Segantini in Milan: the Navigli series

Segantini in Milan: the Navigli series

exhibition curated by Niccolò D’Agati


With the entry of Nevicata (1880-1881) into the collections of the Giovanni Segantini Civic Gallery in Arco we aim to present the painting to the public through an exhibition focus dedicated to the reconstruction of the series of Segantini’s paintings dedicated to the Milanese Navigli and executed between 1880 and 1881, before the artist moved to Brianza.
Segantini’s recourse to the iconographic motif of the Naviglio responds not only to his direct familiarity with the urban scene of the Naviglio di San Marco, where his studio was located, but also to a gradual return of interest in landscape views of city settings in post-unification Milan.
Since the early 1970s, artists such as Camillo Rapetti, Vespasiano Bignami and especially Mosè Bianchi have shown an unprecedented attention for the contemporary urban landscape within a dimension that overcomes the inheritance of the tradition of the animated view of romantic derivation by opening up to a more immediate restitution of city life.

The revival of these themes responded not only to a collector’s interest but also to the linguistic experimentation of the painting of the time which, in the wake of the innovations introduced by Filippo Carcano, Mosè Bianchi and Tranquillo Cremona, aimed at an intense liveliness of touch and chromatic texture increasingly focused on the restitution of luministic and chromatic effects caught on the real according to that declination that would be defined as proper to Lombard Impressionism and that would find in authors such as Emilio Gola and Leonardo Bazzaro – to mention the authors most dedicated to the Naviglio theme – points of reference.

At the time of his debut, Segantini was moving within this avant-garde context, and his painting fell within what critics called pictorial futurism, that is, a painting centered on the rendering of chromatic and light values, often based on a synthetic, materially detected brushstroke, where descriptive intent gave way to a more thoughtful investigation of light phenomena. This experimentation, in the sphere of landscape and urban views, translated into an abandonment of the scenographic settings and lenticular descriptions proper to the Romantic and post-Romantic tradition-from Giovanni Migliara to Angelo Inganni to Luigi Bisi-in favor of a painting aimed at restoring the impression of environment, “chiaroscuro” effects, and synthetic chromatic notations.
Segantini’s Navigli series responds perfectly to these characteristics, and the recurrence of this theme in his production between 1880 and 1881 is perfectly in line with what happens in the work of artists close to him, both generationally and in language, such as Emilio Gola and Leonardo Bazzaro.

It is not surprising, in this sense, that precisely in 1880, when Segantini released the Naviglio al Ponte di San Marco, the masterpiece of his youthful portraiture Il ritratto della Signora Luisa Torelli Tagliabue (Segantini Museum, St. Moritz) and elaborated the variations on the snowy Navigli, his patron and gallery owner Vittore Grubicy De Dragon figured as the owner in the Naviglio di San Marco exhibited by Leonardo Bazzaro at the annual Braidense exhibition. The Arcense painter was also presented at this exhibition with a painting, now unfortunately lost entitled El Redefoss, a view of the Naviglio at sunset also owned by Vittore Grubicy. It is not improbable, considering these elements, that it was precisely the art dealer who urged both the artists linked to him to make paintings dedicated to the Milanese waterways that responded to an appreciation of the market and better lent themselves to the extrusion of pictorial research centered on light and color. It is precisely the work recently acquired by the Galleria Civica di Arco, Nevicata, that confirms this connection: the painting was in fact first exhibited in the spring of 1881 in the halls of the Grubicy Gallery on the occasion of the artist’s first solo exhibition.

In order to offer visitors a useful path to reconstruct the Segantini series dedicated to the Navigli and the context within which this pictorial research developed, the exhibition-dossier intends to present the five works of the Arcense painter which most allow us to appreciate the linguistic specificities and the high level of experimentation of Segantini’s painting at that time: il Naviglio al ponte di San Marco (1880; private coll. private), Ritratto della Signora Torelli (1880; Segantini Museum, St. Moritz), Naviglio sotto la neve (1881; private coll.), Naviglio di San Marco (1881; Civica Galleria G. Segantini, Arco) and Giovane donna in Via San Marco (1880-1881; private coll.). These works, where urban landscape views marked by the modern tranche-de-vie taste are juxtaposed with portrait variations, will be placed close to illustrative and documentary materials that will offer visitors a historical and geographical contextualization of the Milanese Navigli in relation to the exhibited works.


Segantini Museum St. Moritz
Fondazione Otto Fischbacher – Giovanni Segantini Stiftung, St. Moritz
MART – Museo di Arte Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto
Cassa Rurale Alto Garda – Rovereto

Galleria Bottegantica, Milano
Quadreria dell’800, Milano
Enrico Arte, Alassio SV
Gallerie Maspes, Milano
Archivio Pompeo Mariani, Milano

Collezionisti privati