Renato Guttuso

The Discussion

1959–60

Original title
La discussione
Medium
Tempera, oil paint and printed papers on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2200 x 2490 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1961
Reference
T00420

Display caption

The fervent nature of Guttusos politics is captured in The Discussion. The work mixes the reportage style of Socialist Realism with the modernist device of collage, and shows a scene of heated debate. Partial headlines are legible, such as 'Proletariat' and 'Today in Moscow'. It coincided with Guttuso's increasing need to defend art that was committed to realism at a time when many in the Western European Communist parties were questioning its value following the death of Stalin and the disintegration of Stalinism.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Renato Guttuso born 1912 [- 1987]

T00420 The Discussion 1959-60

Inscribed 'Guttuso' b.r.
Tempera, oil and collage on canvas, 86 5/8 x 97 5/8 (220 x 248)
Purchased from the artist through McRoberts and Tunnard (Grant-in-Aid) 1961
Exh: XXX Biennale, Venice, June-October 1960 (Guttuso 9, repr.), as 'La Discussione (1959-60)'; Guttuso, McRoberts and Tunnard, London, November-December 1960 (not listed in catalogue, but repr. in colour on the cover); Renato Guttuso: Mostra Antologica dal 1931 ad Oggi, Galleria Nazionale, Patina, December 1963-February 1964 (178, repr.), as 'La Discussione Politica'
Lit: Alan Bowness, 'Reflections on Guttuso's "Discussione"' in Ark, No.29, Summer 1961, pp.10-12, repr. p.11
Repr: Elio Vittorini, Storia di Renato Guttuso (Milan 1960), pl.19 in colour; Edward Lucie-Smith, Movements in Art since 1945 (London 1969), pl.42

The artist has written of this work (18 June 1962) 'My painting "The Discussion" now part of the Tate Collection was executed in 1959, and forms the resumption of a theme on which I had worked in '56 and '57. In those years I made several drawings and two pictures. One of these pictures was exhibited at the ACA Gallery in New York and is now in a New York collection.

'I have always been attracted by themes dealing with human relationships, whether active relationships (in which men are confronted with each other) or relationships of "situation" (for example: a beach or street scene etc.).

'But I am particularly attracted to the theme of "the discussion" because it seems to me essentially to illustrate a real and practical method of establishing a positive relationship between a group of men.

'Men are made of the same material, they greatly resemble one another. In debate they communicate with each other, giving expression both to the unity between them and to the individuality which separates them.

'In this painting I have tried to give the greatest objective reality to the human forms as well as to the cards, table, newspaper, ashtray. Even the "collage" has an objective and literal function.

'This picture depicts a political discussion, which might be described as "ideological".

'It could, indeed, be a literary or artistic discussion, but of an ideological nature.'

Published in:
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.350, reproduced p.350