Magazine of art press and reviews from London
David Franchi – Monday, 28th March 2016.
It is a great exhibition Giacomo Manzù, at the Estorick Collection, London.
Organised by the Estorick Collection, the exhibition “Giacomo Manzù: Sculptor and Draughtsman” brings to London his works, celebrating one of the most important Italian artist of the twentieth century.
Giacomo Manzù is internationally recognised as a sculptor master. He is well-known for his really fine and touching portraiture and religious work.
The Estorick Collection exhibition focuses on both drawings and bas-reliefs of Manzù. It is organised in collaboration with the Galleria d’Arte Maggiore Bologna. It presents more than 50 sculptures and works on paper.
Mostly self-taught as an artist, at an early age Giacomo Manzù had learned from craftsmen and carpenters to work and carve wood. He was strongly influenced by sculptors Auguste Rodin and Medardo Rosso and his production referred to religious imagery.
Born in Bergamo on 22nd December 1908, Giacomo Manzù, name of art of Giacomo Manzoni, died in Roma on 17th January 1991.
He approached art during the military service he did in Verona (1927 / 28). There he studied the doors of the church of San Zeno and the casts of the Academy of Fine Arts “Cignaroli”.
After a brief stay in Paris, in 1929 Manzù moved to Milan. The year after the architect Giovanni Muzio commissioned to him the decoration of the chapel of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, which he did between 1931 and 1932. Also in 1932 he participated in a group exhibition at the Galleria Il Milione, his first exhibition.
In 1933, he was appreciated at the Triennale of Milan for a series of busts and the following year he had his first
major exhibition at the Comet Gallery in Rome, with painter Sassu with which he shared the study. In 1934 he married Antonia Orena.
In 1938 he began a series of Cardinals, iconographic theme of his entire career. The first Cardinal sitting was exhibited at the Quadrenniale in Rome (1939). He will produce more than 300 versions of this theme, different in size, location and materials, among them the Cardinal seated figure remains the most replicated and famous of the series.
The Estorick Collection exhibition includes some of his famous Cardinals, all hieratic figures, immobile, eternal symbols of religion, with eyes closed in a prayer or reflection position, enveloped by their liturgical vestments. The simplicity of their conical forms gives to the figures with a profound sense of monumentality and serenity.
At the Estorick Collection exhibition were also displayed bas-reliefs on the theme of the Crucifixion which, despite their delicacy of line, were also strong condemnation of Nazi-Fascist violence for which Manzù had troubles with regime and also with the church.
Having been awarded a professorship at Brera Academy of Milan (1940), Manzù established himself as one of Italy’s most important sculptors.
After the war, Manzù returned to teaching at the Brera Academy until 1954, and then at the Salzburg Sommerakademie until 1960. There he met Inge Schnabel, who would become his life companion and with whom he had two children, Giulia and Mileto. Inge and her sister Sonja became the models of all his portraits.
Between the 1950s and 1960s, Manzù realised the three sets of monumental bronze church Doors of Death for the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican in Rome, his most important work. It was commissioned directly from Pope John XXIII, under suggestion of Don Giuseppe de Luca, and both were depicted on the door, but died before it was installed in 1964. Don Giuseppe strongly insisted, because was aware that the atheist Manzù would have created a work worthy of the geniuses that had built and decorated the famous and most august of basilicas of the world. The artist did not disappoint him, so that his work is to be next to the ones of the greatest artists of the mankind history.
Manzù was also drawn to the sensual world and the Estorick Collection exhibition contains two of his vigorous sculptures of entwined lovers, as well as a number of studies on paper of female nudes either reclining or performing stripteases.
These go together with other affectionate and private portraits of family members such as Manzù’s daughter Giulia, his son Mileto and his lifelong companion Inge, depicted in the artist’s typically sparse style. Also featured are works portraying characters from mythology and examples of his very distinguishing, naturalistic still life sculptures.
The exhibition “Giacomo Manzù: Sculptor and Draughtsman” runs at the Estorick Collection, Canonbury, London, from 15th January until 3rd April 2016.