My Favourite Painting: Guy Hills

'The large canvas encapsulates an era of elegant élan, of modernity and jazz that makes you want to jump in and join the party.'

Guy Hills chooses The Dance of the ‘Pan Pan’ at the Monico by Gino Severini

‘I absolutely love the vivacity of this painting. The large canvas encapsulates an era of elegant élan, of modernity and jazz that makes you want to jump in and join the party. You can feel the pulsing rhythm of the band as the dancers bop with wild abandon, fragmented into a riot of staccato tones that vibrate in their juxtaposition. Colour and joie de vivre, which we all need, are the essence of Dashing Tweeds.

‘Our weave designs take inspiration from life and art; there is an art in living thoroughly and Severini has captured this to perfection.’

Guy Hills is a photographer and the founder and creative director of the fabric and fashion company Dashing Tweeds

John McEwen comments on Severini and The Dance of the ‘Pan Pan’ at the Monico

Italian Futurism was inspired by the 20th-century’s electrification of cities, travel and industry. Later, it included politics, which led to an association with Fascism, giving its artists an unfairly bad name.

Severini wrote that its leader, the poet Filippo Marinetti, was solely to blame, although he had reluctantly signed Marinetti’s bombastic Futurist Manifesto in 1909. His crucial influences were French Impressionism and Italian Divi-sionism (notably, colour specialists Seurat and Balla); as were those movements and artists, he was ultimately indebted to the French chemist Michel Chevreul’s book On the Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colours (1839).

Severini was born in the Tuscan hill-town of Cortona, to which he gratefully ascribed his rugged determination. His upbringing was cash-strapped, although his father was a civil servant (lowest grade) and his mother Cortona’s best dressmaker.

Following educational ostracism for stealing exam papers, his mother took him to Rome. He made friends with a coming Futurist, Umberto Boccioni, and was financially helped to study art by a Vatican prelate from Cortona, despite his non-attendance of church.

Cortona forged Severini’s character; moving to Paris transformed his art. He was befriended by Picasso, whom he described as ‘cultured, refined, and caustic under his warm-hearted exterior’ and whose ‘affirmation of freedom’ was to ‘sustain’ him throughout the rest of his life.

Severini described this depiction of a Paris dancehall as a ‘uniquely musical picture’. The poet/critic Apollinaire, in his 1912 review of the first Futurist Exhibition in Paris, called it ‘the most important work to come from a Futurist brush to date’. The central dancers in red, Nanette and Liette, perform the Argentine Pan-Pan, as customers at tables surround the floor and the band plays at the back.


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