At Bertolami Fine Art, an exhibition curated by Claudia Terenzi retraces the career of Titina Maselli, sparkling personality and top artist of post-war Italian art.
The painting of Titina Maselli over the span of a lifetime: from the drills of a young girl driven to art by a precocious talent to death. This is the promise of the anthological exhibition that Bertolami Fine Art, in cooperation with the newborn Maselli Titina Archive, dedicates to one of the greatest Italian artists of the second post-war period, today, paradoxically, more famous in France than in her native country.
1935 / 1946 - First tests in the house in Via Sardegna
The exhibition is opened by a small section in which the most significant works of the many executed from ten to twenty years are grouped together. Maselli depicts the apartment in Via Sardegna, his domestic world: the objects of common use in the house and the little Citto, happy to sit still for hours posing for her beloved older sister. The painter would later tell us: "When I was a teenager I used to paint what I saw around me. There were art books in the house but they didn't tell me anything, far from the world." Of art books in Titina and Citto's house there are actually a lot of them and it is therefore programmatic the choice of the daughter of Enrico Maselli, refined literary and art critic, to ignore the suggestions that could come to her from those pages: Titina is from the beginning attracted by contemporaneity. An attraction declined with the sure taste that acquires who, like her, belongs by birth to a cultural elite.
The house of which it depicts interiors and furnishings is the gathering place of artists, men of letters and intellectuals, the greatest of the time. Luigi Pirandello - Stefano's father, who had married Titina's mother's sister - he is an uncle acquired so tender and assiduous that Citto bambino called him grandfather. Regular guests also Corrado Alvaro, Massimo Bontempelli, Emilio Cecchi, Alberto Savinio, Alfredo Casella (the most important musician of the time)Alberto Moravia, Palma Bucarelli and Silvio D'Amico.
Piano with boy (Citto), 1936
Oil on board - 36×44,5 cm
All in love with Titina
"There were so many people in love with her. In fact, in my memory as an enchanted and adoring younger brother, they all were. Even the "grown-ups" and academics of Italy such as Massimo Bontempelli who caught me wanting her in the kitchen of our house, while in the living room there were all the other unsuspecting guests in conversation" In the delightful story written for the exhibition catalogue, Citto Maselli it evokes the allure of that mermaid sister. Her celebrated beauty is, not by chance, the protagonist of a section of the exhibition in which the curator, Claudia Terenzi, wanted to collect a selection of the many portraits of her made by artists of the time, not only Italian, since yes, it is true, everyone fell in love with Titina.
Portrait of Titina
Hedda Stern - 1954
Charcoal on paper
The night, the city, the athletes in action
Immediately after the war the interest for his work of some important collectors and, in 1948, the first personal exhibition at the Obelisk Gallery: painting has become his craft. The works exhibited until March 30 at Caetani Lovatelli Palace (Bertolami Fine Art's headquarters but also the next headquarters of the Archivio Titina Maselli) make it clear that his peculiar iconography of cities by night and athletes in action - the hallmark of his research - was already defined in those years.
Night excursions armed with easel and colors to paint the city from life are part of its legend. Escorted by Citto or by some friends, but also alone, Titina is not looking for ancient and monumental Rome, but rather the expressions of modern urban anonymity. She is interested in the buildings, the advertising signs, the artificial lights of the metropolitan night. "She was fascinated by the remnants of the day that occupied the sidewalks: shredded pieces of newspapers, Luky Strike's folded packages, apple or banana peels" writes Citto, and her memory materializes in two still lifes on the asphalt of 1948 (Still Life on Asphalt and Still Life Lucky Strike III). Two very beautiful and dense paintings, probably obtained by mixing oils with industrial paints.
The first injured footballer arrives in 1949 to inaugurate the never more abandoned theme of athletes - mostly footballers and boxers - caught in the effort of action through the mediation of photography. "I was fascinated by the ephemeral hyperbolic moment fixed by photographs in sports newspapers", he explained later, indicating the source of his inspiration in the images published in the "sports rag".
Oil on board - 48×33 cm
A personal and innovative path
The lexicon used in those works - widely present in the exhibition - had never been seen before in Italy: an oxymoron art, expressionist but cold, because Titina seeks the key to represent modernity by making "tabula rasa of all sentimentality". At the centre of the Italian art chronicle of the early '50s there is, after all, a single story: the very hard clash between abstractionists and neorealists. In which of the two Titina's two militant groups? Obviously none, she chooses her own independent path, a third way solidly placed at the center of that war scenario: an icastic, a-descriptive realism, which does not seek the representation of the object but the truth of its essence. Capturing with colour ("as contrasting and elementary as possible") the energy that passes through matter, capturing the luminous energy of the metropolis, the emblematic environment of that contemporary world in which it feels perfectly immersed. Inventing an iconography of footballers and boxers in action not to represent the action but "the screaming tension that rises up from the crowd, the wall of screams that rises up around the impetuous rituals of popular sport. Finally, inevitably, leaving behind the bruised and not at all modern Rome of his youth to land, as early as 1952, in New York, the metropolis of the metropolis, the concept of modernity made city.
Wounded footballer, 1953
Oil on board - 100×70 cm
1952 / 1955 - The New York Years
"The city of life is NY, in 52 I already knew what it was, I already wanted this city under the headlights ... not soft ... not seasoned by the lyrical pain. I really wanted to paint the essence of the municipal urban paint."
The years in New York, the ocean put between his research and everything that was being done in the field of art in Europe at that time (the informal experience, for example), have given us back an artist of complete originality, but not of simple interpretation. Critics, not only Italian, have written a lot about her and, if her appreciation is unique, the various narrations of her innovative art in which more than one has caught an anticipation of the pop revolution are often discordant.
Acrylic on canvas -150×100 cm
In '63 he inaugurated the long and uninterrupted season of hyperbolic paintings (many beautiful ones on display at Palazzo Caetani Lovatelli) and converted to the use of acrylic.
The sidereal distance of her work - giant compositions that develop conventionally masculine themes - from the cliché of female art and the contrast with the intense femininity of the author has often been noted: beautiful, slender, elegant...
Blue truck, 1966
Acrylic on canvas - 117×90 cm
In the course of her life - recounted by Citto as an eternal, whirling "do and undo, leave and arrive, destroy and redo" - Titina Maselli has met many places, in some of them she has lived, celebrating them as those of non-Rome: "For me non-Rome is a condition of creative fertility" even if in Rome "for inexplicable reasons, I always go back there". Since the '70s it has taken root in Paris, a city that she loves deeply and from which she is loved again. It was France that gave it its first great international recognition: an exhibition in 1972 at the Maeght Foundation in Saint Paul de Vence and the first monograph, written by Jean Louis Schefer. These are also the years in which he began to dedicate himself to the theatre, signing important scenographies in memorable shows, an interest and a commitment that he will renew until the end.
Acrylic on canvas - 97×195 cm
2005: the boxers, the last painting
The exhibition itinerary conceived by Claudia Terenzi closes with the Boxeurs of 2005, Titina's last painting, created for an important retrospective initially planned at Palazzo delle Esposizioni. The large canvas is still on the easel when, at the age of 81, the artist dies unexpectedly. "I have always admired Titina for the courage with which, alone, she faced everything - writes Citto - We found her lying on her bed...Alone that February afternoon too". Alone by choice, because - Titina was convinced - "loneliness is the true sign of independence.
By Luigia Bradamante
Acrylic on canvas - 100×150 cm
The last work realized by the artist
Elevated - Skyscrapers / Wounded Footballer, 1984
Acrylic on canvas - 250×400 cm
The rites of modernity
7 to 30 September 2020
Bertolami Fine Art
Caetani Lovatelli Palace, Piazza Lovatelli, 1
+39 06 3218464 / 06 32609795
+39 345 0825223
Hours: Monday to Friday 10.30 a.m. - 2 p.m. / 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Catalogue edited by Claudia Terenzi
with texts by
Citto Maselli, Claudia Terenzi, Sabina de Gregori, Lorenzo Fiorucci