MAN_Museo d'Arte Provincia di Nuoro

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The honey is all gone Sardinia and painting

11.02  -  19.06.2022

 A major anthological exhibition at the Museo MAN in Nuoro



curated by Giorgina Bertolino


and a special project by



produced by the Fondazione Sardegna Film Commission

From Friday 11 February to Sunday 19 June 2022, the MAN Museo d’Arte Provincia di Nuoro will be hosting a major anthological exhibition of the works of Carlo Levi (Turin, 1902 – Rome, 1975) that pays tribute to the painter and writer on the 120th anniversary of his birth, marking the anniversaries of his two trips to Sardinia in May 1952 and December 1962. The exhibition spans his entire career, featuring eighty-nine works including paintings, drawings and engravings that date from 1925 to the early 1970s. It benefits from the collaboration of the Fondazione Carlo Levi in Rome and from loans from museums and public and private collections. It is further enhanced by the special project that the artist Vittoria Soddu (Sassari, 1986) conceived specifically for the exhibition, produced by the Fondazione Sardegna Film Commission.    

The exhibition takes its title from Tutto il miele è finito (The Honey is All Gone), Carlo Levi’s book on Sardinia published by Einaudi in 1964. The book recounts his visits to the island in 1952 and 1962, resembling a palimpsest of natural, cultural, poetic and political landscapes. The MAN’s exhibition reconstructs the artist’s encounter with the island, giving visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in his painting, from the early stages of his career to his mature pieces. Carlo Levi: The Honey is All Gone. Sardinia and Painting is both a monographic exhibition and an extensive anthological exhibition, arranged over the three floors of the museum. Dedicated to a protagonist of twentieth-century Italian history and culture, it invites us to rethink his legacy in the present day.

The exhibition that the MAN in Nuoro has dedicated to Carlo Levi on the 120th anniversary of his birth explores lesser-known aspects of his artistic and intellectual history, in keeping with the museum’s recent quest to rediscover its own territory – the island world of the Italian Mediterranean – through contributions by artists of different origins and nationalities who have devoted a significant part of their research to Sardinia, following a course that extends from the recent past to the work of the younger generations”, explains Luigi Fassi in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue.


The first rooms on the ground floor of the museum provide an introduction to the artist in the form of three self-portraits (including the famous Self-portrait with Yellow Hand of 1930) and illustrate his travels in Sardinia. Carlo Levi first set foot on the island in May 1952, before returning ten years later in December. His reports were serialized in L’Illustrazione Italiana and La Stampa, before being collected together in Tutto il miele è finito in 1964. His words are intertwined with images, recalled in the exhibition by more than thirty photographs that recompose the landscapes of 1950s Sardinia. Different perspectives and lenses – from amateur snapshots to professional photographs – reveal the charm of the island, its towns, its people, its nature and its history, going off the beaten track.

A set of ten photographs from Carlo Levi’s unpublished Travel Album of 1952 is being shown here for the first time. Preserved in the Photographic Fonds of the Fondazione Levi in Rome, these small black-and-white prints from the album mark the starting point for the research behind the exhibition. These priceless materials, exhibited in a display cabinet alongside books and documents, are accompanied by images taken by two famous photographers on the walls: sixteen photographs by Federico Patellani (Monza, 1911 – Milan, 1977), taken in Sardinia in 1950 – on loan from the Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea in Milan-Cinisello Balsamo – partly published in ‘Viaggio in Sardegna’ (Journey to Sardinia), Levi’s first article to appear in L’Illustrazione Italiana in June 1952; ten photographs by the Hungarian János Reismann (Szombathely, 1905 – Budapest, 1976) from 1959 – on loan from the Hungarian Museum of Photography in Kecskemèt – featured in the German version of Tutto il miele è finito (Aller Honig geht zu Ende. Tagebuch aus Sardinien) published in 1965.

When introducing Tutto il miele è finito in 1964, Carlo Levi compared his book to a portrait: “So it seems to me that this piece of writing, which is not an essay, an investigative report or a novel, but instead a simple side chapter of the present story we are all living or writing both inside and outside ourselves, could rather be said to resemble a portrait, a partial and barely hinted at attempt at painting a picture of a person we have known over the years, whose face today recounts and encompasses the various moments in their story. Is this person simply Sardinia?” 

As the curator, Giorgina Bertolino, explains, “the exhibition project begins with a reinterpretation of Tutto il miele è finito, a landscape-text that involves and implies the artist’s body, the physical experience on the ground, the contact with a past amalgamated with the soil of the present, listening to the sounds, songs and voices of the people. Tutto il miele è finito is a book-landscape, offering up a reading of the sort that we now centre around the far-reaching notions of landscape anthropology and cultural ecology. Over and beyond the idea of a pacified landscape, crystallized by the rhetoric of beauty, Carlo Levi’s Sardinian landscapes still preserve their dynamic, cognitive and political capacity intact.”


The anthological exhibition looks back over the various seasons of Carlo Levi’s painting, right from his debut. On the first floor, paintings dating from 1925 to 1930 show the cities from the young Levi’s life: Turin, where he was born, Paris, and Alassio in Liguria, where his family owned a house in the hills. The latter is the setting for Air, a painting from 1929, now in the collections of the GAM, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin. The works document his development as a European artist and his intense dialogue with French art. They feature his family circle (with Father at Table of 1926, Etruscan Figure of 1929 and Two Ladies of 1930, on loan from the Fondazione Levi) and his friendships.

The works on the second floor retrace the successive seasons, from the early 1930s to the 1970s, following the evolution of his “wavy hand”, the unmistakable stylistic feature that animates his self-portraits and portraits (as in the case of Leone Ginzburg of 1933), landscapes (Alassio Landscape from the Museo Novecento in Florence) and still lifes (Still Life with French Bread from the Unipol Group’s art collection).

Carlo Levi’s painting is a diary, a biography: his works speak of his confinement in Lucania (with The Road to the Caves of 1935, La fossa del Bersagliere and La Santarcangelese of 1936, on loan from the Museo Nazionale in Matera, Palazzo Lanfranchi); they tell of the war, of the Liberation (with Self-portrait of 1945 from the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome) and of encounters, of loved ones (Portrait of Linuccia Saba, 1944–45, RAI Collection, Friuli Venezia-Giulia Regional Headquarters in Trieste), of places, houses, gardens and trees, depicted in the Carob cycle of the early 1970s. For Carlo Levi, everything is a portrait: the canonical genre of art history is, for him, an affective and empathetic instrument of knowledge.

The room that concludes the anthological exhibition features twelve works on paper from his blind cycle, on display for the first time in Italy. This collection of drawings was produced in 1973, at the same time as he was writing his Quaderno a cancelli (Gated Notebook), published after his death. In these drawings born out of darkness, while he was recovering from an eye operation, Carlo Levi plunges into the depths of the subconscious and memory, exploring his own capacious imagination.

Vittoria Soddu: ogni andare è un ritornare

The special project by Vittoria Soddu (Sassari, 1986) is a contemporary re-reading of Tutto il miele è finite, a contemplation of the landscape inspired by Carlo Levi’s narrative. It draws its title from one of the book’s opening sentences: “The cards have been shuffled here in the contemporary world; here on the island of the Sardinians, every going is a returning”.

The project consists of three works conceived specifically for the exhibition. The journey begins with the watercolour line that animates the metamorphosis of the woman into a crow in the video installation Back to back. The video, in one of the rooms on the ground floor, anticipates the echo of the story suggested in the Orune sound track on the second floor, a reworking of archive material featuring Levi’s own voice and field recordings. The most collaborative work is on the third floor: Ogni andare è un ritornare offers a reading of Levi’s work in dialogue with the territory and its community today in the form of a film, with a strong performative stamp.

Vittoria Soddu tells us how Carlo Levi’s book “invites us to walk through concentric centres, accompanying us from one end of the island to the other, sometimes overlapping events and sensations. His is a text that leads one not to seek a rigid consequentiality of events. Indeed, in order to access its labyrinthine essence one must accept this impossibility of tracing a logical narrative, with its own crystal-clear chronology”.

“The choice of Vittoria Soddu, an artist working in the hybrid field of performance, moving image and sound sculpture, was guided by a more experimental approach to connecting with the public. Our production team placed itself at the disposal of this innovative artist’s creative path according to a principle of juxtaposition, overlapping and fusion of different languages. A challenge for future formats, to be trialled with new viewers and new platforms, working together to create a new vision of Sardinia”, explains Nevina Satta, CEO of the Fondazione Sardegna Film Commission.



The exhibition is accompanied by an important catalogue published by the MAN with the Società Editrice Allemandi. Introduced by Luigi Fassi, the book offers an extensive selection of illustrations with colour plates of the eighty-nine works in the exhibition, photographs from Carlo Levi’s Travel Album, black-and-white images by Federico Patellani and János Reismann, and period documents. The wealth of texts explore Levi’s relationship with Sardinia, featuring a select anthology of his first articles and critical essays by Giorgina Bertolino, Francesca Congiu, Valeria Deplano and Elisabetta Masala, as well as the conversation between Vittoria Soddu and Nevina Satta, Micaela Deiana and Marco Piredda of the Fondazione Sardegna Film Commission.







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