Graphic works

Massimo Campigli

Graphic works

This exhibition comprises about sixty lithographs by Massimo Campigli, which explore the artist's rich experimentation with this technique, a technique that fascinated him right from his early years in Paris, around 1930, and which he continued to employ over the rest of his life. Campigli worked with the most important publishers and printers of the time, from Erardo Aeschlimann of the Hoepli publishing house to Hans Mardersteig of Verona, to Pietro Fornasetti, lithograph printer as well as eclectic designer, to Renato Cardazzo of the Cavallino Gallery, and to Nesto Jacometti, founder of L'Oeuvre gravée, a landmark in the history of modern graphics. “Campigli's graphics originated in the illustrated book, hinging on that subtle relationship which the artist-illustrator interweaves with the literary work and which his sensitivity and culture contrive to translate into figurative images. Perhaps the best of his work is enclosed within the pages of the books he illustrated, where the harmonious play derives from words and figures, intermingling in a harmony that no rule or regulation, apart from the fantasy and creative intuition of the artist, can dictate” (from the Introduction to the Graphics Catalogue Raisonné by F. Meloni and L. Tavola) Among the works displayed in the exhibition we find one of Campigli's masterpieces, the twenty plates of Theseus by André Gide (published in 1949, but prepared the previous year in Milan by Fornasetti as far as the lithographs are concerned, and at Verona by Mardersteig, for the printed texts), in which for the first time a hesitant hint of colour creeps in. After this experience Campigli began to experiment with colour, moving from the small-format lithograph typical of a literary text and enclosed in a book to the large sheet, suitable for framing and exhibiting. On display are some exemplars from the La Ruche portfolio, whose title evokes the famous Parisian complex, beehive (literally) of artists' studios and rooms (now destroyed), through which passed (in conditions that were not always of the most felicitous) all, or nearly all, the leading painters and sculptors of the first half of the twentieth century. As the authors of the Graphics Catalogue Raisonné stress: “Campigli threw himself into his graphic activities when the times were not yet ripe for such work. His personal intervention on the moulds, a guarantee of the quality of the works and total lack of any mechanical artifice in the reproduction, make his whole production a shining example of coherence and responsibility. The meticulous care dedicated to the print runs, the numerous colour tests, the abandoned attempts, the rejected and redone plates, are all proof of his passion and constant hands-on participation at every stage of production”.  

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