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The Tuscan Talent's Taste of Tuscan Arts review:

The Palazzo Blu, which is situated by the River Arno in the heart of Pisa, was first built in medieval times. Over the years it has been demolished, re-built, added to and embellished by its various illustrious owners, until finally, in 2001 it was purchased by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio of Pisa and completely restored, opening to the public in 2008. It has become a focal point for the arts in Pisa and amongst other things, hosts a permanent art collection, which highlights the art and culture of Pisa from Renaissance times to the present day.

The palazzo has exhibited the works of such great artists as Picasso and Chagall and this latest exposition
has already proved very popular, the first three weeks seeing around 15,000 visitors pass through the doors, eager to see the collective works of the father of abstract art.
Perhaps it is fitting that the works of this great Russian artist are on display in a building that owes some of its renovation and external décor during the late 18
th century to its Russian guests, who lived there for a time and whose aesthetic tastes were catered for.

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The exhibition clearly shows how the arts can influence each other.
Kandinsky, born in Moscow in 1866 lived at an exciting time in the Arts’ world during the post Romanticism era. Whilst Tchaikovsky was still excelling in the composition of
Romantic music, his younger contemporaries, who formed the Russian Five wanted to move away from the dominance of the Europeans and were intent on writing music that was essentially ‘Russian.’ These composers whilst still making a living from other jobs, turned to folk songs, studying songs from the Volga, Cossack and Caucasian dances and oriental melodies. Similarly, Kandinsky began his working career as a lawyer and proved to be a brilliant intellectual whose law studies took him to Siberia. He was also taken with Russian folk culture and was struck by the simple peasant art with its vibrant colours, which gave him the feeling of living within a painting. One of his music contemporaries and one of The Five, Rimsky-Korsakov was drawn to Russian folk tales and his orchestral fairy tales and legends, as well as Scheherazade, influenced the young Kandinsky, who was himself an accomplished musician.
However, the final trigger to leave the law and study painting came when Kandinsky first saw Monet’s
Haystacks at an exhibition of French Impressionists’ paintings in 1896. At this point he left Russia to study art in Munich, leaving behind his career in law, but taking with him his Russian heritage.

Visitors to the exhibition can follow Kandinsky’s creative journey, see his influences and marvel at his revolutionary ideas, which led him in such a short period of time to create his abstract masterpieces.

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From the beginning of the 20
th century until 1914, Kandinsky moved between Moscow and Munich and was the pivot between Russian and European art.
The work he produced at this time forms an intriguing part of the exhibition and shows the profound influence of the cultural traditions in his homeland, of Russian fairy-tales, exciting colours and rhythms and the simplicity of the peasants. It can be seen alongside Russian folk art objects and paintings by other Russian artists of this period, the avant-garde, some of whom were friends and involved in developing his ideas with him in Germany.

The Church of St Ursula, Munich

At this time Kandinsky said,

How surprised I was to hear that I exaggerated the natural colours, that this exaggeration made my painting incomprehensible and that my only anchor for salvation would be for me to learn how to break down the colours.

While Kandinsky was moving towards Expressionism in art, the Austrian composer, Schonberg was travelling in a similar direction in music. Both he and Kandinsky had been impressed by Wagner’s ability to push the boundaries in terms of tonality and dissonance, particularly in his operas, Lohengrin and Tristan and Isolde. Schonberg decided to experiment with atonality, ie music that has no tonal centre, and founded Expressionism in music. He and his followers were labelled the 2nd Viennese School, and a radical new way of composing music had been formed.
Kandinsky and Schonberg were friends and admired each other’s work. Kandinsky claimed that he could see the colours in Schonberg’s music, which he then used in his own compositions. Both artists had each revolutionized their own art forms.

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The exhibition is expertly curated, and each section is clearly explained both in Italian and English, often with quotes from the artist who was as well a prolific writer and theorist.

Visiting a fine exhibition is hungry work, and I was pleased to see that on site there is a newly opened restaurant, the chef and waiter being from Naples. It is a bright, freshly painted space with an open aspect and the food and service are excellent. We decided to order a typical Tuscan dish that was recommended by the waiter, who spoke good English – that always helps! It was pasta with wild boar sauce.

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The waiter explained that the meat is sliced thinly in the southern way, (the Tuscans mince it), then marinated over night in red wine, herbs and various vegetables. It was delicious, excellent value and made a very satisfying and enjoyable finale to our morning at Palazzo Blu!

Paula Chesterman from Tuscan Talent

* If you'd like to learn more about the arts and their context in Tuscany, check out our holiday course,
A Taste of Tuscan Arts