Aligi Sassu | Original prints, lithographs, etchings and illustrated books




Aligi Sassu (Milan, 17 July 1912 - Pollença, 17 July 2000) was an Italian painter and sculptor.

Aligi Sassu was born in Milan, from Lina Pedretti, parmigiana, and Antonio Sassu, Sardinian, one of the founders in 1894 of the Italian Socialist Party in Sassari and moved in 1896 in the Lombard capital. The father, bound by a strong friendship with Carlo Carrà, led him in 1919, at only seven years, to the National Futurist Exhibition at the Galleria Moretti in Palazzo Cova, which saw the greatest futurists and the young generation united.

At the beginning of 1921 the Sassu family moved back to Sardinia, to Thiesi in the province of Sassari, where Antonio opened a shop. There Aligi attended the elementary school and met for the first time the horses, which will then become his trademark, and the bright colors of Sardinia that will permeate his painting. After a stay of three years, the family returned to Milan and here Aligi showed even more his interest in reading and Futurist art.

In 1925, with his family now in financial straits, he was forced to leave school. At first he worked as an apprentice at La Pressa, a lithographic workshop; the following year that of a mural decorator's aide; at the same time, attending evening classes, he succeeded in concluding his studies. Together with his friend and futurist designer Bruno Munari, he introduced himself to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, founder of Futurism. In 1928 this meeting was fruitful, invited by Marinetti to take part in the Venice Biennale.

A short time later, together with Bruno Munari, he defined the Manifesto of Painting "Dynamism and muscular reform" (which will remain unpublished until 1977), assuming as a basic assumption the representation of anti-naturalistic dynamic forms. In those years, thanks to his father's friendships, he was able to get to know the works of Boccioni and Carlo Carrà, Gaetano Previati, Giandante X (as Dante Persico was known) and Giuseppe Gorgerino, and he was sometimes inspired by his paintings. He studied Picasso, Diego Velázquez and the plastic nude. Of this period is The Last Supper, the painting that summarizes the art of Aligi Sassu and, in the modern clothes of the characters and the urban setting, heralds what will be his future style.

In the years between 1927 and 1929 he mostly painted small paintings, often having sport as subjects, industries and machines; Thus the Cyclists, Miners, Workers, Boxers and Red Men are born. With Filiberto Sbardella, Giacomo Manzù, Nino Strada, Candido Grassi, Giuseppe Occhetti and Gino Pancheri, in 1930 he succeeded in setting up his first important exhibition in Milan, also reviewed by Carlo Carrà. In 1934 he stayed for a period of three months in Paris [2] (in the rue Elisée des Beaux Artes) studying in depth the works of Matisse, Théodore Géricault, Delacroix, Cezanne and the paintings of nineteenth-century painters exhibited at the Louvre.

In particular, the influence of Delacroix and his battles is clearly evident in Sassu's paintings. He will return to Paris the following year and then to the beginning of 1936. In 1935 he formed the Rosso Group with Nino Franchina, Vittorio Della Porta and others. In 1936 it was Il Caffè, one of his most famous paintings representing the Coupole in Paris, as well as I Concilii, a satirical vision of the clergy of Rome. Meanwhile his political commitment increased and, when the Civil War broke out in Spain, he became an active anti-fascist. Anti-Francoist and sympathizer of the Spanish partisans, he painted the Shooting in Asturias.

Accused of conspiracy, locked up in Regina Coeli prison in Rome, he went through a rather problematic period at the end of which he resumed painting. Drawings with mythological subjects and portraits of prisoners are from this period. He was pardoned in July 1938, but remained a special guard. Only in 1941 could he exhibit again: for the first time the Red Men appear in public. The exhibition took place in the "Bottega di Corrente". Although he participated actively in Corrente, the periodical of cultural opposition to the regime, Sassu preferred to opt for a "personal" one, not adhering to the collective exhibitions of the artists of the time.

In 1943 he illustrated the "Promessi sposi" by Manzoni with fifty-eight watercolors. He will present these tables later, in 1983, at the Manzoni house in Milan. In 1947, when he moved to the province of Varese, he worked hard to paint, in particular, Caffè, reminiscences of Paris, and sacred subjects. Shortly thereafter he devoted himself to ceramics producing about a hundred pieces. Returning to Sardinia in 1950, he drew inspiration from the landscapes that surrounded him and painted scenes of peasant and seafaring life, such as the Tonnare; he studied the murals and muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, and then Vincent van Gogh and Piero della Francesca. Remarkable at that time is the mine, the fresco in the guest rooms of the mines of Monteponi (Iglesias) and not only for the dimensions, m 3.50 for 12.

In 1949-1950, Sassu joined the project of the important Verzocchi collection, on the theme of work, sending, as well as a self-portrait, the work Il campo arato. The Verzocchi collection is currently preserved at the Forlì Pinacoteca Civica.

With Mazzotti and Fabbri, in 1954, Vallauris met Picasso for the first time. Two years later, in a new meeting in La Californie, Picasso will show him the sculptures he will exhibit later at the Museum of Antibes. The same year he exhibited at the Venice Biennale among other works The martyrs of Piazzale Loreto, which Giulio Carlo Argan bought for the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art. At Albissola Capo he painted the cycle of the Chronicles of Albisola, well representing the artistic life of the town that saw then gathered ceramists, poets, writers, critics, and of which Aligi Sassu was protagonist together with Lucio Fontana, Salvatore Fancello and other artists. The work, commissioned by the owner in the Trattoria Pescetto, occupied an entire wall of thirty-five meters and, when 14 years later the restaurant was closed, was completely dismembered. Today only a few photographic images remain.

In Arcumeggia he executed the frescoes Corridori (1957), a work of considerable size in homage to cycling, Jesus nailed to the cross, XI station of the Via Crucis (1963), and San Martino donates part of the mantle to the poor (1991).

Ten years later he began his Spanish period (in 1963 at the Balearic Islands), with the Tauromachie, presented by the Spanish poet Rafael Alberti, the mythological characters, his experiments on acrylics and the increasingly bright colors (red will be even more present in the his painting). In 1965 his drawings and sculptures were exhibited at the Galleria Civica di Monza; it will then be the turn of an anthological exhibition in Bucharest and, later, at the Gallery of Modern Art in Cagliari (where, in 1967, Foiso Fois was also present). In the same year he moved to Monticello Brianza, during which he will perform mainly murals.

To 1968 belong several large paintings, including Che Guevara, donated to the Museum of Havana. In 1969, at the Biennale, he was awarded the 1st prize of the painted wall. In 1972 he married Helenita Olivares. Traveling between Mallorca and Italy he collaborated in 1973 at the Sicilian Vespers for the reopening of the Teatro Regio di Torino. A room in the Modern Art Gallery was dedicated to the Vatican. Three years later he made two mosaics for the parish of Sant'Andrea in Pescara and the following year he exhibited his works in the cities of Rotterdam, Toronto and Mallorca. It was in 1984 a first anthological exhibition in Ferrara, at the Palazzo dei Diamanti, and then in Rome at Castel Sant'Angelo, followed by the one in Milan at the Palazzo Reale.

Subsequently, exhibitions were held in Seville, Germany, Madrid, Toronto, Montréal and Ottawa. In 1986 he exhibited in Palma de Mallorca, at the XI Quadrennial in Rome, at the Milan Triennale and at the Casa del Mantegna in Mantua and Munich, in the same year he completed the one hundred and thirteen tables on Divina Comedia. In 1992 he took part in the Italian Art exhibition project in South America, exhibiting in São Paulo, Bogota and Buenos Aires. In Brussels, in the new seat of the European Parliament, in 1993 he completed the I Miti del Mediterraneo ceramic mural, which occupies 150 square meters. Instead of 1994 the Manuscriptum recordings for the traveling exhibition in Sweden "Leonardo's Bridges". The exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is the following year: the exhibition at the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Bergamo and in 1999.

In 1996 he donated 356 works, made starting in 1927, to the city of Lugano: this is how the foundation of the Aligi Sassu Foundation and Helenita Olivares was created, which has since then set up thematic exhibitions with his works. On 25 June 1999 the Aligi Sassu Foundation and Helenita Olivares were founded in Mallorca by the will of the Sassu spouses. On March 31st 2000 the Associazione Culturale non-profit association Amici dell'Arte of Aligi Sassu was established in Besana in Brianza. He died in Pollença on July 17 of the same year, at the age of 88, on his birthday.