Ottone Rosai

Ottone Rosai

Born in Florence in 1895, he was enrolled in the Institute of Decorative Arts in Piazza Santa Croce to study ornate drawing. Expelled from school for his temperament, he continues to self-taught his artistic preparation without neglecting literature. In 1913, at the age of eighteen, he approached the Futurist Movement, saw the works of Umberto Boccioni drawing inspiration from them and became friends with some members of the group including Soffici, Carlo Carrà and Severini. From April to May 1914 Rosai participated in the "Free Futurist Exhibition" of the Galleria Sprovieri in Rome, spoke at some futurist evenings and began to collaborate on the art magazine "Lacerba". With the First World War, adhering to the Futurist philosophy, he enlisted as a volunteer and was soon sent to the front. The experience of war and political convictions make him adhere to the "Futurist Beams" of Marinetti that precede the "Fasci di Combattimento" of Mussolini. After the war, Ottone Rosai continued in the elaboration of his own pictorial language, built on the previous futurist, cubist and metaphysical experiences. In this period we note the proximity to Carlo Carrà and Giorgio Morandi, the admiration for Paul Cézanne and for the Tuscan fifteenth century. The subjects of the painter’s paintings make references to reality and man, are still lifes, landscapes and compositions with figures. Ottone Rosai loves to pick up the working-class districts of a small, modest and narrow Florence, the alleys and its little men in the taverns. The death of his father, who committed suicide due to debt, in 1922, forced him to work in the family’s carpentry workshop, slowing his production as a painter. Ottone Rosai achieved success in 1932 with a solo exhibition in his city, at the Galleria di Palazzo Ferroni. In 1933, Rosai signed the "Manifesto Realista" in contrast to Gentile’s idealism, a manifesto that exalts fascist culture and art, but paints anti-rhetorical portraits of a humanity of "vanquished". It is this kind of painting that gave Rosai fame, but also the accusation of "provincialism" and easy "sketching". Rosai’s correct assessment was hampered by his adherence to fascism and his homosexuality, which made him hateful to both left-wing and right-wing critics. In 1939 Ottone Rosai was appointed Professor of figure drawn at the Liceo Artistico and in 1942 he was assigned the chair of painting at the Accademia di Firenze. With the end of the war, Rosai participated in group exhibitions in Milan, in 1946 and in 1947 and opened a solo exhibition in Rome. Since 1950 he has become known internationally, participating in art exhibitions in Zurich, Paris, London and Munich. He participated in an exhibition on Italian artists in Madrid and in important group exhibitions on the twentieth century in New York. In 1956, at the Venice Biennale, a retrospective of Ottone Rosai’s work was staged, which he continued to exhibit in Bologna and Trieste, until 13 May 1957, the day of his death.