Renato Guttuso
Renato Guttuso was an Italian
Italian people
The Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...


His best-known paintings include Flight from Etna (1938–39), Crucifixion (1941) and La Vucciria (1974). Guttuso also designed for the theatre (including sets and costumes for Histoire du Soldat
Histoire du soldat
Histoire du soldat , composed by Igor Stravinsky, is a 1918 theatrical work "to be read, played, and danced" . The libretto, which is based on a Russian folk tale, was written in French by the Swiss universalist writer C.F. Ramuz...

, Rome, 1940) and did illustrations for books. Those for Elizabeth David
Elizabeth David
Elizabeth David CBE was a British cookery writer who, in the mid-20th century, strongly influenced the revitalisation of the art of home cookery with articles and books about European cuisines and traditional British dishes.Born to an upper-class family, David rebelled against social norms of the...

’s Italian Food (1954), introduced him to many in the English-speaking world. A fierce anti-Fascist, "he developed out of Expressionism
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas...

 and the harsh light of his native land to paint landscapes and social commentary."



He was born in Bagheria
Bagheria is a town and comune in the Province of Palermo in Sicily, Italy.-Etymology:According to some sources, the name Bagheria originates from the Phoenician term Bayharia meaning "land that descends toward the sea." Other sources claim that it derives from the Arabic Bāb al-Gerib, or "windy...

, near Palermo
Palermo is a city in Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old...

 in Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, but from 1937 lived and worked largely in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. An anti-fascist, he joined the banned Italian Communist Party
Italian Communist Party
The Italian Communist Party was a communist political party in Italy.The PCI was founded as Communist Party of Italy on 21 January 1921 in Livorno, by seceding from the Italian Socialist Party . Amadeo Bordiga and Antonio Gramsci led the split. Outlawed during the Fascist regime, the party played...

 (PCI) in 1940 and left Rome to become an active participant in the partisan struggle
Italian resistance movement
The Italian resistance is the umbrella term for the various partisan forces formed by pro-Allied Italians during World War II...

 from 1943. He was also an opponent to the Mafia
The Mafia is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering...

. In 1972 Guttuso was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize
Lenin Peace Prize
The International Lenin Peace Prize was the Soviet Union's equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize, named in honor of Vladimir Lenin. It was awarded by a panel appointed by the Soviet government, to notable individuals whom the panel indicated had "strengthened peace among peoples"...

. In 1976 he was elected to the Italian Senate
Italian Senate
The Senate of the Republic is the upper house of the Italian Parliament. It was established in its current form on 8 May 1948, but previously existed during the Kingdom of Italy as Senato del Regno , itself a continuation of the Senato Subalpino of Sardinia-Piedmont established on 8 May 1848...

 as a PCI representative for the Sicilian constituency of Sciacca
Sciacca , also Schiacca, is a town and comune in the province of Agrigento on the southwestern coast of Sicily...



Renato Guttuso's father, Gioacchino Guttuso, was a land surveyor
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

 and there are many portraits of him in the collection donated to the mayor of Bagheria. The precocious capabilities of the artist are apparent from the very first paintings from 1925.

His bourgeois adolescence offered him plenty of stimuli. Guttuso lived close to a house amongst the Valguarnera villas and Palagonia
Palagonia is a comune in the Province of Catania in the Italian region Sicily, located about 150 km southeast of Palermo and about 35 km southwest of Catania...

, which he would soon represent in paintings inspired by the cliffs of Aspra.

In Palermo and in the same Bagheria he saw the complete ruin of the nobility of the splendid villas of the 18th century, abandoned to urban decay as a consequence of political infighting within the municipal chambers. At the same time, his family suffered a period of economic stress because of the hostility shown by Fascists and clergy towards his father.

He went to Palermo for high school studies, and then to the University, where his development was modelled on the European figurative trends of the day, from Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

 to Van Gogh and to Picasso. His works opened to doors for him in Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 and to further travel throughout Europe.

As his expressionism became stronger we notice scenes of nature in flower, the lemon trees, the saracen olive trees, all in an environment suspended between myth and island insularity, that, when sent to the Quadriennale expo of 1931, he joined a collective of six Siciilian painters, acclaimed by the critic Franco Grasso as a "disclosure, a Sicilian affirmation".

Back in Palermo he opened a studio in Pisani street and together with the painter Lia Pasqualino and the sculptors Barbera and Nino Franchina, formed the Gruppo dei Quattro ("The Group of Four").

Rejection of the academic principles and social art

He rejected every academic canon, putting free figures in space and searching for the pure sense of color. Guttuso joined the artistic movement "Corrente", which stood for free and open attitudes, in opposition to the official culture, and chose a strong anti-fascist position in the thematic choices through the years of the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...


During a stay of three years in Milan, where he entered the cultural circle of Corrente di Vita
Corrente di Vita
Corrente di Vita Giovanile , later renamed Corrente di Vita or Corrente, was an Italian magazine founded on 1 January 1938 in Milan by artist Ernesto Treccani....

, Guttuso developed his "social" art, which highlighted a moral and political commitment visible in paintings like Fucilazione in Campagna (1938), dedicated to the writer García Lorca
Federico García Lorca
Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca was a Spanish poet, dramatist and theatre director. García Lorca achieved international recognition as an emblematic member of the Generation of '27. He is believed to be one of thousands who were summarily shot by anti-communist death squads...

, and Escape from Etna.

Moving to Rome, he opened a study in Via Margutta
Via Margutta
Via Margutta is a narrow street in the centre of Rome, near Piazza del Popolo, accessible from Via del Babbuino in the ancientCampo Marzio neighborhood also known as "the foreigner's quarter". Mount Pincio is nearby...

 where, because of his natural exhuberance, his friend Marino Mazzacurati nicknamed him "Unbridled". He lived close by to the significative artists of the time: Mario Mafai
Mario Mafai
Mario Mafai , was an Italian painter, founder with his wife Antonietta Raphaël of the modern art movement called Scuola Romana.- Biography :...

, Corrado Cagli
Corrado Cagli
Corrado Cagli was an Italian painter of Jewish heritage, who lived in the USA during World War II.Cagli was born in Ancona, but in 1915 moved with his family to Rome....

, Antonello Trombadori
Antonello Trombadori
Antonello Trombadori was an Italian art critic and journalist.Born in Rome into a family of artists Trombadori lived a happy life in the Villa Strohl-Fern studio-home of his city, coming into contact with numerous intellectuals of the era...

, keeping also in contact with the group from Milan of Giacomo Manzù
Giacomo Manzù
Giacomo Manzù, pseudonym of Giacomo Manzoni , was an Italian sculptor, communist, and Roman Catholic.-Biography:...

 and Aligi Sassu
Aligi Sassu
Aligi Sassu was an Italian painter and sculptor.-Biography:Aligi Sassu was born in Milan, Lombardy, into a Sardinian-origin family. His father Antonio was one of the founders of the Italian Socialist Party at Sassari in 1894, and had moved to Milan in 1896, where he had married Lina Pedretti in...


The controversial painting for which he is best remembered, at the time derided by the clergy and the fascists because it denounced the horrors of the war under a religious cover, is Crocifissione ("Crucifixion"). Guttuso wrote in his diary: "it is the symbol of all those who endure insults, jail, torture for their ideas".

He did not stop working during the years of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, his work ranging from landscape glimpses of the Gulf of Palermo to a collection of drawings entitled Massacri ("Massacres"), that clandestinely denounced slaughters such as the Fosse Ardeatine.

Guttuso's marriage

In those years he met and married Mimise, who will become his confidant and faithful spouse, and model as well. After the liberation of Italy from Nazi-fascism he finished Muratori in riposo ("Workers resting"), china ink and watercolor of 1945, a symbol of rebirth of which Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pier Paolo Pasolini was an Italian film director, poet, writer, and intellectual. Pasolini distinguished himself as a poet, journalist, philosopher, linguist, novelist, playwright, filmmaker, newspaper and magazine columnist, actor, painter and political figure...

 wrote in 1962:
"The shapes of ten workers
emerge white over white masonry
the noon is that of the summer.
But the humiliated flesh
projects a shadow; is the disarranged order
of the white colors, that is faithfully followed
by the black ones. The noon is a peaceful one".

Then he painted Peasant Who Hoe (1947) and Peasants of Sicily (1951) in which the pictorical language became clear and free of all superfluous elements. Guttuso wrote that those were preparatory sketches for Occupation of uncultivated lands of Sicily, exhibited in the Venice Biennale
Venice Biennale
The Venice Biennale is a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years in Venice, Italy. The Venice Film Festival is part of it. So too is the Venice Biennale of Architecture, which is held in even years...

 in 1950, asserting:

In 1950, Guttuso joined the project of the Verzocchi collection
Verzocchi collection
The Verzocchi collection or the Galleria Verzocchi - work in contemporary painting is a collection of over seventy 20th century Italian paintings formed by the entrepreneur Giuseppe Verzocchi from 1949 to 1950. It contains only paintings of 90 by 70 cm and only on the themes of work and...

 (in the civic Pinacoteca of Forlì), sending, a self-portrait, and the work "sicilian labourer".

He succeeded in astonishing his audience, alternating between the luminous and full vision of color of Bagheria on the Gulf of Palermo to the Battle of the Bridge of the Admiral, in which he depicted his grandfather Ciro as a Garibaldine soldier. He painted also a series from live about the fights of peasants for the occupation of lands, the zolfatari
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

, or glimpses of landscape between cactus and prickly pears, as well as portraits of men of culture like Nino Garajo and Bruno Caruso.

Fascinated by Dante
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

's model, in 1961 he made a series of color drawings, published in 1970, as Il Dante di Guttuso, depicting the characters of Hell as examples of human history, confirming the versatility of his talent.

In the late 1960s and 1970s he completed a suite of paintings devoted to the feminine figure, a motif that became as dominant in his painting as it was in his life: Donne stanze paesaggi, oggetti (1967) was followed by a series of portraits of Marta Marzotto, his preferred muse of many years.

The Vucciria Market

His most famous "palermitano" painting is the Vucciria (the name of Palermo's market), in which, with raw and bloody realism, he expressed one of the many spirits of the Sicilian city.

Guttuso died in Rome at the age of 75.

After the death of his wife, he reconciled with the Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 faith with which he had been critical and donated many of his works to his hometown Bagheria, now housed in the museum of the Villa Cattolica.

External links

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