Reclaiming 20th century art

Spotlight on expat artists

Jane Fortune
April 3, 2014

In the early 1900s, Tuscany was a magnet for Italy-loving expats. Many frequented the literary circles of Florence, among them Vernon Lee, Gertrude Stein, Bernard Berenson and Iris Origo; others created art, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Maurice Denis and Carlo B?cklin. Some stayed briefly or made frequent returns, while others made their homes here, like French-born Nabis painter Elisabeth Chaplin and Lola Costa, the English painter and wife of a more well-known Tuscan artist, Federigo Angeli. Chaplin and Costa, who visited each other at their neighboring villas?Chaplin?s Il Treppiede and Costa?s Il Palmerino?are the first subjects of Woman Painters of the 1900s, a series of exhibits, lectures, seminars and workshops organized by the Associazione Culturale Villa Il Palmerino, the Advancing Women Artists Foundation, the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and the Modern Art Gallery at Palazzo Pitti, and sponsored by the U.S. Consulate in Florence.


The series, running from April 28 to May 18, is a prelude to the opening of the Museum of the 1900s (Museo del Novecento) in Santa Maria Novella?s renovated Leopoldine complex, and it provides a window on the lives and work of creative women in Tuscany, particularly during decades overshadowed by the two world wars.


On April 28, the exhibit Private Mythologies will open at Villa Il Palmerino. Curated by Giovanna Giusti, of the Uffizi, and Marilena Mosco, former director at Palazzo Pitti?s Silver Museum, it will feature never-before exhibited paintings by Chaplin and Costa, whose lives and artistic journeys invite comparative appreciation and study. The exhibit will include variations of Chaplin?s Soldier Brother (1916) and her more famous Boys on the Arno (c. 1936), which can be seen at Pitti?s Modern Art Gallery. The exhibition catalogue, Elisabeth Chaplin and Lola Costa: Rediscovering Expat Women Painters in Tuscany, will be presented at the opening.


Chaplin donated the whole of her oeuvre to the Modern Art Gallery, and more than 630 of her works, including oils, watercolors and drawings, remain in storage there. It is fitting, therefore, that one of her most important works will return to the spotlight: on April 29 at 5.30pm, the Modern Art Gallery will hold a public presentation of Chaplin?s Three Sisters, an interior family scene depicting a young Elisabeth Chaplin flanked by her two sisters. Salvaged from Palazzo Pitti?s deposits, this prize-winning painting was recently restored by the Advancing Women Artists Foundation.


May events at Il Palmerino include: May 7, seminar and roundtable discussion ?Notable Women: Artists, Photographers and Creators,? with Martha Ladly, guest scholar; on May 10, 10am to 4pm, ?Private Mythologies Mobile Storytelling Walk and Workshop?, in which you will learn how to use digital tools to connect stories to places. For a complete schedule of Woman Painters of the 1900s, including directions to Villa Il Palmerino, go to



April 29, 5.30pm: Public presentation of Three Sisters

RSVP required, e-mail

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