n African Journal of Rhetoric - The Fourth Estate - the politics of art in 19th century Italy

Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1998-2054


Despite the prevalence in art of modernist philosophy which, in many cases, still holds that the picture IS the text, post-modernist thought recognises that no object is free of its context, and that therefore art can provide important markers as to social conditions current in its time. In this paper I take the work of Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, most particularly a sequence of three conjoined works, , and , and show how its texts and silences act as a direct mirror to events in the Italian Socialist movement of the late 19th century.

Modernist thought in both Art and Architecture holds that an object, thought or statement can exist in isolation of its context, and its proponents argue that their work is the text. Although I personally consider such ideas to be demonstrably wrong, I do not wish to enter here into a debate regarding their validity. Rather I would like to demonstrate that art is not only a passive reflection of its originating society, but can also act in a proactive manner to shape public thought and actions.

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