Biography

The Forties and the Fifties

Towards his Museum

The decade opened with the publication of his monumental autobiography that documented about thirty years of artistic activity. However, there were neither jerks to the rule, nor graphic impulses and pages upside down as in his famous bolted book of thirteen years earlier. Everything was orderly, framed, precise.

In 1941, he made a large mosaic in Rome in anticipation of the “E42” exhibition, but the war loomed again and Depero took refuge in the alpine tranquillity of his Serrada, which he often portrayed in his paintings. There he began to think about his future museum: almost a paradox for a futurist who had always shouted “let’s burn museums and academies!”

The decade opened with the publication of his monumental autobiography that documented about thirty years of artistic activity. However, there were neither jerks to the rule, nor graphic impulses and pages upside down as in his famous bolted book of thirteen years earlier. Everything was orderly, framed, precise.

In 1941, he made a large mosaic in Rome in anticipation of the “E42” exhibition, but the war loomed again and Depero took refuge in the alpine tranquillity of his Serrada, which he often portrayed in his paintings. There he began to think about his future museum: almost a paradox for a futurist who had always shouted “let’s burn museums and academies!”

In 1943, trying to forge ahead with the local hierarchs in order to get some orders, he published A passo romano, (At roman pace)  a collection of war poems that, with the worst  timing, anticipated the armistice of 8th September by a few months. Needless to say that in the immediate post-war period, this pamphlet, suggested more by the need to work  than by a real political persuasion (although it must be said that Depero was “sincerely” fascist, in the sense that he believed, in his own way and naively, that fascism would allow artists to create the Artecrazia always longed for by Marinetti) was continually grudged to him, especially by those who, when the Americans arrived on the outskirts of the city, quickly changed  the colour of their shirt from black to red.

Many of the works created in the 1940s were marked by intense rustic interest. Sometimes they were household objects, sometimes mountain farmhouses, some other times it was the vision of the city with its monuments, with its modern buildings. However, Depero always focused on those secular signs that marked the rhythms of rural life: the church of the village, with its small cemetery, the large fountain where the water was continuously flowing, almost taking the Time away; a big smiling sun, which  embraced the whole landscape with its rays. In this context, far from being synonymous with Modernity, in these visions of a heavy, patently static plant, Depero inserted futurist symbologies, memory tranches, like in Nitrito in velocità  (Neighing aerodynamic horse at speed), or once again he dusted off his theory of Light Architecture by which he shaped the alpine landscape, making it almost similar to a crystal. In 1944 he painted Rito e splendori d’osteria (Custom and glories of the tavern) which marked a resolute return to his best painting: interpenetration, architecture of light, multi-perspective vision, all in an apparent, but wise, monochromatic style.

In 1943, trying to forge ahead with the local hierarchs in order to get some orders, he published A passo romano, (At roman pace)  a collection of war poems that, with the worst  timing, anticipated the armistice of 8th September by a few months. Needless to say that in the immediate post-war period, this pamphlet, suggested more by the need to work  than by a real political persuasion (although it must be said that Depero was “sincerely” fascist, in the sense that he believed, in his own way and naively, that fascism would allow artists to create the Artecrazia always longed for by Marinetti) was continually grudged to him, especially by those who, when the Americans arrived on the outskirts of the city, quickly changed  the colour of their shirt from black to red.

Many of the works created in the 1940s were marked by intense rustic interest. Sometimes they were household objects, sometimes mountain farmhouses, some other times it was the vision of the city with its monuments, with its modern buildings. However, Depero always focused on those secular signs that marked the rhythms of rural life: the church of the village, with its small cemetery, the large fountain where the water was continuously flowing, almost taking the Time away; a big smiling sun, which  embraced the whole landscape with its rays. In this context, far from being synonymous with Modernity, in these visions of a heavy, patently static plant, Depero inserted futurist symbologies, memory tranches, like in Nitrito in velocità  (Neighing aerodynamic horse at speed), or once again he dusted off his theory of Light Architecture by which he shaped the alpine landscape, making it almost similar to a crystal. In 1944 he painted Rito e splendori d’osteria (Custom and glories of the tavern) which marked a resolute return to his best painting: interpenetration, architecture of light, multi-perspective vision, all in an apparent, but wise, monochromatic style.

In the post-war period he found new pictorial energy. He revisited his painting with a series of works that recalled the memory of vision of the best moments (in Fiori inventati, Gli automi, Vampe galloppanti, Gondoliere, – Invented flowers, Robots, Running blazes, Venetian coleopter) he glanced at Severini (Giocattoli di Giola – Giola’s toys), he remembered Balla (Nel fondale della coppa del deserto – in the backdrop of the Cup of the desert), reviewed the dynamism and the analysis of  movement (in Capogiro, Colpo di vento e Incontro notturno –  Dizziness, Stroke of wind and Night meeting). These are works that, depending on the more or less successful outcome of combination between style and a new glowing color scheme, take on their poetry and well represent the artist’s journey during the 1940s, torn as he was between the uncertainty of his artistic future and the nostalgia of his best years.

However, in 1946 he tried to re-tie the strands of his career and appeared in a Milan of the first post-war period, still bewildered by five years of hostility, with a solo show at the Galleria Il Camino, urged in this also by his friend Gianni Mattioli. Somehow he regained selfconfidence and decided to try the American card again, also thanks to the Buxus. In fact, the Cartiere Bosso (Bosso Paper factory) of Turin financed much of the trip (and the publication of his autobiography in English) in the hope, thanks to Depero, of introducing their product in the US market.

Buxus was a material in sheets laid by veneers marketed starting from 1928 by  the Cartiere Bosso of Mathi Canavese. It was cellulose based and could be used both hot and cold. His notoriety grew considerably in the second half of the 1930s, due to the introduction of the famous embargo sanctions against Italy but above all for the ideological use of buxus  made by Fortunato Depero, who in 1938/39 took care of  its promotional relaunch wanted by the Cartiere Bosso.

In the post-war period he found new pictorial energy. He revisited his painting with a series of works that recalled the memory of vision of the best moments (in Fiori inventati, Gli automi, Vampe galloppanti, Gondoliere, – Invented flowers, Robots, Running blazes, Venetian coleopter) he glanced at Severini (Giocattoli di Giola – Giola’s toys), he remembered Balla (Nel fondale della coppa del deserto – in the backdrop of the Cup of the desert), reviewed the dynamism and the analysis of  movement (in Capogiro, Colpo di vento e Incontro notturno –  Dizziness, Stroke of wind and Night meeting). These are works that, depending on the more or less successful outcome of combination between style and a new glowing color scheme, take on their poetry and well represent the artist’s journey during the 1940s, torn as he was between the uncertainty of his artistic future and the nostalgia of his best years.

However, in 1946 he tried to re-tie the strands of his career and appeared in a Milan of the first post-war period, still bewildered by five years of hostility, with a solo show at the Galleria Il Camino, urged in this also by his friend Gianni Mattioli. Somehow he regained selfconfidence and decided to try the American card again, also thanks to the Buxus. In fact, the Cartiere Bosso (Bosso Paper factory) of Turin financed much of the trip (and the publication of his autobiography in English) in the hope, thanks to Depero, of introducing their product in the US market.

Buxus was a material in sheets laid by veneers marketed starting from 1928 by  the Cartiere Bosso of Mathi Canavese. It was cellulose based and could be used both hot and cold. His notoriety grew considerably in the second half of the 1930s, due to the introduction of the famous embargo sanctions against Italy but above all for the ideological use of buxus  made by Fortunato Depero, who in 1938/39 took care of  its promotional relaunch wanted by the Cartiere Bosso.

This time, however, unlike the first New York journey in the late 1920s, Depero went ahead on his own, to “test the terrain”, perhaps with the presage that the climate had changed. In fact, he found there an almost hostile New York, closed to Futurism: the end of the war was still too close and surely also the ideological differences still too much alive. As this weren’t  enough, that winter 1947/48 was one of the coldest to remember in New York. During the first months Depero had not even found  a lodging, he had little money, and  the sales were at “zero level”. Therefore, for the night he had found hospitality by a friend who had provided him with a sofa bed in his office at the Never Rust Company which produced beds, railings and anything else in iron.  Depero could only enter the office after closing time and had to leave before the employees arrived. During the day he wandered through the city in search of some customers. In the evening, when tired and exhausted, he could warm himself in that little shelter, the name of the Company sounded even ironic to him.

Also with the Buxus things  didn’t go any differently: the Buxus was destined at the most to a handcrafted production while in New York they demanded industrial quantities, impossible to produce in a short time and manually, as Depero did. So all the hopes placed in the Buxus dissolved like soap bubbles, and with them even the illusions of the artist. However, New York brought him into contact with the surrealists, and he found a new interest in anthropology, and this brought a breath of fresh air to his production of the last few years.

Luckily for him in the spring of 1948 his wife Rosetta joined him and, together, they moved to Merryhall, New Milford district of Connecticut, guests of William Hillman’s (Italian) wife, the press secretary of the President of the United States, Truman, who had put their elegant cottage at their disposal. There, immersed in the rural peace, he found  serenity and worked a lot.

This time, however, unlike the first New York journey in the late 1920s, Depero went ahead on his own, to “test the terrain”, perhaps with the presage that the climate had changed. In fact, he found there an almost hostile New York, closed to Futurism: the end of the war was still too close and surely also the ideological differences still too much alive. As this weren’t  enough, that winter 1947/48 was one of the coldest to remember in New York. During the first months Depero had not even found  a lodging, he had little money, and  the sales were at “zero level”. Therefore, for the night he had found hospitality by a friend who had provided him with a sofa bed in his office at the Never Rust Company which produced beds, railings and anything else in iron.  Depero could only enter the office after closing time and had to leave before the employees arrived. During the day he wandered through the city in search of some customers. In the evening, when tired and exhausted, he could warm himself in that little shelter, the name of the Company sounded even ironic to him.

Also with the Buxus things  didn’t go any differently: the Buxus was destined at the most to a handcrafted production while in New York they demanded industrial quantities, impossible to produce in a short time and manually, as Depero did. So all the hopes placed in the Buxus dissolved like soap bubbles, and with them even the illusions of the artist. However, New York brought him into contact with the surrealists, and he found a new interest in anthropology, and this brought a breath of fresh air to his production of the last few years.

Luckily for him in the spring of 1948 his wife Rosetta joined him and, together, they moved to Merryhall, New Milford district of Connecticut, guests of William Hillman’s (Italian) wife, the press secretary of the President of the United States, Truman, who had put their elegant cottage at their disposal. There, immersed in the rural peace, he found  serenity and worked a lot.

When he returned to Italy in 1949, he began his polemic against criticism for an all-out reading of Futurism and, at the end of 1950, he launched the Manifesto of painting and nuclear plastic. In 1951 he participated in the IX Triennale di Milano with a personal room, in 1952 he was present in the hall of the masters at the XXVI Biennale di Venezia, in 1955 at the VII  Quadriennale di Roma and, finally, in 1959 at the commemorative exhibition for the fifteenth anniversary of the first Futurist manifesto.

Between 1953 and 1956 he realized the great preparation and furnishing of the Provincial Council Hall in Trento and, finally, in 1957 he started the creation of his museum, the very first  Futurist museum, which was inaugurated in August 1959, when he was already undermined by the illness. A little over a year later, on October 29th, Depero died  without a clamor, leaving the city of Rovereto with  a donation of over three thousand works of art but also with the commitment to enhance his painting in the future. His faithful wife Rosetta, director of the tapestry workshop, joined him in 1976.

THE  SLOW AND CONTROVERSIAL REVALUATION

Needless to say, his work, especially in Rovereto, was not immediately implemented. The museum, in fact, remained closed for a long time or opened upon request (at least until the end of the Sixties), while with the second half of the seventies began a regular opening but limited only to the spring and summer months.It was only towards 1986, 27 years after the inauguration, that the Depero Museum was opened regularly. His critical reassessment began outside the region, in Milan, with a first, interesting, retrospective organized by Guido Ballo at the Toninelli Gallery in 1962, followed by the remarkable exhibition curated by Agnoldomenico Pica at Villa Reale, also in Milan, in 1966. Another notable exhibition was  organized in 1969 by the Martano Gallery in Turin, curated by Luigi Lambertini. With these editions Bruno Passamani’s study on the theatrical activity of the artist was also released.

When he returned to Italy in 1949, he began his polemic against criticism for an all-out reading of Futurism and, at the end of 1950, he launched the Manifesto of painting and nuclear plastic. In 1951 he participated in the IX Triennale di Milano with a personal room, in 1952 he was present in the hall of the masters at the XXVI Biennale di Venezia, in 1955 at the VII  Quadriennale di Roma and, finally, in 1959 at the commemorative exhibition for the fifteenth anniversary of the first Futurist manifesto.

Between 1953 and 1956 he realized the great preparation and furnishing of the Provincial Council Hall in Trento and, finally, in 1957 he started the creation of his museum, the very first  Futurist museum, which was inaugurated in August 1959, when he was already undermined by the illness. A little over a year later, on October 29th, Depero died  without a clamor, leaving the city of Rovereto with  a donation of over three thousand works of art but also with the commitment to enhance his painting in the future. His faithful wife Rosetta, director of the tapestry workshop, joined him in 1976.

THE  SLOW AND CONTROVERSIAL REVALUATION

Needless to say, his work, especially in Rovereto, was not immediately implemented. The museum, in fact, remained closed for a long time or opened upon request (at least until the end of the Sixties), while with the second half of the seventies began a regular opening but limited only to the spring and summer months.It was only towards 1986, 27 years after the inauguration, that the Depero Museum  was opened regularly. His critical reassessment began outside the region, in Milan, with a first, interesting, retrospective organized by Guido Ballo at the Toninelli Gallery in 1962, followed by the remarkable exhibition curated by Agnoldomenico Pica at Villa Reale, also in Milan, in 1966. Another notable exhibition was  organized in 1969 by the Martano Gallery in Turin, curated by Luigi Lambertini. With these editions Bruno Passamani’s study on the theatrical activity of the artist was also released.

The following year was the turning point, in the sense of a decisive critical and cataloging study on the occasion of the great Bassano del Grappa exhibition, curated by Bruno Passamani. From this moment, and throughout the decade, Passamani became undoubtedly the great architect of the Deperian growth, thanks to a series of essays, presentations and critical studies that would culminate in the substantial monograph of 1981. In the Seventies we witnessed the growth of popularity with exhibitions and articles also on the major weekly magazines, due to the great echo of the Bassano exhibition, while the Eighties opened with the important Turin exhibition, Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe, which took the title, precisely, from the manifesto by Balla and Depero and where the artist from  Rovereto had an important space. This was followed by the Spoleto, Salzburg and Bolzano exhibitions, which saw the Museum as an active partner in the new philosophy of “bringing Depero out of his Museum”.

In 1985 there was the participation in Palazzo Grassi Exibition: a presence not really qualifying due to the choice of the works. In fact, rather than on a scholar of Futurism, Ponthus Hulten relied on the  theorist of “ poor art”, Germano Celant, perhaps because the Futurists, after all, were considered, once more, “poor  artists”. However one of  the most admired  painting of the exhibition, was  Treno partorito dal sole ( Train born from the sun), by Depero, and this certainly increased his notoriety. The following year was the time of the review on the artist’s New York period, curated by Maurizio Scudiero and David Leiber at the Museo Depero and, for the first time in 27 years,  a temporary exhibition “modified” the layout of the rooms created by the same artist. The inventory was also revised with the “discovery” of dozens and dozens of unpublished works. Finally in 1988 there was the first great anthological exhibition that brought to Rovereto (and then to Milan and Düsseldorf) the masterpieces of the best years. Depero arrived at Electa and left the editorial limbo. Then in Rovereto was built and opened the Mart which conglobated the Depero Museum, recently restored.

The following year was the turning point, in the sense of a decisive critical and cataloging study on the occasion of the great Bassano del Grappa exhibition, curated by Bruno Passamani. From this moment, and throughout the decade, Passamani became undoubtedly the great architect of the Deperian growth, thanks to a series of essays, presentations and critical studies that would culminate in the substantial monograph of 1981. In the Seventies we witnessed the growth of popularity with exhibitions and articles also on the major weekly magazines, due to the great echo of the Bassano exhibition, while the Eighties opened with the important Turin exhibition, Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe, which took the title, precisely, from the manifesto by Balla and Depero and where the artist from  Rovereto had an important space. This was followed by the Spoleto, Salzburg and Bolzano exhibitions, which saw the Museum as an active partner in the new philosophy of “bringing Depero out of his Museum”.

In 1985 there was the participation in Palazzo Grassi Exibition: a presence not really qualifying due to the choice of the works. In fact, rather than on a scholar of Futurism, Ponthus Hulten relied on the  theorist of “ poor art”, Germano Celant, perhaps because the Futurists, after all, were considered, once more, “poor  artists”. However one of  the most admired  painting of the exhibition, was  Treno partorito dal sole ( Train born from the sun), by Depero, and this certainly increased his notoriety. The following year was the time of the review on the artist’s New York period, curated by Maurizio Scudiero and David Leiber at the Museo Depero and, for the first time in 27 years,  a temporary exhibition “modified” the layout of the rooms created by the same artist. The inventory was also revised with the “discovery” of dozens and dozens of unpublished works. Finally in 1988 there was the first great anthological exhibition that brought to Rovereto (and then to Milan and Düsseldorf) the masterpieces of the best years. Depero arrived at Electa and left the editorial limbo. Then in Rovereto was built and opened the Mart which conglobated the Depero Museum, recently restored.

Previous Chapter

The Thirties:

The Return to Real Life