You have probably never heard of Fritz Ascher, a passionate and peculiar painter who, nearly 40 years after his death, is finally getting a smidgen of renown at New York’s Grey Art Gallery. Ascher belonged to a generation of German artists the Nazis hounded into hiding — or worse — leaving a chapter in the history of art truncated and brimming with might-have-beens.
The second world war left Italy in a shambles that proved fruitful for art. A republic was born amid the rubble and, after decades of fascist mythmaking, a new artistic frankness thrived. Yet one form of stylistic narrowness gave way to another — novelists, film-makers and photo graphers subscribed to the tenets of neorealism and united around a common project: to portray their devastated country unsparingly, with all its squalor, toughness and hope.