Roman School

The common definition of the Roman School was invented in 1930 by the French art critic Waldemar George (École de Rome).

One of the most interesting, vital eras in 20th-century Italian art was figurative work in Rome between the World Wars.

It was more an association of artists rather than an actual school. It was a spontaneous coming together of artists who shared ideals, places and atmospheres.

Even within the variety of their expressive languages, the shared definition is justified by certain decisive elements of continuity.

Among these are a deep connection to Rome, the Eternal City, a devotion to the “craft” and experimentation and, especially, a profound intolerance for art as the expression of a regime.

Castellucci Katy Modern Art Paintings Roman School Movement
Katy Castellucci Collage 1950s

Possibly partly as a reaction against rampant rhetoric, the works of these artists portray intimate worlds, sometimes subdued, full of uneasy gazes.

They tell of a hidden, unknown city, steeped in ancient myths and baroque implications.

This is a melancholic Rome even in its incessant transformation towards modernity; it’s a city at dusk about to disappear under the blows of the “cleaning axe.”

The artistic and cultural community gathered around the art galleries, the Art Gallery of Rome or La Cometa, in the cafes, the Aragno or the Caffè Greco and studios the likes of Villa Strohl Fern.

These places are all found in an area between the historic center and the Monti, Pinciano and Villa Borghese neighborhoods.

The critic and poet Libero De Libero wrote, recalling those years:

“That was our great season of friendship.”

“Poetry came before any need. There was not a single obstacle between us and the matters of art, between us and things.”

There are many artists connected to this “School” and different movements of which they are part.

Magical Realism

They include representatives of Magical Realism such as Antonio Donghi (Rome 1897 – 1963), Francesco Trombadori (Syracuse 1886 – Rome 1961), Riccardo Francalancia (Assisi 1886 – Rome 1965) and Ferruccio Ferrazzi (Rome 1891 – 1978).

In these paintings, though the reality of things and people is represented in detail, this reality is suspended in timelessness.

Other members of the Roman School are the founders of the School of Via Cavour, as coined by the art critic Roberto Longhi (Alba 1890 – Florence 1970).

The name came from where they lived and worked and included Mario Mafai (Rome 1902-1965) and Antonietta Raphaël (Kaunas 1895 – Rome 1975), who joined Scipione Bonichi (Macerata 1904 – Arco 1933) to constitute a first true revival group.

Tonal painters

For the 1930s there are “tonal” painters including Corrado Cagli (Ancona 1910 – Rome 1976), Giuseppe Capogrossi (Rome 1900 – 1972), Emanuele Cavalli (Lucera 1904 – Florence 1981), Roberto Melli (Ferrara 1885 – Rome 1958) and Guglielmo Ianni (Rome 1892 – 1958).

Their focus is light-color-space relationships, and after World War II, they developed a new “realistic” language impelled to depict the rawest reality.

These include artists like Alberto Ziveri (Rome 1908 – 1990), Fausto Pirandello (Rome 1899 – 1975), Renato Guttuso (Bagheria 1911 – Rome 1987) and the young Renzo Vespignani (Rome 1924 – 2001).

There was no shortage of key figures from the world of sculpture: in addition to Antonietta Raphaël there is Pericle Fazzini (Grottammare 1913 – Rome 1987), Mirko Basaldella (Udine 1910 – Cambridge 1969), Leoncillo Leonardi (Spoleto 1915 – Rome 1968), Renato Marino Mazzacurati (S. Venanzio di Galliera 1907- Parma 1969), and and the master engraver, Luigi Bartolini (Cupramontana 1892 – Rome 1963).

Bombardamento notturno 1954 Roman School Movement
Bombardamento notturno 1954