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Gino Severini in Switzerland: mural paintings and catholic art revival of the groupe de Saint-Luc

English title Gino Severini in Switzerland: mural paintings and catholic art revival of the groupe de Saint-Luc
Applicant Piqué Francesca
Number 179364
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Institute of Materials and Constructions
Institution of higher education University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland - SUPSI
Main discipline Arts
Start/End 01.08.2018 - 31.07.2023
Approved amount 824'589.00
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All Disciplines (7)

Organic Chemistry
Inorganic Chemistry
Architecture and Social urban science
Material Sciences
Visual arts and Art history
Swiss history

Keywords (7)

mural paintings; painting technique ; Gino Severini; Groupe de Saint-Luc; Romand Switzerland; modern art; catholic art

Lay Summary (Italian)

Between 1924 and 1947, the internationally renowned Italian painter Gino Severini decorated five churches in Switzerland during his collaboration with the Groupe de Saint-Luc. The objective of this research project is to conduct a technical study of these paintings to identifying the material used and the technique adopted. Information from archival research and on new paintings materials available at the time will be integrated in the interpretation of the results.
Lay summary

Tra gli anni 20 e 40 del novecento, il Groupe de Saint-Luc ha progettato, costruito e decorato oltre 100 chiese nelle diocesi di Losanna, Ginevra e Friburgo con lo scopo specifico di comunicare la spiritualità cristiana in uno stile nuovo, diretto e moderno. Le attività del gruppo raggiunsero un'importanza internazionale con l'arrivo da Parigi di Gino Severini, un pittore italiano in contatto con i principali artisti dell'avanguardia europea. Nell’arco di una ventina di anni, Severini ha decorato cinque chiese utilizzando un linguaggio artistico basato sull'arte paleocristiana e medievale. Nel contesto del revival murale internazionale coevo, Severini ha sviluppato uno stile di grande originalità, recuperando la tecnica per dipingere a fresco su muro, ma nel contempo rimanendo aperto a sperimentazioni con nuovi materiali pitturorici messi a disposizione dall'industria del tempo.

Nonostante l'alta rilevanza del contesto storico artistico e la fama dell'artista, pochi studi sono stati dedicati alla produzione di Gino Severini in Svizzera e al suo ruolo e influenza sul movimento Saint-Luc. Attraverso un approccio interdisciplinare, il team del progetto, composto da storici dell'arte, conservatori-restauratori, scienziati ed architetti, studierà i murali religiosi svizzeri di Severini indagando i materiali e la tecnica della pittura e cercando di collegare le scelte tecniche dell’artista con le informazioni di archivio e la disponibilità di nuovi materiali per dipingere. Questa ricerca intende colmare un'importante lacuna di conoscenza su un particolare momento della storia dell'arte e della cultura svizzere, nonché sulla figura di Severini stesso, un artista di fama internazionale i cui dipinti murali religiosi svizzeri sono a malapena noti. Le informazioni raccolte saranno presentate e discusse in un seminario alla fine del progetto.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 26.07.2018

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Project partner


1. Summary of the research planIn the Romand part of Switzerland, from the 1920s to the 1940s, over one hundred churches were built and decorated with great care in a new and modern style aimed at clearly communicating religious content in every decorative and architectural detail. These churches are the result of a specific cultural turn that took concrete form in Switzerland thanks to the artists of the Groupe de Saint-Luc. This movement was born and raised in the Catholic dioceses of Lausanne, Fribourg and Geneva, with roots in the long-lasting debate on the modern revival of religious art, flanked by the philosophical current of neo-Thomism of Jacques Maritain. The Groupe de Saint-Luc was founded in 1919 by the charismatic painter Alexandre Cingria who wasthe intellectual pivot of the group. The following year the architect Fernand Dumas also joined the group and acted as fervent designer and coordinator of the activities of the many artists involved. With the arrival of Gino Severini from Paris and the completion of his first works, the efforts of the group emerged from the provincial milieu and obtained international resonance, driving the attention of European critics. Between 1924 and 1947, Severini decorated only five churches with wall paintings. Nevertheless his style, developed in contact with the greatest artists of the early 1900s in the context of Italian Futurism and French Cubism, and the craftsmanship of his painting technique represented an important reference point for the artists of the time. As a result, in Romand Switzerland the walls of the churches built or renovated by the Groupe de Saint-Luc became the privileged experimentation field for a new pictorial language rooted on early Christian and medieval art, but also open to coeval influences and to a modern and more communicable style, able to reach the spirit of the people. In terms of technical procedures, and in the context of the international mural revival, the artists were in search of a balance between tradition and modernity, which was achieved with an original technique aimed at the reproposal of the a fresco procedure, but open to experimentation with newly formulated synthetic materials made available by the coeval industry and market. In spite of the high relevance of the art historical context and the artist’s fame, very few studies have been dedicated to Severini’s production in Switzerland and to his role and influence on the Saint-Luc movement. Direct study of these works and their painting technique have been neglected. However, these studies would be important to highlight and document the connection between new kinds of artistic expression and the conscious choice of innovative painting media and methods. In the delicate period of passage between the rise of the early avant-gardes and the return to classicism, artistic technique becomes an important key of interpretation through which fully understand the expressive choices of the artists and the development of the related artistic poetics. Through an interdisciplinary approach, the proposed project aims at studying the religious monumental paintings executed by Gino Severini during his collaboration with the Groupe de Saint-Luc in Switzerland, investigating the connections between the artist’s technical choices, the primary sources and the availability of new painting materials and methods. This research is intended to fill a serious gap of knowledge on a particular moment in the history of Swiss art and culture, as well as on the figure of Severini himself, an internationally renowned artist whose Swiss religious mural paintings remain barely known today.