Les Italiens de Paris

Les Italiens de Paris was a group of Italian artists who introduced the great 14th- and 15th-century Italian style of Piero della Francesca and Giotto to Paris between 1928 and 1933. 

They used traditional methods to reinterpret the classical in a contemporary way, reinventing a truly Italian style envied by the French.

Though part of a group, each artist was strongly individual and the school was diverse. 

The members were part of the great École de Paris, which also included French artists like Matisse and Derain. Leading avant-garde painters in Paris opposed more traditionalist painters because they feared them; they were at the extreme end of a new expression that was leading the way toward new modern and contemporary painting. We could say that they made Italian painting international.

Paris in the early 20th century

Paris was an important destination for Italian and international artists in the early 20th century.

Who was this group of seven artists, “Les Italiens de Paris”?

The members were Mario Tozzi, René Paresce, Filippo de Pisis, Gino Severini, Giorgio de Chirico, Alberto Savinio, and Massimo Campigli.

While part of a movement, they remained strongly individual.

Let us meet these seven artists.

Mario Tozzi

 Mario Tozzi (Fossombrone 1895- Saint Jean du Gard 1979) was the group’s organizer. He arrived in Paris in the 1920s and immediately set out to build a cultural bridge between Italy and France.

Mario Tozzi painting on Egidi MadeinItaly
Madre e figlio by Mario Tozzi

Filippo de Pisis

Filippo de Pisis (Ferrara 1896-Milan 1956) arrived in Paris in 1925. He considered himself an aesthete and was the most Parisian and the most delicate member of the group. His scenes of Paris are extraordinary.

Filippo De Pisis su Egidi MadeinItaly
L’archeologo by Filippo de Pisis

René Paresce

René Paresce (Carouge 1886-Paris 1937) was an artist, physicist, writer, and journalist. He wrote for the Daily Telegraph and La Stampa. He lived in London and then visited the United States and wrote a book called L’altra America (The Other America). De Chirico asked Paresce where he should go when he visited the United States.

His art blends Futurism, Cubism, Metaphysics, and Surrealism His compositions depict dreamlike narratives.

Les Italiens de Paris on Egidi MadeinItaly
La casa dell’Ondina by Renato Paresce

Gino Severini

Gino Severini  (Cortona 1883-Paris 1966) arrived in Paris in 1906 and became a naturalized French citizen after marrying the daughter of Paul Fort, the “prince of poets” who walked around Paris with a duck on a leash.

Severini signed the Futurist Manifesto and is one of the five artists in the famous photo.

Gino Severini on Egidi MadeinItaly
Portrait of Gina by Gino Severini

Massimo Campigli

Massimo Campigli (Berlin 1895-Saint-Tropez 1971) arrived in Paris at the end of World War I. He was an artist and writer  And, like Paresce, was a correspondent for the Corriere della Sera.

Massimo Campigli su Egidi MadeinItaly
Testa di donna con collana by Massimo Campigli

 Giorgio de Chirico

Giorgio de Chirico arrived in Paris in 1912 after having worked there and in Milan. He developed iconographical ideas for the metaphysical painting that would change European art. He was also courted by the Surrealists.

Alberto Savinio

Alberto Savinio, Giorgio de Chirico’s brother, created the play Quando partirà il treno per Parigi (When the Train to Paris leaves) in 1914 using a text by Guillaume Apollinaire and his own music. It is said that his performance was so violent he left traces of blood on the piano. His compositions depict dreamlike narratives.

Alberto Savinio on Egidi MadeinItaly
L’air de la tempête by Alberto Savinio

How were they received in Paris?

Les Italiens de Paris attracted attention for conflict within the group.

In 1927, De Chirico declared in an interview for the magazine Comoedia:

“Modern Italian painting does not exist; it’s just me and Modigliani and we are practically French.”

“Italiens de Paris” – The first exhibition

The first exhibition opened at the Salon de l’escalier at the Louis-Jouvet Theater in 1928 with the title “Italians of Paris.” Naturally, Giorgio De Chirico was not there. The group of seven officially no longer existed, and the Italiens de Paris group was born.