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Under Mussolini: decorative and propaganda arts of the Twenties and Thirties from the Wolfson Collection, Genoa

Estorick Collection

Fascist Italy, like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, imposed strict censorship laws on artists, designers, writers, and journalists while simultaneously promoting the work of those who toed the party line. While some were marginalised by these dictatorial regimes, others prospered, and not just because they opportunistically embraced ideas imposed from above. The key to the success of Fascist propaganda is the extent to which painters, sculptors, photographers, designers and ceramicists alike were persuaded by the official State rhetoric. Many, like the Futurist group of artists, prospered in Mussolini’s Italy, often contributing enthusiastically to the Fascist cause by designing propaganda posters, several of which are on view in this show (2 October-22 December). The exhibition tells the story of the decorative arts under the Fascists and aims to demonstrate how the lofty ideals of progress, patriotism, work, physical strength, and a greater Italy expanded through colonial conquests reverberated through the fine arts down to objects designed for domestic use. The objects on view include a set of four painted ceramic tiles of 1931-32 (below) by Corrado Cagli and Dante Baldelli entitled “Believe, Obey, Fight” ; “XXVIII October”, a reference to Mussolini’s March on Rome of 1922; “In Silence and firm discipline” and “Combattimento”. The works, which are drawn from the Wolfson Collection in Genoa, occupy the entire exhibition space of the Estorick, the permanent collection of which is on loan to the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa until January 2003.