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Levi and Ragghianti. A friendship between painting, politics and literature

Levi and Ragghianti. A friendship between painting, politics and literature
17 December 2021 – 20 March 2022

The new exhibition, conceived and organized on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Fondazione Centro Studi Ragghianti, in autumn 2021, intends to investigate a so far little considered theme by the historiography and by the academic studies: the friendship between Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti (Lucca, 1910 – Florence, 1987) and the painter, writer and politician Carlo Levi (Turin, 1902 – Rome, 1975). The exhibition, realized in cooperation with the Fondazione Carlo Levi in Rome and curated by Paolo Bolpagni, Daniela Fonti and Antonella Lavorgna, will be open from 17 December 2021 to 20 March 2022.
The relationship between Ragghianti and Levi, essential to both, intensified in Florence, during the Nazi occupation, through the common political militancy in the Resistance, mostly after Levi, in 1941, took clandestine refuge in Anna Maria Ichino’s house in Piazza Pitti, where he wrote his best-known novel Cristo si è fermato a Eboli, to which a section of the exhibition is dedicated.
However, not only politics – in the ranks of the Action Party – but also an intense discussion on contemporary art issues and a shared sensitivity for the Italian artistic heritage united them. It should be remembered their joint intervention with the architect Giovanni Michelucci, after the Nazi had blown up five bridges in Florence, in order to avoid the demolition of the Torre di Parte Guelfa in Ponte Vecchio, a rescue then implemented by the allied command.
The interest of Ragghianti in Levi as a painter can be traced back to 1936, when he mentioned him in his article dedicated to contemporary Italian painting; in 1939 he reviewed Levi’s exhibition in New York in his magazine «La Critica d’Arte». The deepest moment of their friendship certainly took place during the days of the constitution of the Comitato Toscano di Liberazione Nazionale (Tuscan Committee of National Liberation) and of the direction of the newspaper «Nazione del Popolo», and when Levi, immediately after the liberation of Florence, became a member of the commission for the reconstruction of the historic centre of Florence. The intensification of their relationship is reflected on the sharing of the artistic matter, so that just Ragghianti introduces the solo exhibition of Levi at the Galleria dello Zodiaco in Rome in 1946. And it is Ragghianti who proposed the first historicization of the figure of Carlo Levi in 1948, by the publication of a “catalogue” of his work, where the paintings from 1923 to 1947 are dated and indexed. It consists of a volume, presented by Ragghianti, which is still today an essential point of reference for studies on Levi. The book also includes the text by Levi Paura della pittura (Fear of painting), recently returned to the attention of the scholars as well as the wider reflection Paura della libertà (Fear of freedom), written in 1939, about the crisis of the European society, today more relevant than ever.
In the following years, the two did not fail to meet, in Rome or in Florence, whenever it was possible. Ragghianti never missed the opportunity to enhance the artistic production of Levi: clear examples of this are his inclusion in the exhibition Arte moderna in Italia 1915-1935 (1967) and the important selection of works of the retrospective exhibition held in Florence after the artist’s death (Carlo Levi si ferma a Firenze, 1977). It is therefore, for the Fondazione Ragghianti, a strongly identifying exhibition, ideal to seal the important 40th anniversary of its institution.

The exhibition and its catalogue retrace, together with the circumstances of their friendship, the identity bonds of this relationship, the theoretical issues of a historical – artistic nature and some other point of interest common to the two for an action to be taken within the framework of an arts policy. The exhibition and its catalogue testify to the meaning of the friendship between Ragghianti and Levi, through works of art, letters, documents, photographs and footages.
The exhibition also shows their common interest in cinema. Levi worked as a screenwriter and scenographer for some films, drew the poster of the Accattone by Pier Paolo Pasolini, and from the 50ties in Rome, he became a portraitist coved by many personalities from the world of cinema, from Silvana Mangano to Anna Magnani, from Franco Citti to Pasolini himself. All these portraits are displayed in the exhibition, together with the ones of Ragghianti, Eugenio Montale and Carlo Emilio Gadda.

Documents relating to the artistic-historical field of this friendship are kept in the archives of the Fondazione Ragghianti and of the Fondazione Carlo Levi in Rome. In Lucca, there is a consistent group of letters from 1943 to 1971, and some typewritten texts by Ragghianti about Levi. In The Roman archives, writings of the monograph by Ragghianti are preserved, accompanied by notes for the drafting of the volume destined by Levi to his editor as well as unpublished photos. Many of these are exhibited in the first and last room.
The exhibition also presents numerous drawings and a nucleus of about eighty paintings by Levi. They meant to reconstruct not only the structure of the monograph of 1948 and of the exhibitions of 1967 and 1977 curated by Ragghianti, but also their circle of intellectuals and friends – Eugenio Montale, Giovanni Colacicchi, Paola Olivetti, Aldo Garosci and some others – together with portraits of personalities such as Italo Calvino and Frank Lloyd Wright.
In the catalogue, published by Edizioni Fondazione Ragghianti Studi sull’Arte, texts by Roberto Balzani, Paolo Bolpagni, Daniela Fonti and Antonella Lavorgna.

Opening hours: from Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Entrance ticket: 5 euro; reduced ticket 3 euro
Exhibition created and produced by the Fondazione Centro Studi sull’Arte Licia e Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti in Lucca in collaboration with the Fondazione Carlo Levi in Rome
With the support of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca
Sponsor: Banco BPM
Technical partner: Unicoop Firenze
With the patronage of Regione Toscana, Provincia di Lucca and Comune di Lucca

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