Renzo Vespignani | Original prints, lithographs, etchings and illustrated books




Lorenzo Vespignani, known as Renzo (Rome, 19 February 1924 - Rome, 26 April 2001), was an Italian painter, illustrator, set designer and engraver.
He was born in Rome on 19 February 1924 by Guido Vespignani and Ester Molinari, great grandson of Virginio Vespignani, a famous architect. After the death of his father, an esteemed surgeon and cardiologist, he had to move with his mother to the proletarian area of ​​Portonaccio, adjacent to the San Lorenzo district, where he grew up.

Here, during the period of Nazi occupation of the Capital, to the stain like so many of his peers, he began to draw, trying to represent the cruel reality, dirty and pathetic around him: the squalor of the suburban urban landscape, the ruins and the debris caused from the bombings, the drama of the marginalized and the poverty of everyday life.

His art was not limited to pictorial experience alone, he was an illustrator of many masterpieces. Also important is his work as a set designer: he worked for "The Days in the Count" and "The Assassin" by Elio Petri, "Maratona di danza" and "Le Bassaridi" by Hans Werner Henze, "The Seven Deadly Sins" and "La mother "by Bertolt Brecht," Jenufa "by Leoš Janáček. As an engraver he produced more than four hundred titles in etching, soft paint and lithography.

He began to paint during the Nazi occupation, hidden by the engraver Lino Bianchi Barriviera, his first teacher. Other important points of reference, which influenced his artistic beginnings, were Alberto Ziveri and Luigi Bartolini while, especially in his early paintings, the influence of expressionists like George Grosz and Otto Dix seems evident. In 1945 he exhibited his first solo exhibition and began collaborating on various political-literary magazines (Domenica, Folla, Mercurio, La Fiera Letteraria) with satirical writings, illustrations and drawings.

His work, between '44 and '48 describes the attempt to resurrect an Italy destroyed by the war.

In 1956 he founded, with other intellectuals, the magazine Città Aperta, focused on the problems of urban culture.

In 1961 he was among the winners of the Spoleto Award; the selected artists were dedicated a essay accompanied by the large-format reproduction (black and white and four-color) of the works on display.

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.

Among the artists close to him we remember Giuseppe Zigaina (and the so-called School of Portonaccio) and, after '63, those of the group called Il pro and il contro, which he founded together with Ugo Attardi, Fernando Farulli, Ennio Calabria, Piero Guccione and Alberto Gianquinto.

Since 1969, Renzo Vespignani has been working on large pictorial cycles dedicated to the crisis of the welfare society: Imbarco per Citera (1969), concerning the intellectual class involved in '68; Family Album (1971), a polemical look at his personal daily life; Between two wars (1973-1975) an inflexible analysis of respectability and petty bourgeois authoritarianism in Italy; Like flies in honey (1984) dedicated to Pier Paolo Pasolini. In 1991 he exhibited in Rome 124 works, among which the Manatthan Transfert cycle, a critique of the unsustainable existential delirium of the American way of life.

His relationship with literature is very close. Vespignani illustrates Boccaccio's Decameron, Leopardi's poems and prose, Majakowski's Complete Works, Eliot's Four Quartets, Kafka's Tales, Belli's Sonnets, Porta's Poems, Villon's Testament and Alleg's Question.

In 1999 he was elected President of the National Academy of San Luca and appointed Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.