(From Arturo Toscanin's collection: Giovanni Boldini's "Child’s Face", 1860. With certain, um, Boldini embellishments.)
Before Opera Chic departed this weekend for Massachusetts to spend time with more of her lovely family, the Muti concerto at Lincoln Center allowed a nice opportunity to scope the Toscanini exhibition currently showing at Avery Fisher Hall.
It has been named “Maestro's Secret Music: The Artwork Collected by Arturo Toscanini” (La Musica Segreta Del Maestro: La Collezione d'Arte di Arturo Toscanini). Ewww. The exhibition sounds like it was cribbed from a Hallmark movie about a high school conductor who teaches a deaf student how to play the violin or something.
It is curated by Renato Miracco, who chose the works to represent Toscanini’s "versatility and vibrant receptivity to modernity,” as a majority of the oil work are representative of 19th century avant-garde.
The second goal of Miracco was to highlight the conductor's multifaceted embrace of culture, which was reflected in his collected artwork, and hidden from the public for a long time.
Of course, the real occasion of the exhibition is remembrance of the fiftieth anniversary of Toscanini's death (January 16, 2007). All artwork anecdotes are provided from the Maestro's late son, Walter Toscanini. However, the works are currently owned by Walfredo Toscanini, the Maestro's grandson. The artwork was last seen in New York by the public in 1972 in an exhibit called, “Nineteenth-century Italian Painting".
(Grand Promenade of Avery Fisher Hall, where the Toscanini exhibt currently resides.)
All of the artwork (oil, watercolor, pencil, bronze, and ceramic) was stationed throughout Toscanini's house in Milan on via Durini, and then brought to Villa Pauline in Riverdale, New York. Though the exhibit has roughly sixty works, Toscanini’s collection fluctuated between one hundred and two hundred pieces.
Italian artist and father of Italian Divisionism, Vittore Grubicy de Dragon (RAWR RAWR!), became Toscanini’s critical advisor and purchaser for procuring new art, and the maestro additionally collected quite a few of de Dragon's (rawr) works.
The collection boasted tons of bucolic landscapes, most of them small oil paintings. There was a reliance on Italian 19th century masters such as Umberto Boccioni, Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, and Gaetano Previati. Landscapes of Lake Maggiore was a recurrent subject in many of the paintings. Toscanini favored the Pointillist style, and early romantic artists that paved the way for impressionism (I’m looking at you Joseph Turner). There were a few works from Ashcan skoolers George Inness and Alfred East in the collection as well.
Enrico Caruso (yes *that* Enrico Caruso) made himself (and then gave to Toscanini) a "Self-Caricature as Laughing Buddha", 1909 statuette in bronze (seen above). It's really quite spectacular.
Also significant: Riccardo Pick Mangiagalli's "Painting of Cia Fornaroli Toscanini" from 1918. Toscanini's daughter-in-law was a successful ballerina, and the maestro was proud of her. Toscanini had half-a-dozen mixed media representations of Miss Cia in his collection (painting, sculpture, and sketches), with this oil painting (to the left) as the most stunning.
It is stated in all exhibition media that to view the works, the “gallery” is only open to the public on Thursday afternoons, with two viewing sessions (2:00pm and 4:00pm). But here's what I don’t understand: if you go to a nighttime event at Avery Fisher Hall, the works are hanging right there on the walls, because the exhibition is located specifically in the viewing spaces that encircle the Grand Promenade and the First Tier of the concert hall (in plain view)!
The only incentive to follow the tour is that the $20 exhibition catalog (I was told) can only be purchased via the tour guide. The catalog is in English and Italian, has pictures of all the artwork in the exhibition, and half a dozen introductions/essays by family and friends closest to the maestro.
You can call (212) 875-5930 for an appointment or email [email protected]. After the NYC tour, the next stop is in September, at the Teatro Goldoni in Livorno, Italia.