N05948 Campieri 1949
Inscribed 'Guttuso 49' b.l. and 'Guttuso | 49' br.
Watercolour on paper, 20 1/2 x 27 1/8 (52 x 69)
Purchased from the artist through the Hanover Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1950
Exh: Renato Guttuso, Hanover Gallery, London, June-July 1950 (not in catalogue)
Lit: Mario De Micheli, Guttuso: L'Occupazione delle Terre (Milan 1970)
The artist wrote (letter of 20 August 1953): 'These men on horseback in the watercolour you own are called in Sicily "campieri" and are the men who, dependent on the barons and great landowners of Sicily, control the vast uncultivated lands of the latifondo, a feudal abomination of our backward economy.'
It is from a series of drawings, studies and large and small canvases executed from 1946 to 1950 inspired by one of the great popular movements in the aftermath of the war: the occupation by thousands of poverty-stricken Sicilian peasants of the uncultivated areas owned by the feudal landowners. It was a mass incursion, mainly on foot, of men, women and children. The landowners retaliated, especially in 1948, by taking various kinds of legal measures, by using the campieri to intimidate the peasants, and even by violent repression and assassinations carried out by the Mafia. Guttuso, who made many visits to Sicily at this period and took part in some of the peasants' marches, brought this series to a climax with a large composition of 1949-50 (to which this watercolour is not directly related) entitled 'The Occupation of the Uncultivated Lands in Sicily'.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.349, reproduced p.349