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Massimo Campigli

A modern “European” artist and well-educated in ancient civilisations and ancient languages, Massimo Campigli was one of the most important and influential Italian artists of the 20th century.

It was said that his painting had “such an ancient style that it seemed incredibly modern”.

His European education began right from a very young age thanks to his complex family circumstances: after being born in Germany, he immediately moved to Tuscany and, after just a few years, towards the end of the first decade, he went to Milan, where he came into contact with the Futurist movement.

After his long and troubled wartime experience, he first began to learn more about the arts through letters, writing and journalism. In 1919, Italy’s “Corriere della Sera” newspaper sent him as a correspondent to Paris, to Montparnasse to be precise – a historical artistic district with plenty of open-air cafés. This was the turning point that definitively led him to become a painter.

After the Great War and the reckless experience of the avant-gardes, the climate was one of “returning to order”, a return to figuration and a recovery of the classic style. The artist made a name for himself in a very short amount of time, becoming a member of the “Novecento italiano” (“Italian 20th century”) group and the “Italiens de Paris” group.

In 1937, as part of the vast project to renovate and decorate the various seats of the University of Padova, launched under the chancellor Carlo Anti, a competition was held to decorate the atrium of Palazzo Liviano, the new headquarters of the Literature Department, a piece of work by the great architect from Milan, Gio Ponti. Campigli won this competition, beating other famous artists who had entered, and went on to decorate the atrium with an impressive fresco. Alongside the work celebrating the Paduan historian Titus Livius Patavinus (and not of the “Roman age”, as was so dear to the regime), “Archaeology” plays the leading role, a source of knowledge and a symbol of continuity between the ancient and modern worlds. This fresco depicts the University’s founding values: research, archaeological exploration, study and teaching. A style that reflects love for the ancient world, the Etruscan world, simple shapes and the typical archetypes of his painting.