressionists tended to impress on the canvas the momentum, the impression coming our, again, from a Nature conceived as a source of inspiration.

The fault came with the Symbolism, at the end, a sort of Nietzschiean Return to the Origin, to the Source, finally. How should be considered the Symbolist attitude toward Nature then ?

After having read Alfred Kubin’s sole roman, “Die Andere Seite” I was walking in a street, in a small village in northern Italy.

People continuously walking around a tower. At the upper of the tower, a clock which seems to attract all the people, and the people not being able to escape that fatidic attraction.

I was in that street, the same street as the one described and illuminated several times by Kubin. And I felt myself while I was reconstructing that street, and looking at that tower as per my influenced by Kubin eyes. I was able then to force the outside nature to my own vision. And my vision wasn’t a copy of the Kubin’s one; simply, I was using his same vocabulary, using which I was able to (re)describe the Nature. Once again, Daemon Triumphavit …



Click on the image to download.




I was impressed, reading the essay on the Italian Liberty architecture by the authoritative art historian Rossana Bossaglia, by the her concerns regarding the development of an Art Nouveau (Liberty, as the movement is known in Italy) architecture. In particular she complained about the lack of a real innovative research of new forms in architecture during the Art Nouveau period in Italy as was the case, for example in Belgium or in Spain.  Accordingly to Rossana Bossaglia, the problem with the Italian Art Nouveau architecture is the lack of a very meaningful research on the forms in the building’s own structure, thus relegating all the evocative suggestions of the Art Nouveau’ Lines to the decorative elements on the façade. In other terms, in Italy, accordingly to Bossaglia, the development of the national Art Nouveau style lacked a personality such as Victor Hortha in"Belgium, Odon Lechner in Hungary, Otto Wagner in Austrian or Anton Gaudi in Spain, thus limiting to very few examples the very contribution of Italy to the development to the international modernist style.

Anyway, even stated the lack of an outstanding personality or a school master, in Italy we could experience a very development of the know-how, of some techniques which are nevertheless impacting over the progression of the Art Nouveau style and technique. A brief digression here regarding the relationship between the style and the technique. In classical point of view, the work of art represents an ideal wedding (chemical ?) between technical skills, inspiration and personal style. The technique element, the Greek tekné constitutes a world of potential and possibility with which the artist could fully express his or her own feelings or inspirations. The point here is that classically an artist could really produce a work of art only after having mastered the expressive technique of his own artistic field. I have well printed in my head the words Arnold Schönberg, who in his theoretical masterpiece, Armonienlehere, complained that his fellows and disciples must know very well and master all the classical composition techniques prior to try any subsequent engagements into the new dodecaphonic arrangements. Giving life and form to a work of art (informing, using aesthetic terminology, a work of art) means basically mastering a technique at the same level which permits to a poet to fully express the complexity of his poetry and inspirations just after, and only after, having a deep knowledge of the language (including the possibility of providing complex images as consequence of mastering a complex vocabulary).

As far as the development of the Stile Liberty, the national declination of Art Nouveau in Italy, is concerned, one of the most exiting an fundamental contribution of the Italian artists at the turn of the century is due to their outstanding improvement of the iron workmanship techniques. Walking through some streets in Milan gives exactly the idea of the outstanding level that the technique of iron decorations reached during the turn of the century in Italy.


Artists such as Alessandro Mazzucotelli, Carlo Rizzarda or Umberto Bellotto, maybe not so known as other champions of art nouveau such as Alphonse Mucha or Gaudi, were eventually able to push to the extreme the ornamental possibilities of iron. Iron structures developed in other countries, of course: In the fin de siècle Barcelona or Paris, iron structures were used in architecture, sometime not just as decorative elements rather than as fully structural ones.


Anyway the technical level reached by the Italian artists permitted to create ornaments which present decorative ornaments with a very fitomorphic feeling. Moreover, seems that the researches for an art which could be overcharged by the same explosive mystic strength of Creative Nature, an art which could be able to mimic not the  naturalistic elements rather than the very inner force of the Nature itself, these researches boosted by improving these new techniques.


The expressive potentiality of an art as a mirror of the symbolic aspect of the nature was significantly improved by a technique which could release the flexibility potentiality of the metallic materials. The researches of Mazzucotelli and the other Italian artist of the iron constituted not just a technical step forward in the direction of fitomorphic ornament: they constituted also an improvements of its symbolic dictionary.