In 1958, Osvaldo Licini was awarded the Grand Prize for painting at the XXIX Venice Biennale. Sixty years after that recognition and his death, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is hosting a major exhibition of the artist from the Marches region, in 11 rooms and over 100 works.
Osvaldo Licini. Let Sheer Folly Sweep Me Away, running until 14 January 2019, is a journey following a complex and fascinating process of artistic formation that cannot be reduced to a single category or movement.
“He who seeks certainty rarely finds it,” Licina wrote, and indeed the exhibition clearly conveys his constant and tormented experimentation, his sudden changes in style, his research on painting: a path that is coherent in its deviations, that makes him one of the most atypical and original artists of the 20th century.
Pieces that are never truly finished and are constantly reworked. Starting from the youthful ones, focused on landscapes of the Marches imbued with his initially figurative phase, during the twenties, shown in paintings such as Landscape with Man (Montefalcone).
In the thirties Licini matured an atypical form of abstract art, focussing on geometry and the intensity of colour, permeated with feeling
The views the painter loved so much were not forgotten during the transition to abstract art, becoming the background to pieces such as Imaginary Landscape (Billy Goat).
The journey continues through the non-figurative phase, that came into its own during the thirties in the endeavour to flee the reigning realism of Fascist art, influenced by the painter's involvement in the activities of the Il Milione gallery in Milan.
Part of the Milan cultural climate, Licini matured an atypical form of abstract art, focussing on geometry and the intensity of colour, permeated with feeling, as is clear in works such as Castle in the Air.
It is in the difficult balance between the two poles of abstract and figurative art that the painter's work resides, leading to the great masterpieces of his mature years, dedicated to metaphorical and iconic characters such as the Flying Dutchman, Amalasuntha and the Rebel Angel.
The rich selection of paintings from the series dedicated to the moon, Amalasuntha, showcases the many facets of Licini's personality, from his more lyrical and contemplative side, to the more irreverent and ironic.
The pieces painted from the forties onwards concentrate all his themes and styles, making him a major player in Italian and international Modernism, and leading to prizes such as the one awarded by the Biennale, which he won a few months before he died.
Amalassunta on a green background (1949)
Oil on canvas
Gori-Fattoria di Celle Collection, Pistoia
The Snowman (1952)
Oil on canvas
Castle in the Air (1933-1936)
Mixed technique on canvas
Augusto and Francesca Giovanardi Collection
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