THE UNIONE FIORENTINA
The Unione Fiorentina, sensitive since the beginning to the authentic values of our civilization, has for many years brought Florence to the forefront of international art and culture.
The first forty years
Right after the end of World War II, the founder Enrico Barfucci felt the need to unite all the energies capable of working together for the rebirth of Florence. In 1945 he founded the Incontro (“meeting”) association, which his old friends (Papini, Bargellini) joined, for the purpose of bringing together for conversation people from all walks of life, from intellectuals to manual workers, creating occasions for gathering and exchanging ideas about the problems facing the city.
Incontro ran its course in 1946 and 1947, and in 1949 Barfucci proposed to transform Incontro into a new cultural association called the Unione Fiorentina. Among its promoters were outstanding figures in culture and art, including (to name just a few) Francesco Adorno, Piero Bargellini, Alessandro Bonsanti, Emilio Cecchi, Bruno Cicognani, Primo Conti, Enzo Faraoni, Arturo Loria, Aldo Palazzeschi, Giovanni Poggi, Vasco Pratolini, Ottone Rosai, Giovanni Spadolini, Enrico and Piero Vallecchi, etc.
From the beginning the Unione Fiorentina divided its activities along different lines by creating committees.
The Free Chair (Libera Cattedra) was the distinctive element of the history of the Unione because it was the expression of the spirit of liberality that was so tenaciously sustained by the association’s founders and those who joined later, which enabled men on opposing sides, of different political persuasions, Catholics and non-Catholics, to come together following the criterion of discussion and exchange of views about topics of great importance and requiring great commitment, looking towards a European, or rather universal, Florence that rejected unhelpful conflicts and destructive attitudes. Inaugurated in 1950, the Free Chair (held first by Carlo Pellegrini and subsequently by Piero Bigongiari, Mario Luzim and Oresti Macri) offered annual lecture series on multiple aspects of Florentine civilization, from ancient times up to our own day. The last lecture series ended in 1990.
Just some of the many lectures and illustrious lecturers were:
· “The Language of Petrarch,” Gianfranco Contini
· “Marsilio Ficino,” Eugenio Garin
· “The Poetics of Il Magnifico,” Arturo Loria
· “Business and Culture in Florence in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries,” Yves Renouard
· “Humanism,” Paolo Lamanna
· “Politian,” Carlo Emilio Gadda
· “Alberti and the Universal Man,” Harold Acton
· “Brunelleschi,” Giovanni Michelucci
· “Dante,” Giuseppe Ungaretti
· “The Florentine Spirit in Contemporary Architecture,” Le Corbusier
· “Masaccio,” De Chirico
· “Bernesque Poetry,” Curzio Malaparte
· “Vasari the Writer,” Alessandro Bonsanti
· “Cellini the Man,” Piero Calamandrei
· “Machiavelli,” Federico Chabod
· “Bettino Ricasoli,” Giovanni Spadolini
· “Papini and the Magazines from Leonardo to Lacerba,” Carlo Bo
· “Critics and Essayists,” Guido Piovene
· “Lessons on Dante’s Youth,” Francesco Mazzoni
In an attempt to “re-establish a lost contact and to revive the fallen fate of art,” the Unione Fiorentina instituted the Fiorino Prize, a review-competition of contemporary painting whose meaningful name alluded to the ancient monetary unit of Florence. The first National Fiorino Prize Exhibition was held in the Galleria dell’Accademia from 18 May to 18 June 1950. Among the most important participants were Conti, Casorati, Brindisi, Gentiloni, and Savinio. After the great success of this show, it became an annual event until 1968 and biannual after that, alternating with the Exhibition of Graphic Art until its final edition in 1977.
Formed under the aegis of the City of Florence and with the support of Mayor Giorgio La Pira and Culture Commissioner Piero Bargellini, every year it celebrates “International Days” in tribute to the illustrious foreigners who have stayed and worked in Florence.
The Annual is solemnly celebrated the third Sunday in May with lectures and events during which a gold medal is awarded to a leading Dante scholar (among those recognized in the past were Natalino Sapegno and T.S. Eliot).
In 1965, on the occasion of the VIIth centenary of Dante’s birth, the complex on Via Santa Margherita, at the time used as offices by the city administration, was returned to its proper function and handed over by the City of Florence to the Unione Fiorentina, which set up the Museum of Dante’s House in the space.
In the presence of the mayor of Florence, Luciano Bausi, the first edition of the International Biennial Graphics Show was opened in Palazzo Strozzi; its last edition was in 1978. The Graphics Biennial was divided into two big sections: one devoted to historical exhibitions and the other to contemporary work.
The historical section opened with the fathers of Italian engraving (Antonio del Pollaiolo for copperplate engraving and Ugo da Carpi for woodcuts) and continued with a broad anthology of works by Fattori, Morandi, Viviani, Bartolini, Soffici, Rosai, Viani, Maccari, De Witt, Lega, and Carrà.
Foreign artists were also well represented with pieces by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Villon, and others.
The contemporary section included participants from 39 countries and 50 Italian artists, among them Grazzini, Terreni, Zetti, Lotti, Fallani and Tommasi.
An inaugural lecture by Carlo Bo opened the series of conferences and events entitled “History of a City; Florence between Two Wars,” which presented lectures, debates and shows on the manifold aspects of Florentine life and culture in that period, from classical to popular music, theater, poetry and literature.
Closing the series, a big painting exhibition held in Palazzo Strozzi from 27 April to 27 May 1990 offered a vast panorama of artists who worked in Florence between the two wars. Alongside more famous and well-studied names like Soffici, Rosai, Conti, Annigoni and Chini were rediscoveries like Achille Lega and Antony De Witt or real surprises like Gino Carlo Sensani and Giuseppe Piombanti Ammannati, as well as all the other artists gifted with great talent who made an essential contribution to the figurative language of that historical period.
Bibliografy: Storia di una città. Firenze e l’Unione Fiorentina by Gabriella Gentilini, Florence, Italy, SP 44, 1992