A wide-ranging exhibition of the work of Filippo de Pisis seen through a great collection, on show at the Villa Necchi Campigli.
Filippo De Pisis at Villa Necchi, Milan – Luigi Vittorio Fossati Bellani and his Collection
This is an exhibition about two people: the artist Filippo de Pisis, and Luigi Vittorio Bellani, an avid collector of his work. The display at Villa Necchi Campigli is a recreation of Bellani’s collection in his own apartment, drawing on archive photographs and showing how a modern collection can be hung in a traditionally elegant domestic location.
De Pisis’s early work was heavily influenced by the metaphysical ideas of artists such as de Chirico, with whom he regularly interacted. In 1925, alongside many other creative figures of the time, he moved to Paris, which he called, “the city of metaphysical excellence; it seemed as if it had been created for me”. While he was impressed by the work of Impressionists, he defined himself differently and this shows in his work. For De Pisis the object that he was trying to paint was much more important than the light that fell on it, so while Impressionists would experiment with using many colours to depict shadow, De Pisis preferred to use black, channelling the attention of the viewer to his focus. In his succession of still lifes, he plays with dimensions and positioning to create poignant works that illustrate a conflict with traditional perspective and eschew every form of classicism.
The time the artist spent in London affected his palette, and his skill with colours is one of the reasons why he is considered one of the great painters of the 20th century. This exhibition follows his work through various influences and development, thanks to Bellani’s interest in him.
Luigi Vittorio Fossati Bellani (1889-1944) was born into a well-known family of textile industrialists. After graduating in engineering in Germany, he returned to Italy and took part in the First World War. At the end of the conflict he moved to Venice and then to Florence, where he became friends with the poet and writer Marino Moretti, who was probably the person who introduced him to Filippo de Pisis. Immediately, his paintings fascinated Bellani, who became a devoted collector.
In Rome, he settled in a large apartment in Palazzo Tittoni in Via Rasella, the route of the Partisan attack on German occupation troops, which led to the Fosse Ardeatine reprisal massacre (1944). This dreadful event marked Bellani’s destiny; rounded up by the Germans, he was released, but died a few days later, on 3 April 1944, due to the trauma he had endured. The exhibition opened to the public on 3rd April 2019 exactly 75 years later.