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Venturi, Lionello

    Full Name: Venturi, Lionello

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 25 April 1885

    Date Died: 14 August 1961

    Place Born: Modena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

    Place Died: Rome, Lazio, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

    Subject Area(s): Italian (culture or style), Italian Renaissance-Baroque styles, and Renaissance

    Career(s): art historians


    Professor of art history, University of Turin; specialist in Italian Renaissance, late 19th and early 20th century painting.  Venturi was the  son of Adolfo Venturi. In 1918 became friends with the business magnate and art collector. Riccardo Gualino (1879-1964).  Gualino astutely advised him to buy work by Amedeo Modigliani, which Venturi later organized a retrospective exhibition after the artist’s death. The following year, 1919, Venturi was appointed to the University of Turin at age thirty-four, almost unheard of for a major Italian university. Among his first students was Mary Pittaluga, who wrote her ground-breaking thesis on Eugène Fromentin under Venturi. Like his father, the younger Venturi was much influenced by Heinrich Wölfflin; he early expounded on the works and concepts of that art historian in an article “Gli schemi del Wölfflin,” in the journal L’Esame (1922).  While in Turin he became an exponent for the modernist Turin artist group, Gruppo di Sei.  Venturi succeeded his father in art history at Sapienza University of Rome in 1931.  The same year the Mussolini government required loyalty oaths of all faculty, which Venturi refused.  Forced to leave the University he moved to Paris until the advent of the Vichy government.  Venturi relocated to New York.  There he wrote probably the first history of art criticism, History of Art Criticism, in 1936;  an Italian version  could only appear after the war. He held visiting professorships at Johns Hopkins University; University of Mexico (1942); and was associated with the école Libre des Hautes études (1943).  After the defeat of Mussolini, he returned to become the chair in Art History at the University of Rome in 1945.  Together with his sister, Rosabianca Skira-Venturi (1916-1999), he published the three-volume Italian Painting between 1950-1952.  He retired from the University in 1955, delivering the Bampton Lectures at Columbia University the same year.  HIs son, Franco Venturi (1914-1994), was also an art historian.

    Venturi was influenced, like his father, by the esthetics of Benedetto Croce, and the art historians Alois Riegl and Wölfflin.  His lasting claim to popular art history may not have been anything he wrote.  His edited 1951 book, Italian Painting: the Renaissance, was the first appearance of the subsequently famous Sistine ceiling detail of Adam and God’s fingers touching.

    Selected Bibliography

    • Camille Pisarro: son art– son oeuvre. Paris: P. Rosenberg, 1939;
    • Cézanne, son art, son oeuvre. Paris: P. Rosenberg, 1936;
    • History of Art Criticism. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1936; Italian, Storia della critica d’arte, 1947;
    • Impressionists and Symbolists. Translated by Frances Steegmuller. New York: Scribner, 1950;
    • Les archives de l’Impressionisme. Paris and New York: Durand-Ruel, 1939;
    • “Gli studi di storia dell’arte medioevale e moderna.” Saggi di Critica. Rome: 1956: 277-306;
    • Art Criticism Now. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1941;
    • and Skira-Venturi, Rosabianca, eds. Italian Painting.  3 vols. Geneva: A. Skira, 1950-1952.


    • and Skira-Venturi, Rosabianca, eds. The Renaissance. vol. 2 of Italian Painting.  Geneva: A. Skira, 1951;
    • Previtali, Giovanni. “La ‘Storia della critica d’arte’ di Lionello Venturi.”  Paragone 1964;
    • Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 3;
    • Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986 p. 437;
    • Steinberg, Leo.  “Who’s Who in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam: A Chronology of the Picture’s Reluctant Self-Revelation.”  Art Bulletin 74 no. 4 (December 1992): 556.


    "Venturi, Lionello." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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