Document Type



Spring 1992


Margaret Bourke-White, Italy, Benito Mussolini, World War II




Arts and Humanities


DURING the nineteenth century, American artists, writers, and intellectuals flocked to Italy, seeking an escape from the exigencies of the modern world. To them, Italy was a dream realm, a golden Arcadia. Some, however, like the painter Thomas Cole, saw through the dream and brought back to America a stark message about the displacement of nations and the fall of empires. In the 183os, on the eve of America's westward expansion, Cole painted his Course of Empire series, tracing the progress of Rome from an Arcadian State, to the Consummation of Empire, to Destruction, finally ending in Desolation. Cole was warning his countrymen not to follow in Rome's disastrous path. 1

Again, in the mid-twentieth century, Americans who went to Italy (though not as tourists), would bring back messages of warning even more urgent because they were responses to the rise of the fascist Roman Empire of Benito Mussolini. At first, in the I930S, Americans were impressed with the new Italy, its sense of order and cleanliness, and its success in industrialization and the utilization of technology. Increasingly, however, the dark side of Mussolini's innovations became apparent, and with the outbreak of World War II, the fascist dream became the world's nightmare.


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