Marino Marini (1901–1980) is the most internationally famous Italian sculptor of the 20th century, but he was also a respected painter and graphic artist. He has the largest and most significant group of works in the Pieraccini collection: as many as 93 pieces. Many of Marini’s prints come in the form of series. Some of Marini’s most impressive works are his series of colourful illustrations for William Shakespeare’s poems from the late 1970s, which were some of his last works. Some of these illustrations use up to 28 different shades in one image, which makes the prints a true show of skill of Labyrinth, the Florentine printing shop where they were made.
Starting from 1935, Marini began creating horse and rider-themed sculptures, which developed into one of his central artistic themes. At first, in his equestrian sculptures, Marini portrayed the horse and the human as separate figures, but in his work after the second world war, the two often merge into a uniform, plastic whole. The events of the war had a profound impact on Marini’s art, and the subsequent equestrian-themed works emphasise the tragic aspects of the figures. Often, the elongated, upward-facing necks of the mounts seem thematically to recall the posture of the suffering horse in Picasso’s Guernica.
Marini’s work has, in its way, also influenced Finnish sculpture. For example, Nina Terno’s (1935–2003) bronze sculpture Summer (1979) recalls Marini’s rider theme but also his surface treatment. Eila Hiltunen’s (1922–2003) fragile-looking Beard Moss Woman (1969), with its material experiments, represents the same spirit of the 1960s that characterised the sculpture of that time in Italy, and partially also elsewhere in Europe.
Helena Pylkkänen (born 1945) is interested in both old Italian sculpture and modern sculptors, including especially the art of Michelangelo, but also the work of modern sculptors such as Marino Marini and Giacomo Manzù (1908–1991). Outlines and an emphasis on drawing feature prominently in the work of the last two, as they do in Pylkkänen’s art. In Self-Portrait (1976), the head turned to the side adds a sense of movement, which is an important basic element in many of her works.
Like Pylkkänen, Essi Renvall (1911–1979) drew on the tradition of old Italian sculpture, going back to the Renaissance. The Pianist Cyril Szalkiewicz, a bust from the end of the 1960s, recalls, for example, the Tuscan Desiderio da Settignano’s (c. 1430–1464) portraits of 15th-century Italian princes and other nobility. Renvall and Pylkkänen approached the relationship between modern and traditional art in a way that was, indeed, characteristic of the post-war era. As Pylkkänen puts it: “There is always an abstract element in a good figurative work: the rhythm, the shape, the mass, the colour, and their interrelationships. These are shared by both [abstract and figurative] ways of expression.”
Similarly, Kaisa Saikkonen (1925–1981), a slightly lesser-known artist, was, early on in her career, inspired by Italian sculpture, from antiquity up to the Renaissance. This shows explicitly in her work Abigail (1966), which has a simplified form. At the beginning of the 1970s, Saikkonen worked at Villa Lante in Rome for some time, and deepened her knowledge of traditional Italian sculpture.
Alberto Magnelli (1888–1971) was one of the first Italian artists to move on to create abstract works. He created his earliest non-representational pieces as early as 1915, largely after being inspired by the ideas of Guillaume Apollinaire. Many of Magnelli’s works are compositions with strong colours, but in the prints from the I Collages di Magnelli portfolio (1969–1971), he has confined himself to an almost monochromatic scale, with shades of brown, grey, black and white. In these works, he has, instead of colour, focused on exploring the relationship between various surfaces and surface structures. The sandpaper-like layers and undulating relief-printing surfaces refer to his collage works, as the name of the portfolio implies. The combinations of lithography and relief printing, combined with the use of filler materials, represent excellence in printing proofs. The prints in the portfolio were printed at the Franco Cioppi printing shop in Rome in 1970 and 1971.
Of the printmakers on display in Hall 21, Emilio Greco (1913–1995) and Giò Pomodoro (1930–2002) are, like Marini, known primarily as sculptors. The former created representational and the latter abstract art. Nevertheless, they were interested in similar issues, which is reflected in their sculptures and prints.
As an indication of Giò Pomodoro’s international status, in 2002, Pomodoro was granted the prestigious Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award by the International Torino Sculpture Center (ISC). Other recipients of the award have included Louise Bourgeois, Anthony Caro, Eduardo Chillida, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Claes Oldenburg, Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella.
Pomodoro’s interest in the empty space within the outlines of the sculptures assumed new dimensions in his 1970s stone and marble sculptures, and especially in the later monumental public works, as he associated them with the concept of space and the scale of the universe, as well as with the concept of the golden section. Similarly, in the aquatints in the I misuratori portfolio (Measurements, 1973), Pomodoro has reflected on the spatial relationships between the blank white space and the coloured elements that represent mass. They are completely abstract studies that are made up of square-shaped basic modules of different colours. In the first prints of the series, the group of squares covers just a small portion of the blank, white surface of the printing paper, whereas in the last prints, the squares fill the entire pictorial space.
In his etchings, Emilio Greco has captured the nuances of the surface of his subject by using crosshatchings and double crosshatchings that become denser and deeper in the darker, shaded parts of the images. On the other hand, large areas of the image surface are usually left blank, with only outlines of the figures remaining visible. This kind of balance between outline drawing and form-giving cross-hatched lines recalls the compositions of Greco’s sculptures, which are often based on the contrasting relationship between empty and filled space, and between light and shadow.
Very similar issues were also explored by Laila Pullinen (1933–2015) in her sculptures. Many of these are characterised by a certain dualism between the glossy parts of the sculptures and the patinated matt surfaces. The same duality shows in her method of combining different materials in one work. A good example of this is her sculpture Pelléas and Mélisande (1962), which uses polished bronze and black diorite.
Like the works by Pomodoro, the aquatints by Afro (1912–1976) were printed at the renowned 2RC printing shop in Rome. They are part of his last portfolio of ten prints (1975), created as illustrations of Charles Baudelaire’s poems Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Afro shifted his expression in the 1970s, from earlier free-form informalism towards sharply defined colour-field painting. Of the various printmaking techniques, aquatint is perfect for this style. This enabled Afro to retain one of his distinctive characteristics in his Les Fleurs du Mal series of images: the intense and deep world of colour.