Fascist Italy: Art, Architecture and the Everyday 1922-1943 with Jennie Hirsh - Context Travel

Fascist Italy: Art, Architecture and the Everyday 1922-1943 with Jennie Hirsh


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Focused on art, architecture, everyday objects, and even film, this seminar explores the intermingling of classical as well as modernist forms under Benito Mussolini’s totalitarian regime between 1922 and 1943. It provides an introduction to the ways in which visual culture in Fascist Italy disseminated the ideology and cultural priorities during the so-called ventennio (20-year period of Benito Mussolini’s rule).

We’ll use painting, sculpture, the built environment, posters for radio programs, domestic products, and commercial advertising to exemplify this theme. Dazzlingly beautiful, strikingly powerful, and, at times, deeply troubling, the examples explored make a case for how this nationalistic regime transmitted its principles through both high and low culture in urban centers, such as Rome and Milan, as well as Mussolini’s newly constructed and more peripheral “new towns” that popped up throughout the country.

Put otherwise, we will discuss the ways in which Fascist Italy, unlike other totalitarian regimes, self-consciously welcomed a range of aesthetic styles and trends, both classical and modern, insofar as the country sought to promote its imperial legacy as well as its futuristic capacity not only on the Italian peninsula and islands (such as Sicily and Sardinia) but also in Libya, Eritrea, and Ethiopia as well as the Dodecanese city of Rhodes in Greece. As such, we will delve into critical examples that include political monuments and decorative schemes, popular tourism, and cinema in both domestic and colonial contexts.

Led by an expert on the art, architecture, and cinema of Fascist Italy, Jennie Hirsh, this interactive seminar will illustrate how both the classical tradition and futurist forms simultaneously flourished on all levels of cultural production ranging from official state commissions to simple, everyday objects. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the lingering complexities and paradoxes of the seductive yet troubling visual culture produced under the fascist regime that remains preserved throughout Italy today.

Jennie Hirsh (PhD, Bryn Mawr College) is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She has held postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton and Columbia Universities, as well as pre-doctoral fellowships from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, the U.S. Fulbright commission, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Wolfsonian FIU. Hirsh has authored essays on artists including Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Yinka Shonibare, and Regina Silveira, and is co-editor, with Isabelle Wallace, of Contemporary Art and Classical Myth (Ashgate 2011).

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.