Viaggio di Notte
Alberto Sughi, Viaggio di Notte, 1955
Exhibited on the occasion of Sughi’s first solo exhibition, held in 1956 at the Il Pincio Gallery in Rome, this canvas well represents, both thematically and stylistically, the artist’s production in the second half of the fifties, when he was starting to construct what Mario De Micheli, an art critic very close to his work, was to define as his “iconography of anxiety”, underlining the artist’s inclination for anti-heroic subjects: interiors of cinemas, bars, waiting rooms, surgeries, offices, canteens, railway underpasses, depicting the unemployed, emigrants, prostitutes, and people walking alone on the city streets. From 1956 Sughi’s realism becomes more intimate, giving way to a darker and more atmospheric style, sometimes bitter – verging on the poetics of existential realism – which, in the early sixties, was to bring him closer to the expressionism of Bacon.
To summarise, in this work the iconographic model of Daumier’s third-class railway carriage – only one of his many references to nineteenth-century customs and artists, from Degas to Fattori and Toma, highlighted by De Micheli in many of the artist’s works – Sughi portrays a group of emigrants during a night-time train journey: five sleeping figures in poses that capture – together with the highly expressive depiction of their hands – their weariness, vulnerability and isolation. The choice of a range of earthy colours, mainly consisting of shades of grey, dark blue and brown, accentuates the idea of poverty, also expressed in the “meagre” brushstrokes, spreading thin veils of colour on the canvas and allowing them to overlap in only a few points (as on the white shirt of one of the passengers and the cold bluish luminescence of the train window). Parts of the figures emerge from the darkness of the compartment, illuminated by unexpected rays of bright light, following a conception of luminosity, mainly deriving from Sughi’s interest in Caravaggio’s work, which was to become a fundamental trait in his art.
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