Giacomo Balla, master of light, on show

Pre-futuristic works painted at the Roman garden

(ANSA) - Rome, November 29 - An exhibition of works by Italian painter Giacomo Balla, a master in finding the truth in nature through light and shadow, will go on display at the Bilotti Museum in Rome's Villa Borghese, where the artist created the paintings on display.
    Balla, who was born in Turin in 1871, came to Rome in 1895.
    In 1904 he moved with his wife Elisa to a home whose balcony faced the park, giving him a unique perspective for his work.
    He and his family lived there until being evicted in 1929.
    At the time, the location was considered to be on the outskirts of the city, and it was there that Balla developed a series of extraordinary figurative works through 1911, when he became one of the leading figures in the Futurism movement.
    The relationship between the artist and the Roman park is at the heart of the exhibition opening February 17, curated by art historian Elena Gigli, who has long been involved in cataloging Balla's work.
    "Villa Borghese, for Balla, was what Montagne Sainte-Victoire represented for Paul Cezanne," Gigli said, recalling a concept expressed 20 years ago by art critic Maurizio Fagiolo in presenting a retrospective of the artist in Padua that examined the same pre-Futurism time period.
    In fact, this Balla anthology of 37 works is a sort of tribute to Fagiolo, with whom Gigli worked for more than a decade.
    Prior to WWI, Balla worked mainly on paper, using a technique with pastels and a pocketknife, Gigli said.
    "He builds and scratches at the chromatic pictorial material leading to the luminous and naturalistic construction of the entire composition," she said. She said that Balla's study of light and movement began with the first portrait on display, from 1895, up through his last, in 1953.
    "He was struck by the automobile and its movement, which led to abstract speed, but we also find movement and light in the pastels and knife strokes in the scenes of Villa Borghese on display here," Gigli said.
    Also being shown as part of the exhibition is the Jack Clemente film "Balla and Futurism", which features the artist's daughters Elica and Luce and won the Golden Lion for art documentaries at the 1972 Venice Film Festival.