Arts – The birth of a national conscience for the liberation from five centuries of Ottoman rule coincides at the end of the nineteenth century with the awakening of Albanian figurative art. This occurs mainly in painting, where a break with the enduring Byzantine tradition is made: themes different from the traditional religious one are affirmed, with a great development of portraiture, and, on a formal level, realism in composition, space and color.
The most important work of this period is exemplary, My Sister Tone (1883), portrait of a girl who, although Christian, is forced to cover her face with a white veil. The painting is full of psychological nuances and coloristic glazes, with that sense of light that will be found in all the painters who will study in Venice. Its author is K. Idromeno (1860-1939), the Venetian experience of which is perhaps even more noticeable in Nozze a Scodra. Born in Scodra as N. Martini (1880-1916), who studied in Paris, Idromeno is part, together with S. Rrota (1887-1961), trained in Milan, of that group of painters who, having come into contact with new experiences, on returning home, give a radical change to Albanian art.
In addition to the school of Scodra, which maintains relations with Venice and Istanbul, the other important center of pictorial activity is Corizza (Korça).
The figure of the national hero Skanderbeg, who also affirms himself iconographically as a myth, becomes the favorite subject of some amateur artists: in painting S. Xega (1876-1953), in sculpture M. Toptani (1866-1918).
After independence (1912), in the period between the two world wars, portraiture assumes as its subject not only eminent personalities of Albanian culture and history, but humble figures of the people, seen in their miserable living conditions, with a use metaphorical of dark colors, dense as in The Shepherd by Albania Kushi (1884-1958).
The spirit and colors of the landscape architects are different, such as Z. Kolombi (1907-1949), a lyric-intimate painter, or the more famous V. Mio (1891-1957), who draws a rich production of lagoon landscapes from the Venetian experience: ‘water is a favorite theme (also in The Lake of Pogradec) for a painter interested on a formal level in the play of light, a warm light which, in portraying them, floods the streets and houses of his native Corizza. It was he who organized the first local exhibition of figurative arts in Corizza in 1920.
The first national exhibition was held in 1931 in Tirana where, in 1933, the School of Drawing was founded. They are taught by Albania Kushi and Albania Buza (1905-1986), who studied in Italy from 1928 to 1933. Buza is the most original personality of all modern Albanian painting on a formal and thematic level; although already active in this period with Mother and children (1938), will exhibit by his political choice only after 1945. The pupils of the school in Tirana, which will only function from 1932 to 1939, complete their studies abroad: until 1943 in Italy, after 1945 in the socialist countries; on their return they will form the new nucleus of cultured post-war artists (N. Zajmi, B. Sejdini, S. Kaceli). New and original is also the case of the first female painters: the two Zengo sisters, who obtained from their father to be able to study in Athens, not having male brothers. A personal exhibition of Albania Zengo (b.1914) was held in Tirana in 1937. In sculpture, from 1924 is The Hungry, a work of intense drama performed in Rome by O. Paskali (1903-1985), which will dominate the Albanian art scene until his death.
After the war of liberation, the first monuments and commemorative busts were erected in the squares. Sculptors adapt more quickly than painters to ” socialist realism ”, to the thematic and formal requests of the new client, however in the 1950s privileging the individual subject, the hero who alone, mythically or symbolically, sums up the struggle of a people.
The case of O. Paskali is exemplary, who quickly arrives at the themes most felt by the sculptors of the new course: from the Portrait of his wife Ketty (1946), psychological-intimate, to the Bust of the hero of the people Vojo Kushi (1949), to the monuments in the poet Naim Frasheri (1950) and Stalin (1957). J. Paco (b. 1914) created an equestrian monument to Skanderbeg in Kruja in 1959, a work of strong dynamic tension. K. Koljaka (b. 1916), a sculptor of great psychological depth, built the monument to Lenin in Tirana in 1954. In 1952 the League of Artists was founded. In 1954 the National Gallery of Modern Art was opened in Tirana.
Cinema. – Virtually non-existent before 1944, Albanian cinematography achieves noteworthy results, such as the director’s prize at the Cannes Film Festival (1953) with the Skanderbeg co-production directed by the Soviet S. Youtkevitch. In 1957 the film Tana paves the way for national production; the director of the film is K. Dhamo, one of the greatest Albanian filmmakers together with D. Anagnosti and V. Gjika. Inspired by the models of socialist realism, Albanian films, often made collectively, exalt the class struggle, proletarian thought, the well-being deriving from socialism, the optimism of the revolutionary masses.
According to itypeusa, Albania is one of the countries that boasts a high number of cinema audiences: out of a population of only 2.5 million residents, annual admissions amount to more than 20 million: a very high figure, considering that there are about 400 cinemas, a lot of which furniture. However, an adequate production of films does not correspond to such an influx of public. In fact, a dozen of them are produced annually, while many feature films are imported from Eastern cinemas.