Renato Guttuso | Original prints, lithographs, etchings and illustrated books"


"Even if I paint an apple, there is Sicily."

(Renato Guttuso)



Renato Guttuso, Aldo Renato Guttuso (Bagheria, 26 December 1911 - Rome, 18 January 1987), was an Italian painter and politician improperly referred to as an exponent of socialist realism, the protagonist of Italian neorealist painting expressed in the artists of the Front New of the Arts.

Son of Joachim, amateur land surveyor and watercolourer, and Giuseppina d'Amico - who preferred to denounce the birth in Palermo on January 2, 1912 for contrasts with the municipal administration of Bagheria due to the liberal ideas of the spouses - the little Renato manifested precociously his predisposition to painting.

Influenced by his father's hobby and by frequenting the studio of the painter Domenico Quattrociocchi as well as the workshop of the car painter Emilio Murdolo, the young Renato began just thirteen years old to date and sign his paintings. It was mostly copies (Sicilian landscapers of the nineteenth century but also French painters like Millet or contemporary artists like Carrà), but there were also original portraits. During his adolescence he also began to study the futurist painter Pippo Rizzo and the artistic environments of Palermo. In 1928, just seventeen years old participates in his first collective exhibition in Palermo.

His art, linked to expressionism, was also characterized by a strong social commitment, which also led him to political experience as a senator of the Italian Communist Party for two legislatures, during Enrico Berlinguer's secretariat.

Renato Guttuso was born on the day of Saint Stephen in 1911 in the Sicilian town of Bagheria. The father, the knight Gioacchino Guttuso, was a land surveyor and he, in the collection donated to the City of Bagheria, there are several portraits: the first, even dating back to 1925, demonstrates the early genius of the artist; others with line and team, they underline the profession and the admiration for the man all of a piece passionate of letters and arts, with the cult of the liberty transmitted him from the father Ciro, that had fought with Garibaldi. The bourgeois adolescence was full of stimuli for the future painter.

The young Guttuso lived in a house near the villas of Valguarnera and Palagonia, of which he later portrayed details in subsequent paintings and was inspired by the rocks of the Aspra; between the trips to the sea and the first loves lived the whole Sicilian crisis of the first post-war period, during which the architectural and social destruction began.

In Palermo, and in Bagheria itself, he saw in complete decline the nobility of the splendid eighteenth-century villas, with their famous monsters and the advance of a real urban massacre and power struggles within the municipality, which shook the temperament of Guttuso, while the family was marked by financial hardship because of the hostility of clerical and fascist towards the father of Renato.

The latter, feeling ever more strongly inclined to painting, moved to Palermo, to complete his high school studies, and then attend the University (where we find him enrolled at the GUF), ranking in 2nd place for art criticism at the Littoriali of the culture and art of 1937 in Naples, while in those of 1938, in Palermo, presented the picture Shooting in the countryside, dedicated to the poet Garcia Lorca shot by the franchisers.

His training was modeled on European figurative currents, from Courbet to Van Gogh to Picasso and took him to Milan and travel to Europe. In his expressionism the Sicilian motifs became increasingly strong, such as the lush lemon groves, the Saracen olive tree, the Palinuro, between myth and island solitude.

In 1931 some of his works were accepted by the jury of the first Quadrennial in Rome and merged into a collective exhibition of six Sicilian painters, welcomed by the critics - says Franco Grasso in the aforementioned monograph - as "... a revelation, a Sicilian statement". In 1942 he won the second prize at the fourth edition of the Bergamo Prize with a much discussed and controversial painting depicting a crucifixion.

Back in Palermo, he opened a studio in Corso Pisani and with the painter Lia Pasqualino Noto and the sculptors Giovanni Barbera and Nino Franchina formed the "Group of Four".

Rejected any academic canon, with free figures in space or the search for the pure sense of color, Guttuso became part of the "Corrente" artistic movement, which with disfavored attitudes opposed the official culture and denoted strong anti-fascist opposition in the thematic choices in the years of the Spanish war and that they prepared the second world war.
In 1933 he definitively abandoned his university studies to devote himself to painting alone and moved to Rome. In 1935 in Milan for military service he met Manzù, Birolli, Fontana, Antonio Banfi. In the long stay of three years in Milan, during which he did not fail to return to Bagheria in the summer, he matured the "social" art of Guttuso, with a more and more uncovered moral and political commitment, which revealed itself in paintings like Shooting in the countryside, between '37 and '38, Escape from Etna in two drafts, and then consecrate a few years later in works representative of the highest expression of social realism of Guttuso as La Spiaggia (1955) and Carretti a Bagheria (1956 ).

In 1937 he moved permanently to Rome, with a studio in Via Pompeo Magno where, for the exuberance of life, his friend Mazzacurati jokingly nicknamed him "Sfrenato Guttuso" and frequented the anti-novice artistic Roman environment: Alberto Ziveri, Antonietta Raphaël , Mario Mafai, Marino Mazzacurati, Pericle Fazzini, Corrado Cagli, Toti Scialoja, Filiberto Sbardella, and was also in contact with the Milanese group of Ernesto Treccani, Giacomo Manzù, Aligi Sassu. He became friends with Antonello Trombadori, a young art critic, son of the painter Francesco Trombadori, and began an intellectual and political association that accompanied him throughout his life.
The painting that gave him fame, among a thousand controversies also by the clergy and the beam, since under the sacred subject denounced the horrors of the war, was The Crucifixion (1940). Of it Guttuso wrote in his diary that it is "... the symbol of all those who suffer contempt, jail, torment for their ideas" with which the Bergamo Prize marked its new season.

In 1940 he enrolled in the clandestine Italian Communist Party (in the future he will draw the symbol of the reborn Italian Communist Party, used until its dissolution in 1991, also collaborating with the magazine Il Calendario del Popolo); he left Rome for political reasons, taking refuge in Genoa, in the house of friends. Later he returned to Rome in hiding.

The artist will never cease to work in difficult years such as those of war and alternated, especially in still lifes, the objects of the humble houses of his land, to gashes of landscape of the Gulf of Palermo to a collection of drawings entitled Massacri, which circulated clandestinely, since they portrayed the Nazi repressions, such as the one dedicated to the Fosse Ardeatine.

He knew and married what will be his faithful companion and confidant Mimise, who he portrayed in '47. Already in the aftermath of the Liberation a yearning for hope returned to the artist's breath, as in the painting Pause from work, ink and watercolor in 1945, almost a symbol of the rebirth of which Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote (1962):

    The figures of ten workers
    they emerge white on the white bricks
    the noon is in summer.
    But the humiliated meat
    they make a shadow: and the decomposed order
    of the whites is faithfully followed
    from the blacks. The noon is of peace.

They followed Carrettieri who sing, Contadino che zappa (1947), Contadini di Sicilia (ten drawings published in Rome in '51) in which the pictorial language becomes clear and essential and of which Guttuso himself wrote that they were preparatory to the Employment of uncultivated lands in Sicily (which would later be exhibited at the Venice Biennale in Venice in 1950), saying: "I believe they are linked to my deepest and most remote inspiration. To my childhood, to my people, to my peasants, to my father, land surveyor, to the gardens of lemons and oranges, to the plains of the latifondo familiar to my eye and my feeling, since I was born. Sicilian peasants who have in my heart the first place, because I am theirs, whose faces are constantly before my eyes whatever I do, Sicilian peasants that are so much part of the history of Italy ... ».

Also in 1949-1950, Renato Guttuso joined the project of the important Verzocchi collection (currently conserved at the Civic Pinacoteca of Forlì), sending, in addition to a self-portrait, the Sicilian work Bracciante.

Punctually returned to amaze, alternating the bright and colorful view of Bagheria on the Gulf of Palermo to the Battle of the Admiral's bridge, in which he portrayed his grandfather Ciro Guttuso, enlisted as a garibaldino, and with a series of paintings from life, the struggles peasants for the occupation of the lands, the zolfatari, or glimpses of landscape between cactus and prickly pears, portraits of friends and men of culture, painters like Nino Garajo and Bruno Caruso.
In 1953 he took part in the first union exhibition of the Roman provincial union belonging to the National Artists Federation of Rome (Via Margutta 54, together with the artists Antonio Vangelli, Ottavio Pinna, Carlo Levi, Pietro Cascella, Corrado Cagli, Accardi Carla, Vito Apuleio, Claudio Astrologo , Beppe Assenza, Valente Assenza, Ugo Attardi, Eugenio Bardzki, Giulia Battaglia, Fausta Beer, Stelvio Botta, Leoncillo Leonardi, Alessandro Leonori Cecina, Irma Levi, Roberto Melli, Francesco Mercati, Costanza Minniey, Saro Mirabella, Angelo Moriconi, Aldo Natili; Umberto Padella, Vittorio Parisi, Mario Penelope, Sestilio Picari, Paola Piersanti, Ottavio Pinna, Walter Sanges, Filiberto Sbardella, Sergio Schirato, Renato Selvi, Giuseppe Strachota, Mario Toppa, Edoardo Treves, Ariosto Zampaloni, Nwart Zarian, Gino Zocchi, etc. ) [5].

Fascinated by the Dantesque model, from '59 to '61, the artist conceived a series of colored drawings that will then be published in volume in '70, Il Dante di Guttuso, in which the characters of Hell are revisited as examples of the history of humankind [6], confirming the versatility of ingenuity. A whole cycle, instead, was dedicated in the 1970s to his autobiography in painting, paintings of exceptional value for the knowledge of the Guttuso man-artist.

In 1963 one of his works was exhibited at the exhibition Contemporary Italian Paintings, set up in some Australian cities. In 1963-64 he exhibited at the exhibition Peintures italiennes d'aujourd'hui, organized in the Middle East and North Africa.

The female figure became dominant in painting as it was in private life and among the largest paintings by mistura we remember Women rooms landscapes objects of '67, today exposed to the municipal gallery of Bagheria, at Villa Cattolica, how important is the series of paintings in which he portrayed Marta Marzotto, inspiring muse and favorite model for many years, who met in Milan at the Marchi house. Famous is also the series of postcards, a set of 37 mixed drawings and techniques (published by the Archinto publishing house in the book The Postcards by Renato Guttuso), in which the artist masterfully represents memories, feelings, emotions, fantasies and the moods of the man Guttuso towards the woman Marta Marzotto.

Of 1968 is The Daughters of Loth, painted in an erotic background in two different versions, inspired by the biblical episode of Lot's involuntary incest with his two daughters.

In 1971 he designed the banner of the Palio di Siena on August 16th, while in 1972 he painted the funeral of Togliatti, which became a work-manifesto of Communist and anti-Fascist painting after World War II. The work is kept at the MAMbo - Museum of Modern Art in Bologna. In it are allegorically depicted (often many were already dead at the time of the funeral of Palmiro Togliatti in 1964) various figures of communism, positive and negative, to compose an ideal representation of the communist imaginary of the twentieth century, between workers, red flags and the body of Togliatti. In the picture you can see, for example, in addition to the author himself, Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Elio Vittorini, Angela Davis, Stalin, Lenin (depicted several times), Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Pier Paolo Pasolini and others.

Of the 1974 is instead the famous painting dedicated to Vucciria of Palermo.

A bas-relief on silver metal titled Volto di donna and an enamelled brass sculpture titled L'Edicola are on display at the Fortunato Calleri Museum in Catania.

In 1977, Guttuso donated, with a public document, to the Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione in Parma his work La partenza del vapore in Naples (1966), kept in the Fund dedicated to him, public and fully consultable. In this first work, in 1982, CSAC Natura morta con tavola (1947) was added to the Fund.

In 1980 he dedicated a watercolor to the Bologna massacre, entitled The sleep of reason generates monsters, like the homonymous etching of Goya.

In 1982 he painted the 1,000-liter stamp, depicting the FIFA Cup raised by Dino Zoff during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, which became a cult for collectors of football memorabilia and philatelic.

Guttuso went off sadly, in isolation, after his wife's death.

Renato Guttuso was an atheist.

The then archbishop Fiorenzo Angelini, his personal friend, immediately reported the death in an interview of the religiousness of the painter and his spiritual assistance. The fact remains that two funeral were celebrated: one, secular and party, with a follow-up of red flags of the PCI, and one religious.

At death, he donated to his hometown, Bagheria, many works that were collected in the local museum of Villa Cattolica where he was buried. His tomb is the work of the sculptor Giacomo Manzù.
Guttuso had no recognized biological children, but an adopted son, adopted shortly before his death, Fabio Carapezza Guttuso, who was very close to him in the last years of his life, the only comfort after the loss of many loved ones. Fabio Carapezza Guttuso was the sole heir of the immense heritage of Guttuso. He founded the Guttuso Archives, to which he dedicated the study of Piazza del Grillo, and integrated the collection of the Bagheria Museum with numerous inherited works.