Magia della ceramica | Arturo Martini | BIOGRAPHY

Arturo Martini

(Treviso 1889, Milan 1947) was the most important Italian sculptor of the first half of the 20th century. Raised in a modest and humble family, he became acquainted with the influential abbot Luigi Bailo and the ceramic entrepreneur Gregorio Gregorj. They both guided and encouraged Martini and led him to have adequate training at the night school ‘Scuola Serale’ in Treviso and later in Venice at the studio of Urbano Nono. Martini’s natural talent flourished alongside his interest in clay modelling, a passion that led him to work as an artisan. Martini produced significant ceramics for Gregorio Gregori, demonstrating equal talent for sculpture. Soon after, he was selected by Nino Barbantini to participate in an exhibition dedicated to young artists at the prestigious Ca ’Pesaro, where his ceramic sculpture ‘Girl Full of Love’ impressed friends, collectors and art critics and thus became an icon of the Venetian art scene during the early 1900s. After the Great War Martini returned to sculpture and published a manifesto entitled ‘il liber mutus Contemplazioni’, an enigmatic farewell to xylography, devoid of words and images, a youthful and idealistic expression of maturity yet to be experienced.

Soon after he moved to Milan and married Brigida Pessano, with whom he had two sons. Around this time Martini produced his first large scale artwork, ‘the Monument to the Fallen’ for his wife’s hometown ‘Vado Ligure’. Around this time Martini became acquainted with the art collective “Valori Plastici” whose founding members were De Chirico and Carrà. After he moved to Rome and where on behalf of a US artist, he made a grandiose Monument in memory of the Pioneers of Worcester in the nearby town of Anticoli Corrado. Around 1925, in a moment of crisis, the artist returned to ceramics and produced a series of works for his friend Manlio Trucco, a series which would make history in Italian small-scale ceramic making, comprising; ‘Piccolo presepe’, ‘Grande presepe’, ‘Via Crucis’, ‘The dream of the centaur’, ‘The bather’, to name a few. With the enthusiastic support and encouragement from the architect Mario Labò, Martini went on to exhibit at the Third Monza Biennial, 1930. Subsequently he created a group of animals which proved to be an equally imaginative and enchanting sculpture. During this time, he taught students such as Marino Marini and Mirko Basaldella at the Istituto Superiore delle Industrie Artistiche.

Martini then returned back to clay modelling, mastering terracotta as a medium and produced his famous works such as ‘Zio’ and ‘Nena’ (the portrait of his daughter, Maria). His unique creations such as ‘Woman in the Sun’, and ‘Shepherd’ earned him the first prize at the 1931 I Quadriennale of Rome, and in 1932 in a solo show he exhibited ‘Aviator’, ‘Chiaro di Luna’, ‘Winter races’, ‘Il sogno’, and ‘La vigil’ at the XVIII Venice Biennale. During the 1930s, Martini dedicated his talent to producing monumental works which are recognized to this day as some of the most interesting examples of Fascist sculpture. Among the first of these were erected in Milan at ‘the Corporate Justice’ at the Courthouse, as well as the monument of Arengario in Piazza Duomo. Alongside ceramic making Martini also dedicated himself to painting. At the beginning of the 1940s he was called to the chair at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, where he met Carlo Scarpa and Mario Deluigi. During this time extended his innovative approach to sculpting Carrara marble producing ‘A woman who swims underwater’ (housed in Verona at the Domus Cassa di Risparmio Foundation) and ‘Tito Livio’ which can be seen in Padua, at the palazzo Liviano. Despite Martini’s doubts and dilemmas about sculpture, he expressed fruitful and innovative thoughts in the pamphlet ‘The language of sculpture is dead’ published in Venice in 1945. Toward the end of his life he moved back to Milan and produced his last works of pottery and terracotta, he passed away suddenly in 1947.

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