Boldini: Works on Paper

Written by  Andrea Buzzoni
An exhibition and a catalogue devoted to Giovanni Boldini.
Sixty-two years have gone by since Cesare Brandi set up, in the Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo Hall of the Palazzo dei Diamanti, the original nucleus of the Museo Giovanni Boldini, thus adopting the museological criterion that Giuseppe Agnelli had suggested to the Fascist governor of Ferrara, Renzo Ravenna, as early as 1931.

Forty years later, the municipal and regional authorities of Ferrara successfully negotiated with Emilio Cardona the purchase of another part of the great Ferrarese's collection, considerably enriching the original nucleus of the Museo Boldini and making it the most important concentration of the master's work in existence: about 1700 items including oil paintings, water colours, pastels, drawings, sketches, engravings and personal effects belonging to the artist. But that material has never been wholly catalogued or photographed, nor has a general catalogue of the collection ever been published.

Today, thanks to a joint commitment on the part of Ferrara Arte and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, this gap is about to be bridged and a catalogue is due to be printed next autumn. This event will be accompanied by an exhibition of works on paper, drawn from the collection in Palazzo Massari and made up in the main of little-known or unpublished material, scheduled to open its doors in Palazzo dei Diamanti on the 26th of next October.
The exhibition will be devoted to "hidden" aspects of Boldini, who will be revealed as a surprisingly talented engraver and delicate water colourist (and this from a painter known for his "violent" use of a "loaded" brush and paint) and, finally, an incredibly free and modern draughtsman with a sure incisive style and really impressive depth.

Works on paper, therefore, but imbued with complete independence of expression and high quality, even in the case of preparatory studies for paintings, which demonstrate that Boldini's approach to canvas was more thoughtful and cultivated than might appear at first sight.
These preparatory sketches will also be on show in Palazzo dei Diamanti and, in some cases, together with the oils based on them - such as The young Subercaseuse and Night in Montmartre.

What will emerge from this exhibition is that, alongside the Boldini who was the most important portraitist of the Belle Epoque, there was another Boldini: the painter of vedutas, of country landscapes, seascapes, still lifes and very handsome internal scenes often depicting his own atelier.
Boldini was a richer and more complex artist than many people suspect even now, and one who thanks to his extraordinary natural talent did not limit himself to creating only an enormously successful pictorial "trademark", but also documented the world he lived in.