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Imagined Cosmopolis

Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s


Edited By Charlotte Ashby, Grace Brockington, Daniel Laqua and Sarah Victoria Turner

The period from the 1870s to the 1920s was marked by an interplay between nationalisms and internationalisms, culminating in the First World War, on the one hand, and the creation of the League of Nations, on the other. The arts were central to this debate, contributing both to the creation of national traditions and to the emergence of ideas, objects and networks that forged connections between nations or that enabled internationalists to imagine a different world order altogether. The essays presented here explore the ways in which the arts operated internationally during this crucial period of nation-making, and how they helped to challenge national conceptions of citizenship, society, homeland and native tongue. The collection arises from the AHRC-funded research network Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920 (ICE; 2009–2014) and its enquiry into the histories of cultural internationalism and their historiographical implications.

This collection has been edited by members of the ICE network convened by Grace Brockington and Sarah Victoria Turner.

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3. Navigating International Networks for Modern Sculpture at the Fin de Siècle: The Case of Medardo Rosso (Sharon Hecker)


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3   Navigating International Networks for Modern Sculpture at the Fin de Siècle: The Case of Medardo Rosso

In 1909, the Belgian critic and activist Louis Piérard characterized the sculptor Medardo Rosso as an artist who had liberated himself from the constraints of national identity:

Rosso is Italian by birth. This has no importance to him: he is ready to learn without a frown that he is not Piedmontese but rather Chinese or Papuan. His internationalism is simple, clean, radical and impetuous. One must hear him speak about borders and the prejudices that idiots have against a man because he uses a different language with respect to theirs.1

These comments reflect the extent to which Rosso fashioned himself as a cosmopolitan figure: he declared himself to be a ‘citizen of the world’ and a maker of art ‘without borders’.2 Rosso knew how to navigate and utilize the new international networks for modern art that developed at the fin de siècle. As a result, he became one of the few Italian avant-garde artists who acquired a reputation around Europe in the early twentieth century.

Born in Turin in 1858, Rosso first emerged on the art scene in Milan in 1881 as a rebellious sculptor who rejected the formal arts training offered in the European arts academies of the period. Like many young Italians of his ← 59 | 60 → generation, he was disillusioned with the...

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