Luigi Bartolini between word and colour. An in-depth look at the artist and writer sixty years after his death

When looking at the work of Luigi Bartolini, one cannot help but immediately notice the richness and prolificacy of his career. Poet, engraver, painter and writer, Bartolini sailed through the first half of the 20th century with the wind in his sails. Born at the end of the 19th century in the Marche region, he moved to Siena, Rome and Florence at a very young age. During his apprenticeship, he turned his attention to important masters of the past, such as Goya and Rembrandt. He directly studies the works of these artists on the walls of the great Italian museums, where he spends a lot of time. But there is not only this, in his youthful interests there is also a strong curiosity towards the avant-garde.

The call to arms briefly interrupted his artistic élan that returned strongly in 1919, with his return to Macerata. His activity as an engraver is undoubtedly what made him famous, but his paintings and writings, too, did not fail to animate the debates of those years. Arrested and sent into exile as an anti-fascist, Bartolini, during the twenty years of Fascism, was not intimidated by the political repression and climate of intimidation and continued straight ahead in his artistic research. His works, even experimenting with shapes, colours and subjects, remain, for the most part, figurative and never lose sight of the natural referent, the object of resemblance, the reality of the subject. He regularly participated in the most illustrious art exhibitions of those years such as the Venice Biennale and the Quadriennale d'Arte Nazionale in Rome and did not fail to win prestigious prizes such as the Esposizione del Bianco e Nero at the Uffizi Gallery (1932) where he won first prize ex-aequo with Morandi and Boccioni.

Engravings, paintings and words are the cornerstones of this long artistic parabola of over seventy years. In alternating phases, these aspects have overlapped, conflicted and drifted apart, but in the end they have always come back together to coexist under the roof of the same genius. In addition to images, there are also words, and yes, because Luigi Bartolini has also published 70 books with major Italian publishers, including the title of the novel Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves), which later inspired the screenplay for the film of the same name by Vittorio De Sica.

Sixty years after his death, at the Palazzo Buonaccorsi in Macerata, Manuel Carrera curates the exhibition 'Luigi Bartolini, through colour', an anthological journey to rediscover the colours of this artist. The canvases on display follow a chronological rhythm and give the viewer a rich overview of his pictorial production. Still lifes, landscapes, faces and bodies animate the exhibition itinerary and restore the complexity of the painter Bartolini and his way of understanding colour as a non-mimetic part of the composition because, as he used to say, this element in a painting 'must be observed on the real thing, it must be pinned on the notebook as Van Gogh did, but it must not be spread on the canvas in front of the real thing'.

We also like to remember him with other words that have little to do with colour, but instead tell of the neighbourhood where we have worked every day for many years: Pigneto. The following is a short extract from "Tre poesie d'arte" (Il sodalizio del libro, Venice 1957):

"From Piazza Lodi, past the railway bridge, you meet the 'little white trams'; the little country trams, the ones that go to Tor Pignattara, to Centocelle, to Torre Gaja. I once went hunting with Liebe in Centocelle, passing through Tor Pignattara. Who knows if the dog didn't go via Tor Pignattara? Meanwhile it is night. It is ten o'clock at night. There are few or no people on the streets. Two officers lead a thief to the barracks. I watch a tramp waving her handbag around like a censer. I take for the Borgo. They told me that at the end of the Borgo is Pigneto; a place of ultra-poor people. Unemployed workers; a few delinquents and some gypsies. The hubbub lasts there until well past ten o'clock at night; it's a bustle of gentry between the market stalls. Nocelles. Mandarins. Prickly pears (...)"


We too would like to pay homage to this 20th-century master, by proposing here a short list of his most interesting works available on our site.

Poesie 1960 

Meccanico gigante 

Follonica ed altri 14 capitoli ad umore amoroso 

La caccia al fagiano 

L'antro di Capelvenere 

L'Eremo dei Frati Bianchi  

Testamento per Luciana e un'acquaforte  

Ombre fra le metope

Antinoo o l'efebo dal naso a becco di civetta

Saluto alla cara Melfi