C. Carrà - Madre e figlio
(Quargnento, Alessandria, 1881 - Milan, 1966)
Madre e figlio / Mother and Son, 1934
oil on canvas, 80.5 x 110.5 cm
signed and dated on the upper left: “C. Carrà 934-XIII”
Macerata, Museo di Palazzo Ricci, Art Collection of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio della Provincia di Macerata
Dated 1934, the painting was included in the exhibition in December of the following year at the Galleria del Milione in Milan, together with a substantial core of over forty works that punctually highlighted the artistic path of the painter from his Futurist beginnings (Donna al balcone (Simultaneità) / Woman at the Balcony (Concurrency), 1912), through the metaphysical season (Manichini / Mannequins, 1917), up to the innovative research undertaken since the Twenties (Nuotatori / Swimmers, 1932). In close relations with the more recent experiments carried out within the sphere of mural painting, instead, this vast canvas with a monumental structure and lean pictorial material, which appeared to the critics of the era, as “an attempt that seems to lead oil paints to the grandiose expressions and the luminous contrasts that are specific to the fresco” (Solmi 1935, p. 3), and which is placed a short distance away from the conclusion of the decoration of the V Triennale (1933) and from the signing of the Manifesto of Mural Painting (1933), with Mario Sironi, Massimo Campigli and Achille Funi.
Welcomed favourably by critics, Mother and Son deals with a recurrent motif of what Jean Cocteau had defined in the essay of the same name from 1917, the period of the return to order, reinterpreting the suggestions from Neoclassical painting by Picasso of the Twenties in a calibrated composition and in the steadfast volumetry of the forms. A mother captured in a moment of play together with her son, becomes here the pretext for a reflection on the relationship between the figures and space, punctuated in the strict geometrical juxtaposition of the planes that from the closed environment of the living room, through the open window, lead to the modern city, wrapped in a muffled haze. In this careful balance are arranged, scattered on the floor, the ball and the still life with jug and bowl, in addition to a coloured cane, the same already shown in Gentiluomo ubriaco / Drunken Gentleman (1916-17, private collection), which evoke the metaphysical season of the artist in a subtle play of references and citations.
The young woman, absorbed, with her gaze distant and absent, is inserted in a repertoire of female figures of classical composure and solemn monumentality that Carrà started at the end of the Twenties (Donna chi si asciuga / Woman who dries herself, 1927, Milan, Galleria d’Arte Moderna) and continues in the next decade with Estate / Summer (1930, Milan Museo del Novecento), Le figlie del pescatore / The Fisherman’s Daughters (1931, publ. in Guzzi 1994, p. 316) And Donna sulla spiaggia / Woman on the Beach (1931, Trieste, Museo Rivoltella), in a standoff with the ancient models and with the most innovative instances of contemporary art, from Puvis de Chavannes to Paul Gauguin.
Committed to “re-establishing the relationship of historical continuity and harmony between colour and shape that [his] generation has found broken at its rising” (C. Carrà, Autopresentazione, in II Quadrenniald d’Arte Nazionale, Rome 1935, p.335), the painter acts as the interpreter of a modernity founded on the antique, on tradition and, in particular, on Italian primitives to whom he had dedicated his famous writings Parlata su Giotto and Paolo Uccello costruttore (1916), reaching the highest of outcomes at this time of contemporary life charged with magic and mystery, wrapped in a suspended and timeless atmosphere, of delicate poetry.