Home Magazine A Modern Dandy: Mario Schifano

Appreciated by a number of the leading representatives of Italian Pop Art, Mario Schifano is also considered to be an Italian successor to Andy Warhol’s school. There is no doubt that Schifano's artistic skills went ahead of the time and remained in the memory of generations, just as in the case of the American Master. 

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Mario Schifano was born in Libya in the city of Khoms in 1934. At a very young age, the artist and his family moved to Rome, where he worked at the Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia. It was a period during which he had his first experimentations with painting. 1959 was a very important year for an artist as Appia Antica Gallery presented his first solo exhibition displaying a series of works related to the informal language.


Mario Schifano, Campo di pane 1988 83.5 x 63.5 x 6 cm


Just a year later and Schifano received an invite to a collective exhibition with artists such as Francesco Lo Savio, Franco Angeli, Tano Festa and Giuseppe Uncini. Exhibited at the Rome's Gallery La Salita and titled ''5 painters - Rome'60'', this event showed the artist's first monochrome paintings: coloured enamel on paper, in which the continuity of the backgrounds is interrupted by the insertion of numbers and letters. During 1962 his iconographic repertoire sees the expansion, with the inclusion of different images taken from advertising or generic figures and landscapes. Moreover, that year the artist participated in the exhibition "The New Realists" at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York.


Con anima signed, title and dates 65, enamel and charcoal on canvas. Courtesy Archivio Mario Schifano.


After two years, in 1964, Schifano started his re-elaboration of nature with the work  "Anemic Landscapes" that he also presented at the Venice Biennale of that year, followed by works dedicated to Futurism. In this period Schifano also started to experiment with short films that led him, in the following years, to deal closely with the cinematographic medium and direct numerous films and feature films. From 1966 the artist worked on the cycles "Ossigeno ossigeno", "Tuttestelle", "Oasi" and "Compagni, compagni", then, during the seventies, his obsessive research on photography and television, led him to transfer images directly to the canvas (through the photographic emulsion ) and complete the work with nitro paint.


Senza titolo, 1973-78, nail polish and spray on canvas, 80x120 cm.


In this season the artist lives with a sense of existential and profound artistic crisis, and because of that, he re-elaborates themes of great masters as Michelangelo, Magritte, de Chirico, Boccioni, Cézanne and other protagonists of art history. In 1974 Arturo Carlo Quintavalla has curated his first major retrospective exhibition at the Palazzo Della Pilotta in Parma. In the eighties, Schivano has a strong presence in international art exhibitions and he works on themes like the representation of nature by creating monumental paintings of with a performative character. 

Cover image: Mario Schifano at Palazzo Primoli in Rome. Archivio Mario Schifano 

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