Trying to impose a narrative on Primo Conti’s work is a little like cutting a path through a dense, overgrown forest. Born in Florence in 1900, the enfant prodige of Tuscan art was inspired throughout his life by the hills and rivers, piazze and trattorie of his home region. His paintings, though, stand square in the face of mere provincialism.
This autumn’s retrospective, which is spread over three venues, Villa Bardini, the Fondazione Primo Conti di Fiesole and the nearby Sala del Basolato—strives to capture Conti’s cosmopolitan fire as well as his competing, often contradictory influences and impulses. These collections, best viewed together, in a single day, are a fitting testimony to one of Italy’s great 20th century artists. More than this, the careful curation brings many new insights into the psychology and practice of the avant-garde, of which Conti was a vocal participant, and sporadically, a leader.