Bologna in the 1930s was a city revelling in its modernity and empowered by its central position in commerce and transport and its solid agricultural and industrial economy, well-placed to be a shining example, with Italy’s fascist government, of a hard-working and industrious region. It was against this backdrop that, in May 1931, five young artists and writers from Bologna met to found a new journal for literature and art, which they called “L’Orto”, to propound the values of rural Italy and the traditions so beloved by those in power. This studied approach was reflected in the intentionally modest and unassuming title chosen to set the journal apart from other contemporary publications with their high-sounding vitality and exaltation of the modern.
The exhibition “L’Orto – Journal of Literature and Art. A cultural adventure through Bologna in the 1930s, at the Library of Art and History San Giorgio in Poggiale, is promoted by Genus Bononiae. Museums in the City and Fondazione Carisbo and is curated by Benedetta Basevi, Mirko Nottoli and Daniela Schiavina, under the coordination and overview of Pierangelo Bellettini, Director of San Giorgio in Poggiale.
The exhibition retraces the history of the magazine, which was published between 1931 and 1939, through 40 plus original documents purchased by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in 2004 together with issues, magazine covers and illustrations by several prominent artists, including Filippo De Pisis, Ottone Rosai and Nino Bertocchi.
The magazine went through a rather up and down history. It was funded by two brothers, Giorgio and Otello Vecchietti, the artists Nino Corrado Corazza and Gianni Poggeschi and the writer and journalist Giannino Marescalchi. The journal attracted many high calibre contributors, including the poets Umberto Saba and Mario Luzi, journalists Corrado Pavolini and Giuseppe Dessì, and critics and intellectuals Carlo Bo and Giuseppe Marchiori.
Luigi Bartolini was a regular contributor. His novel “Ladri di biciclette” was turned into a masterpiece of neo-realism, “Bicycle Thieves”, with screenplay by Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio De Sica.
The exhibition covers four periods in the magazine’s history, corresponding to its four publishers. Initially, from May 1931 to April 1932, the journal was printed in Bologna by Edizioni dell’Orto. This was followed by an interlude in Venice, from October 1932 to April 1933 with Giuseppe Marchiori’s Edizioni Nord-Est, after which the journal returned to Bologna, where it was published by Edizioni Lombardini until April 1936, and then, in its final stage, by Edizioni Felice Le Monnier of Florence, from April 1937 to December 1939.
These four periods reflect different core themes, which included articles on rural life, in praise of maternity, on rationalist architecture and the art of Ottone Rosai and Filippo de Pisis, with his “boys”, portraits of ephebic male figures, a true obsession of this Ferrara-born artist.
Despite their lip-service to the fascist government, the magazine was always cautious and often intolerant towards fascist rhetoric and was known for its eclecticism and refusal to be defined by labels or programmes.
San Giorgio in Poggiale
via Nazario Sauro 20/2, Bologna