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Art, History & Politics

Monuments Without Heroes

Medardo Rosso and the Contemporary Origins of Modern Sculpture

November 5, 2019
7:00 pm

A lecture by
Sharon Hecker, art historian

Two decades after unification, Italy was characterized by uncertain nationalism and ambivalent internationalism. The generation that grew up in the aftermath of the Risorgimento was filled with hopes followed by disillusionment. The death of Risorgimento hero Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1882 intensified feelings of anxiety about Italy’s future, which were compensated by an unusually large number of highly conventional monuments to the hero erected throughout Italy. Only one young, internationally-minded sculptor, Medardo Rosso (1858-1928), saw through the hollow official rhetoric by rejecting the tradition of heroic mythmaking in sculpture. This talk sheds light on unexplored aspects of Rosso’s early political experience and his “counter-monuments”, which intended to revolutionize the concept of the monument in modern times. His far-reaching ideas would only come to fruition a century later, finding sequelae in contemporary art.

Sharon Hecker is an art historian who specializes in modern and contemporary Italian art. She is a leading international authority on Medardo Rosso, and has written on other key twentieth-century Italian artists such as Lucio Fontana and Luciano Fabro.