Twentieth-Century Italian Art: 1909-1969

Subject AHIS40008 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 31-May-2015
Assessment Period End 26-Jun-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 13-Mar-2015
Census Date 31-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 08-May-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour seminar per week.
Total Time Commitment:

Total expected time commitment is 170 hours across the semester, including class time.


Admission to the postgraduate diploma or fourth year honours in art history.



Recommended Background Knowledge:

Prior completion of at least one undergraduate Art History subject

Non Allowed Subjects:

AHIS40008 Futurism and Fascist Art in Italy

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Anthony White

Subject Overview:

This subject is an advanced seminar which examines specific moments in twentieth-century Italian art. Exploring a broad range of visual culture in modern Italy, the syllabus will cover artistic developments and critical debates in painting, sculpture, film, architecture and industrial design. This material will be brought into focus by being organized around two fundamental issues: the relationship between art and events in the broader social and cultural sphere, and the changing face of avant-garde practice throughout twentieth-century Italian art. Students will investigate the futurist movement’s violent polemic against traditional art and their various attempts to connect art and everyday life through painting, sculpture, music, fashion and the decorative arts. The complex relationship between futurism and fascism will also be examined in conduction with a broader study of fascist culture, which will concentrate on architecture, propaganda and political spectacle. The work of post-WWII realist film-makers and industrial designers will be studied in the light of their claims to bring art closer to the people. The rise of abstraction during the 50s and 60s will also be examined. Lucio Fontana’s introduction of anti-artistic and industrial materials into his painting and sculpture will be studied, as will the work of Piero Manzoni, who mercilessly attacked the post-WWII commercialisation of the avant-garde. The subject will conclude with a survey of the late 1960s work of the Arte povera artists, whose emphasis on process and materiality will be examined as part of the ongoing ambition in Italian art to disintegrate the boundaries of the traditional art work and bring it down to earth.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this subject should

  • have an understanding of the major art practices and theories in Italy from the beginning of Futurism in 1909 to 1969;
  • be able to recognise the work of specific artists and artistic movements of the period and explain them in relation to their social and political context;
  • have developed their ability to think creatively and express their ideas clearly in written communication;
  • have developed an appreciation for a range of art historical approaches to studying the relationship between art and politics in Italian modern art;
  • be able to conduct independent research using catalogued sources and bibliographical indexes; and
  • have developed their skills in verbal communication and oral presentation.

A 1000 word paper based on in-class presentation 20% (due during the semester), and a 4000 word research essay 80% (due in the examination period). Students are required to attend a minimum of 80% (or 10 out of 12) classes in order to qualify to have their written work assessed. Any student who fails to meet this hurdle without valid reason will not be eligible to pass the subject. All required written work must be submitted in order to pass the subject. Essays submitted after the due date without an extension will be penalised 2% per day. Essays submitted after two weeks of the assessment due date without a formally approved application for special consideration or an extension will only be marked on a pass/fail basis if accepted.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who complete this subject will be able to:

  • research through the competent use of the library and other information sources, and be able to define areas of inquiry and methods of research in the preparation of essays;
  • conceptualise theoretical problems, form judgements and arguments and communicate critically, creatively and theoretically through essay writing, tutorial discussion and presentations;
  • communicate knowledge intelligibly and economically through essay writing and tutorial discussion;
  • manage and organise workloads for recommended reading, the completion of essays and assignments and examination revision; and
  • participate in team work through involvement in syndicate groups and group discussions.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Art History
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