It was planned to be published later but these gentlemen made me change my plans. Larry wrote: "In Italy while Mussolini claimed to make the trains ran on time he ruled the nation with an iron fist." And Leviathan, our new friend from Italy, said: "I also admire futurism in that it was the last form of art that Italy could genuinely produce; after that, we were only able to either retreat in the past or follow foreign threads."
Iron fist and Futurism are two sides of the medal that's called "Ventennio" (two decades). Under Mussolini, Italy was the land of victorious futurism. It's not so obvious for those who use to think that avant-garde art is always in opposition to oppressive regime. It sounds quite natural to anyone who's familiar with the history of art and the history of Fascism. Mussolini's speeches were inspired by Marinetti's manifestos. Marinetti himself was a true pillar of the Fascist regime. Younger futurists enthusiastically supported Il Duce. Fortunato Depero, Mario Sironi, Thayat, Giuseppe Terragni, Adalberto Libera, all those who are labeled "progressive" and "ahead of their times" worked for the Corporate State and not against it.
Italian Futurism had a significant influence on French, Russian and Eastern European artists. Born as an anti-commercial form of art, after WWI it began to conquer the alien territory: the advertising. Depero, whose artwork has been already featured here, is the most striking example, and he was not alone.
Of course not every Italian artist of the Fascist Era was a futurist. Marcello Dudovich who gained recognition before the Great War, retained his Belle Epoque style in the '20s, but in the next decade developed a new, more Art Deco manner:
Franz Lenhart, c. 1930:
Zoltan Tamasi, 1942 (don't be afraid, it's only a toothpaste ad):
Influential as it was, Italian art had been influenced by its neighbors, France and Germany. There was a steady influx of foreign artists: Bereny and Tamasi, featured above, were Hungarians. Some Italian artists and designers worked abroad, like Depero (in the States) or Sepo who created a number of powerful posters for French tobacco:
And don't forget that Italian companies quite often commissioned their advertising stuff from foreign artists - at least before the Abyssinian War when economic sanctions were implemented against Italy.
"Sanctions. Buy Italian!" by Walter Roveroni (1935):
I didn't want to touch propaganda issues today, but must admit that "Grain Victory" advertising campaign was an important part of State-encouraged fight for Autarky (i.e. self-sufficient national economics):
And speaking of two sides of the medal, here are two images. One shows a boy in the Balilla (Fascist youth organization) uniform, promoting a new FIAT, also called Balilla:
The other is a cover of Balilla magazine, designed with awesome elegance and wit:
Fascism could be attractive. It could be progressive, even avant-garde. It could be exciting. Especially when only few could tell where it is heading for. Something to think about, in your spare time.
In the meanwhile, see more artwork in the album (29 images, higher resolution) or enjoy the slideshow:
Find more photos like this on Dieselpunks
A Journey Around My Skull
Boston Public Library