The State Hermitage Museum, Russia
Traditionally, up to a certain time the Western art identified itself by the relation or opposition of the art systems which were being formed inside it with imaginative models of classic eras. The situation changed in the early 20th century, when the Europeans discovered a layer of cultural formations that had previously seemed primitive, frozen in their archaic forms, and in terms of advanced civilised Europe pertained only to the people who stayed at the primitive level of development. The way to integrate foreign aesthetics in the European consciousness was pushed by anthropologists and ethnographists. But in order that the samples that had previously been considered only as artefacts, serving for practical purposes, “acquire citizenship”, it was necessary to convince the public consciousness that these samples represented aesthetic values, had the beauty and image-bearing expressiveness. A crucial role in solving this problem was to be played by avant-garde artists. French artists were the first to see attributes that were consistent with the emerging features of the new art in the so-called primitive forms. At that time, when French avant-garde artists began to explore the aesthetics of traditional and primitive forming, the Italian art still continued to feed on the ideas of Secession and use figurative stylistics of ottocento. The Italians came to the development of the “African style” later and indirectly — through the experience of French artists. C. Carra got infected with the virus of Negrophilia from his Parisian friends. He agrees that an image-bearing system, which should not only be recognized, but also adopted, can be found in a foreign material. M. Campigli also showed interest in traditional cultures. While approving of elements of the new aesthetics, the Italians, closely related to the national tradition, yet often returned to the native Mediterranean art formations. Thus, Carra tried to connect the style of l’art negre and harmony of the Italian primitive, and Campigli drew inspiration from samples of the Minoan culture. For Italian artists both monuments of the Dark Continent and samples of native art formations were rather a catalyst for emergence of a new style than a plastic model for it.