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Modern Gallery

La Vita Italiana: Italian Postwar Photography, 1950-1970

September 30, 2017 – May 13, 2018
Carlo Amorati, Untitled (Sunlight on water with gondola) (detail), c. 1960. Vintage ferrotyped gelatin silver print. Collection of Charles (A.B. ’84) and Linda Googe.

Postwar Italian Life

Augusto Cantamessa, Turismo, Italia (Tourism, Italy), 1950. Vintage gelatin silver print, 11 × 11 1/2 inches (27.9 × 29.2 cm). Collection of Charles and Linda Googe. © Augusto Cantamessa.
Augusto Cantamessa, Turismo, Italia (Tourism, Italy), 1950. Vintage gelatin silver print, 11 × 11 1/2 inches (27.9 × 29.2 cm). Collection of Charles and Linda Googe. © Augusto Cantamessa.

La Vita Italiana: Italian Postwar Photography, 1950-1970 is a candid look at life in postwar Italy through the eyes of approximately 20 Italian photographers. Relatively unknown in this country, these photographs reveal some of the humor, hardships and other aspects of everyday life in Italy after World War II.

As Italy emerged from the tragedy and devastation of World War II, a pioneering generation of photographers and filmmakers developed a new visual language rooted in reality and authenticity in order to critically examine postwar life. Much consideration has been given to Italian film, but little attention has been directed to still photography from the same period, though both filmmakers and photographers shared similar aims and aesthetic inclinations. Pressing social worries, including immense poverty and decimated social and economic infrastructures, informed their subject matter.

The photographs in this installation, arranged thematically, illuminate these concerns. Breaking with prewar conventions and conservative artistic traditions, photographers left their studios and took to the streets to capture both the humor and struggle of daily life. In addition to cityscapes populated with portraits and activities of ordinary citizens, postwar photo- graphers also captured the formal beauty of everyday objects and the Italian countryside. A common theme was the hope of a country buoyed by a budding return to industry and commerce. Through a fusion of humanism and artistry, unburdened by sentimentality and bolstered by tangible realism, these photographs offer a candid portrait of a country determined to throw off an era of fascism in order to rebuild its society and establish a uniquely modern Italian identity.

This exhibition is organized by Marshall N. Price, Nancy Hanks Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

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