Claiming unfelt affiliation, loosing one’s own truth running after successful clichés, dazed by comfortable excitement in the attempt to reach easy success at any cost. Guido Cadorin (1892-1976), one of the most elegant and original Venetian painters of the nineteenth century managed to escape with no trouble from these worldly traps. Twenty years have passed since the anthological exhibition organized by Correr museum, Querini Stampalia Foundation commissioned Giuseppina Dal Canton the design of a new exhibition illustrating Guido Cadorin’s artistic career.
Guido is the artist son of an artist father, born into a family of sculptors and woodcarvers originally from Cadore. Once arrived in Venice the Cadorin became one of the best renowned artists’ family of the Serenissima. Guido grew up in a Palace in Fondamenta Briati, behind Zattere, close to Campo dei Carmini, the house is the source of interesting encounters and motivation (the friendship with young Modigliani living in Venice for a while dates back to his teenage years) together with luxurious plants and wild cats. His father Vincenzo, queen Margherita’s favorite sculptor, understands Guido’s precocious talent in drawing and sends him to ‘Scuola libera del nudo” ran by spiritualist Cesare Laurenti in 1907. Guido is extremely young, passionate and exceptionally talented. His first self-portrait, a charcoal drawing, is revealed as such by his signature: Guidus Cadorenus. Another self-portrait realized in 1970 shows incredible volumetric compactness and skillful invention.
The artist worked for sixty years continuously, not only as a painter but in many different art fields receiving through the years many prestigious assignments: Villa Zadra, the décor for Papadopoli’s Villa realized in collaboration with the architect Brenno Del Giudice (who will eventually marry Guido’s sister Tullia) is extremely elegant; when he has just turned thirty he receives an order by the “Sommo Poeta”, Gabriele D’Annunzio, to realize the project of the “stanza dei sonni puri” (pure sleep room) at the Vittoriale: he orchestrates a multitude of winged figures on the ceiling, designs painted silks, exquisite furniture, chandeliers. Cadorin’s is faithful to his style and doesn’t surrender to the convulsive vogue of the time. He will also refuse Marinetti’s proposal to join the Futurist group, writing about it a long time later in his journal: ‘(…)I’m a spiritualist and an uncorrupted vegetarian, I feel outraged and after reading their books I just want to burn them and never reply’. Guido goes across the century as a medianic figure, understanding the signs of changing styles and new languages, he always manages in including them in his own personal ways of expression.
He’s so much in the midst of his time to be able to interpret it personally and to go beyond it, this capacity makes him extremely contemporary. Among the paintings presented at Querini Stampalia Foundation the family portraits are extraordinary and vibrant, they’re often dedicated to ‘his dear mother’ surrounded by a delicate and ironic aura an orchid thin stalk peeps out from her shoulder. A year after he almost realizes his poetic manifesto, the portrait of Livia, one of his student at the Art Academy that will then become his wife, the painting is called ‘L’idolo’.
In the portrait ‘Livia incinta di Paolo’ she’s represented wearing a smiling and surrendered expression sketched through light pencil marks, almost invisible. Another painting portrays his sister Ginevra with her auburn and dense hair outlined on the background of crushed plastering. We can also admire the red cascade of Tullia’s hair while we see her half-face, seated: never-ending wave. Still his sister Tullia, many years later, is portrayed when already married with Del Giudice, her strong forearm crossed by protruding veins, or we can see the beautiful and moving portrait of his son Paolo realized in the Forties. The exhibition also displays some delightful views of Venice, as the one realized on cardboard, a fast beat of gray wavy roofing tiles, you feel as you could touch the mountains in the distance.
And then more ‘soul portraits’: Alice Levi, ‘Alix’, one of Guido’s best friend, is wearing a kimono with her head bent, curled up and distant. Between the master pieces displayed the famous triptych dating 1914 ‘ I did it myself with a naïve proposal of conversion’ we can read in his ‘Notes for a biography’; the paintings have an adventurous history and bear a strong meaning starting from the title ‘Carne carne, sempre carne’ (Flesh flesh, always flesh). ‘Il canale’ (1921) full of mysterious realism: in the enchanting reflections and the enchanting point of view.
Simply pure magic is created by the sequence of the Lagune (1921) that Cadorin will continue until his death developing them into captivating textures. Wide water spaces in a slow changing light. Meditation and modulation. They manage to sweep away with a few absolute marks the late romantic chromatic range characterizing so much of the previous Venetian art, and most of the following attempts that won’t manage to reach Cadorin’s expressive heights.