During the time he spent out in the countryside he developed his artistic aims with the utmost clarity: 'my walks did not distract me from my work, nor from trying to solve my particular problems. In landscapes I was sometimes able to find a way to reconcile my ideas about pure and separated colours with those of a broad synthetic and extremely expressive form.'2 Alongside a couple of large-scale landscapes, Severini also completed portraits of Pierre Declide and family, as well as the present work which he dedicated to Pierre, all executed in the post-Impressionist manner, though as Daniele Fonti notes, it is this pastel which exhibits the greatest freedom of expression and wellbeing.
Autoportrait à la pipe belongs to a period of radical development in Italian art. Between 1907 and 1910, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini were all engaged in the final elaboration of the Neo-Impressionist style that would come to be known as Divisionism and eventually lead to their invention of Futurism. Monumental in scale and dynamic in conception, their paintings introduced a unique colour-driven counterpoint to the sort of pointillism established in France by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, yet in works such as Autoportrait à la pipe Severini’s attention to the actual quality of light is far greater than his concern for the more technical aspects of divisionism demanded by his French counterparts. Shortly after the present work was completed Severini returned to Paris, and though he would periodically go back to Civray, he would shortly move entirely away from his rural vision of neo-impressionism and fully embrace Futurism and its celebration of urban modernity.
1. G. Severini, The Life of a Painter: The Autobiography of Gino Severini, trans. J. Franchina, Princeton, 1995, p. 49.
2. G. Severini, op.cit., 1995, p. 49
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