Liberty refers to a vast artistic movement, from the end of the 19th
century to the beginning of the 20th, influenced architecture and the
arts and krafts.
In France it was known as “Art Nouveau “, in Germany”Jugendstil”,
in Austria as”Secessione”, in Spain “Modernismo”, whilst in Great
Britain it was called ”Modernism”or " Modern Art ".
In Italy it was originally called “Floreale”, but it changed to the better
known “Liberty”, after the name of a shop in London owned by an english
dealer of oriental goods, called Arthur Lasenby Liberty.
Liberty style was born out of a refusal of the old architectural styles of the
past, that in those years were the basis of design of forms and structures.
Liberty, instead, sought inspiration in nature and plant forms, creating a
new style, totally original in comparison to others then in vogue.
Originally started in Belgium, thanks to an architect called Victor Horta,
Liberty soon spread throughout Europe, becoming the new fashion for the
rising middle classes.
By using new industrial production techniques, and also new materials,
such as iron,glass and cement, Liberty created "industrial design”.
The major centres of this 20th Century/Style 900 were:Turin,Palermo,
Florence, Lucca, Viareggio, Milan, Rome and Emilia Romagna.
The modern current moved towards a direction of style which led to
Art Nouveau according to the criteria already established in other European
countries, and towards a technical direction originating from the new
industrial developments and new structural techniques, above all in
The movement became accepted in this country after the 1902 Turin
The main promoters of this new style all belonged to the same circle of
architects in that city, Leonardo Bistolfi, sculptor, Raimondo D’ Aronco,
architect and the writer Enrico Thovez.
For the first time, since the imperial style, an artistic movement showed
creative quality free of the previous language soaked in provincialism.
The Milanese, Carlo Bugatti, excelled in the field of interior design, his
creations recalling the Mori culture. Eugenio Quarti, Carlo Zen, last but
not least, the architect, Ernesto Basile.
Amongst other architects, noted names to remember are:
again Ernesto Basile, active in Palermo and Rome.
Raimondo D’Aronco, with his works in Turin and Udine.
Pietro Fenoglio in Turin and Piedmont, where also Antonio Vandone, Alfredo
Premoli and Giovanni Gribodo worked. Annibale Rigotti, Pietro Betta, Vittorio
Ballatore di Rosana, Gottardo Gussoni, Velati- Bellini; Giuseppe Sommaruga
in Milana as Alfredo Campanili, G B Bossi, Luigi Broggi, Giovanni Michelazzi
in Florence and on the Tuscan coast, as with the architect Belluomini.
The path of the artistic movement of this Liberty period was intended
to dispel a common idea, born from the climate caused by widespread
complaints of Italian intellectuals, that Liberty was very slow in taking
a hold in Italy.
While, in part true, the argument does not give merit to the innovative and
profound contributions of some Italian personalities, who also participated
in the European aesthetic debate.
They sprang up in painting, sculptor, applied arts, and in all objects of everyday life:
floral motifs, delicate wood grains, plant life, tendrils, mouldings.At the same time,
in an atmosphere of spring flowers, art became populated with animals, small
and helpless, insects and little shellfish, unusual and coy.These subjects were
always represented with curving lines, supple shapes coming from the preraphaelite
movement in the 19th century.
With this renewal of taste and form, the positive philosophy movement participated
in a very decisive manner, and with its belief in reason, to lead new studios in
science and nature with which man dominates, or believes to dominate the natural
world. This cultural framework, which seems to have had a base for all Europe,
included Italian authors belonging to the Pointillism movement.
Pointillism, derived from Symbolism, was an art tendency developed in Italy
between 1885 and 1915.The pointillism painters adopted a process very similar
to that of the French impressionism. They broke up the colour with a systematic
separation of the primary colours. What distinguished them from the neo
impressionists was that, instead of using the dot as a starter, they used a much
longer and threadlike brushstroke. The result was pictures with a diffused and
unnatural light, where figures lost mass and consistency to merge into one indistinctive
Gaetano Previati and Giovanni Segantini, already in the 1880’s demonstrated
the development of the new aesthetic taste.
By the 90’s the Liberty taste spread among Italian artists such as Boldini, Casorati,
Galileo Chini published illustrations in a pure Art Nuoveau style and with him many
other artists of the symbolic mould, Tuscan and Ligurian pointillists , such as Plinio
Nomellini, Giorgio Kierniek, Benvento Benvenuti, Guiseppe Cominetti, and who
were soon followed by exponents of futurism such as Boccioni and Balla.