The Gallery was established in 1883 to display the works of the most famous contemporary artists. Until 1915 it was housed in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in via Nazionale. It was later transferred to the building designed in 1911 by Cesare Bazzani for the exhibition held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Italian unification.
It was first extended by the same architect in 1934 when the annex on the north side was created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Fascist regime. This served to house additions to the collections (the Venice Biennal, the Quadriennal of Rome and shows of the artists’ guild).
The Gallery has four satellite museums: the Praz Museum, the Boncompagni Ludovisi Museum, the Manzù Museum and Collection, and the Hendrik Christian Andersen Museum – all of which fall within the overall period covered by the Gallery.
In the 1960s in particular, the Gallery followed a far-sighted policy of contemporary acquisitions. This was not maintained in later decades, although certain important 19th century works were added, as were major works, some of them bequests, by 20th century artists.
The collections, comprising approximately 5,000 paintings and sculptures and 12,000 drawings, are displayed chronologically, though the various periods are presented in different ways.
The 19th century collection begins with the neoclassical period (Appiani, Canova) and continues with Romanticism (Minardi, Tenerani, Kock) and historical Romanticism (Hayez, Podesti, d’Azeglio, Ussi, Ciseri, Celentano, Pagliano), the landscapes of the Neapolitan school (Pitloo, Gigante) and the Tuscan ‘macchiaioli’ painters and their followers (Fattori, Sernesi, Borrani, Cecioni, Signorini, Costa, Abbati, Lega, Cabianca). The later Neapolitan Romantic and Realist schools are presented by Palizzi brothers, Morelli, Toma, Gemito, Mancini and Michetti. Among the most important artists from the north Italian schools are Faruffini, Cremona, Fontanesi and Segantini, while Divisionists Pellizza and Previati are also well represented.
Another section is devoted to ‘Parisians’, de Nittis and Boldini, and various eclectic artists of the turn of the century. Until the middle of the 20th century, late 19th century non-Italian art was represented by a single work by Klimt, dated 1895. Since then, however, it has been possible to integrate the collections with examples by such major 19th century artists as Courbet, Van Gogh, Degas, Monet and Cézanne.
The 20th century is represented by the leading Italian avant-garde artists (Boccioni, Balla, Severini, Carrà, early Morandi, de Chirico) by masters of other nationalities (Mondrian, Kandisky, Moholy-Nagy, Duchamp, Arp and Schwitters), Italian 20th century artists (Casorati, Campigli, Sironi, Carrà, Morandi and the sculptors Martini, Marini, Manzù, Leoncillo), late Futurism (Prampolini, Dottori, Depero), and the Roman school (Mafai, Scipione, Raphael, Pirandello, Ferrazzi).
There are also works by de Pisis, the ‘Turin Six’, the abstract artists, Licini, Soldati and Reggiani, and the artists of Forma ! and contemporary artists such as Burri, Fontana, Colla, Afro, Vedova, Scialoja, Dorazio, Perilli, Novelli, Rotella, Kounellis, Manzoni, Lo Savio Castellani, the ‘cinevisuals’, Pascali, Mochetti, Pistoletto, Paolini, Boetti, de Maria, Clemente, Chia, Paladino and Cucchi.
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