1913-1993. His Life and Works
Fabrizio Clerici is bom at 6 in the morning on 15 May 1913 at number 10 Via Borgonuovo Milan. He is the second of three children and is baptized with another name, Carlo, on 25 May in the parish of San Marco. His family of origin and his closest relatives are members of the well-heeled Catholic and conservative bourgeoisie, and they represent a cultural milieu of unquestionable importance to Fabrizio’s development, as the most exclusive side of each one of their personalities is destined to be transmitted to Fabrizio’s tastes and attitudes.
His father Luigi, Gino, “a bold Milanese industrialist” as Roberto Papini (1) describes him, is a unique figure in 1920s Rome: he takes initiatives in the social field, promoting the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes, but then withdraws after Mussolini rises to power (2); he builds the Albergo degli Ambasciatori in Via Veneto. “The person who oversaw the work was `Commendatore’ Gino Clerici, father of the painter Fabrizio Clerici”, Jean Clair (3) will write; designed by the young architect Marcello Piacentini, it is decorated by Emilio Vogt and frescoed by Guido Cadorin in 1926; he mingles with and supports the activity of the writers in the literary group called the Dieci.
More than his mother Maria Bournens Clerici, his maternal grandmother Antonietta Bournens Selves is a point of reference and a stimulus for the young Fabrizio’s games, so much so that he portrays her in various drawings produced in 1936. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side had been an important figure for having introduced the decimal metric system in Lombardy. But there are some unusual figures on his father’s side of the family as well. Fabrizio’s grandfather Francesco, an engineer, had made thirty watercolours to illustrate two volumes on the life of bees, after painstaking observation under a microscope which had seriously weakened his eyesight. His grandfather had two brothers whom Fabrizio never has the chance to meet: Carlo, a collector and antiquarian in Milan (his collection, filled with drawings, prints and curious objects, is auctioned off in 1915); and Giovanni, an architect, as well as being a friend of Luigi Cagnola and a maniacal collector of rare books.
“My first clear childhood memory is of nursery school. Before me a large chalkboard on which, with just one chalk line, I draw a submarine. To my left is the teacher, who follows my tiny hand as the drawing takes shape. She is almost moved — the other children leave their desks and form a circle around me and the teacher. No one says a word almost as if looking at my first drawing meant watching over a dying person. Thus was born, in 1917, the very first picture from my imagination on the dark surface of a school chalkboard. I was four years old. I do not recall either what day or month it was, but I do remember every trace, every detail about that nursery school, that room, the light that filtered in through the window. It was in Via Mansion in Milan. Salvioni nursery school, the one I’m describing, was located next to the palace of the Prince of Molfetta, or perhaps in the wing of the building, on the ground floor” (4).
His father acquires an abbey in Montelabate, Umbria, where he and the rest of the family temporarily move in. For the young Fabrizio this is the first revelation of certain sumptuous and terrifying images of death. Indeed, while work is being done in the church he is struck by the skeletons of the Capuchin monks lying with a red cushion under their skull, which can be seen by lifting the hatches in the crypt floor. He spends long periods of time in his grandmother’s house in Brianza, where he can admire, in his grandfather’s library, a colour print of the Tableau pittoresque des merveilles de la nature made by the engineer and geographer Claude Perrault. His father Luigi buys a thousand shares to enter the SABP – Società Anonima Bonifiche Pontine.
The Clerici family moves to Rome, and Fabrizio spends some short periods in Fogliano, in the Circeo area, on one of the Caetani estates, where his father, who is busy working on the reclamation project, welcomes many illustrious guests, such as Giacomo Puccini, and Giovanni Battista Grassi, the professor who discovered the causes of malaria, and Giovanni Amendola. Many famous people sign the socalled “Fogliano visitors’ book”. The seasons spent at the Circeo are very pleasant ones for Fabrizio; he spends hours in the legendary grotto of the sorceress Circe, witnesses uncommon optical phenomena, such as Morgan Le Faye, and imitates Ulysses’ deeds while playing with his companions.
Fabrizio goes to elementary school at the Istituto Massimo, run by Jesuit fathers, in Piazza delle Terme in Rome. His school years, until 1928, are angst-ridden and monotonous. Sullen and shy, he doesn’t get along with the other children who come from Rome’s wealthy nobility, but he is nonetheless given the opportunity, along with his elder brother Gustavo, to be one of the pages of San Luigi Gonzaga. After the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen, in 1922 he decides to organize a small archive of newspaper and magazine clippings, collecting images and information on Howard Carter’s archaeological digs in the Valley of the Innings in Egypt.
His training in the art of drawing really begins with the painter Fausto Vagnetti, who is a friend of the family and encourages him to study the drawings of the past masters. In the previously mentioned visitors’ album is a drawing of a monk made by Vagnetti in 1928.
His father purchases a house from Maria Hardouin d’Annunzio of the Dukes of Gallese, wife of Gabriele d’Annunzio. The house is located in Colonna di Roma and on the terrace are copies of Graeco-Roman marble works. His father is also in charge of the Istituto dei Fondoi Rustici, and in the office where his staff works Fabrizio is struck by a bas-relief of Antinous, the work of Antonianos of Aphrodisia, which had been discovered by accident on the property of the Istituto dei Fondi Rustici. Marguerite Yourcenar describes the very same bas-relief in “Notebooks” in Memoirs of Hadrian. In the summer he takes his first trip to Naples with his grandmother Antonietta; he visits the Vomero, Capri, the Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields. This experience inspires the first part of his Quaderni del Vomero, pencil drawings made somewhere between 1936 and 1939, whose prevalent theMes include fantastic figures, shells and portraits made from memory.
In the summer, in the company of his uncle Piero Massimini, his cousins and other relatives, as well as the archaeologist Alessandro della Seta, the artist goes on a two-week cruise to Athens, Constantinople and the Bosphorus: the ancient wooden constructions he sees there are a source of inspiration, years later, for several plates in the artist’s Taccuino orientale. Against his family’s will, in the autumn he registers at the Regio Liceo Artistico annexed to the Accademia di Belle Arti in Via Ripetta.
A terrible crisis strikes the Clerici family: beginning this year, Luigi, persecuted by the Fascist regime, undergoes a series of trials and is forced to emigrate to Brazil. Fabrizio’s close family must separate and leave for different destinations; they lose everything they have. This inexorably leads to great economic hardship. Fabrizio, his mother, grandmother and brothers move to Milan. He completes his studies at the Regio Liceo Artistico of Milan. From this year onwards and until 1931 he spends long periods of time all by himself at the Villa Castelbarco, in Monasterolo, Vaprio d’Adda, in the province of Milano; the villa had once been owned by the Massimini family, to whom he is related.
He returns to Rome and enrolls at the Regia Scuola Superiore di Architettura at the Università La Sapienza. He supports himself, also thanks to the offer he receives from Triestine Bruno Croatto, who is willing to pay him to illustrate anatomy treatises. So he begins to spend time with Vittorio Vanni and Pietro Valdoni, two young surgeons, the latter of whom gives him notes and pictures, and lets him watch as surgery is performed in hospital. He attends Le Corbusier’s talks at the Circolo Artistico. In the meantime Roberto Papini, a friend of the family and the director of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna at the time, shows him his first illustrated books.
He collaborates with the architect Gio Ponti on the exhibition Mostra della stampa cattolica in Vatican City. In Rome he meets Anna Laetitia Pecci Blunt, a collector and patron who acquires his works and often invites him to her home in Marlia, near Lucca, along with Salvador Dalí and Gala.
Libero De Libero, poet and director of the Galleria La Cometa, introduces him to Alberto Savinio while they are at the Birreria Dreher in Piazza Santi Apostoli. A close and long-lasting friendship is born between the two men, sealed in the book Ascolto tuo cuore, citta (5). Clerici reads Minotaure, collecting twelve issues of the Surrealist magazine, and is awe-struck by some of Jean Cocteau’s poetry, which had been published in a rare Parisian edition of Le Roseau d’Or. (Oeuvres et Chroniques a few years earlier. The two artists will finally meet twenty years later.
In June, he receives a scholarship from the Fondazione Mario Palanti so that he can complete his university studies. On 15 November he earns a degree in architecture with the highest result of 110/110. His senior dissertation is entitled La sistemazione del Palazzo del Cinema al Lido di Venezia. Several plates from another project, House on the Grand Canal in Venice, will be published in the magazine Lo Stile in January 1941. In the meantime, Marcello Piacentini invites him to come work with him at the Palazzo di Giustizia in Milan. In Milan he lives in a small studio at Via Borgospesso 18, described by Raffaele Carrieri and Leonardo Sinisgalli as a place brimming over with papers, books, curios, and seashell, fossil and butterfly collections. To support himself he writes several articles for Tempo published by Arnoldo Mondadori. He mingles with such figures as Gio Ponti, Bruno Zevi, Carlo Pagani, Pietro Maria Bardi, Lina Bo, Carla Marzoli, Bruno Pontecorvo.
In Milan he meets Giorgio de Chirico, who encourages him to draw and talks to him about painting techniques, especially tempera painting. De Chirico greatly appreciates his drawing of St. John Nepomucene, which he has just completed, inspired by the head of St. Philip the Apostle made by Albrecht Dürer in 1516 and preserved at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Fabrizio is awarded a doctorate at Milan Polytechnic He remodels the apartment of Commendatore Odorico dal Fabbro. In March he leaves his job with Piacentini to join the army; he will continue to serve until 1945, stationed in Milan the whole time. As second lieutenant of aeronautics at Sesto Calende Airport, in the province of Varese, his job is to dig trenches. In his free time he continues to draw and spends a great deal of time with Savinio. In August he is transferred to Pisa – San Giusto Airport, which is where he draws Self-portrait.
Both his father and grandmother die a few months apart from each other. In February and March two articles come out in the bimonthly magazine Corrente di Vita Giovanile. In the meantime, he and the engineer Gaetano Ficara, whom he had met at school and with whom he had served in the army, gradually start setting up an architectural firm. He goes to Settignano, near Florence, where he visits art historian Bernard Berenson at Villa I Tatti; they will continue to see each other often. Clerici will recall some of their most important meetings in an article written for Il Messaggero in 1986. From 1939 to 1940 he is the architecture editor for the weekly magazine Tempo.
In April, he is awarded a prize in the “Modern lace and embroidery” section at the 7th Milan Triennale, and is mentioned by Gio Ponti in Domus for his ironic style, deliberately detached from the Rationalist style that is dominant at the time. On display is one of his projects, painted in trompe-l’oeil by Gregorio Sciltian for the publisher Arnoldo Mondadori, reproduced in Lo Stile and later destroyed when Milan is bombed in 1943. His drawings are transformed into lacework by the Michelan-gelo Jesurum company of Venice, showcased at the 7th Triennale, and published in the volume Fili d’oro, Editoriale Domus, 1951. He designs a series of tables made out of various types of marble. In June he is called back to the army as second lieutenant in the airforce engineers. He redeco-rates the apartment of Alberto and Giorgio Mondadori in Milan. He spends time with Filippo de Pisis, with whom he exchanges several drawings. His study on illusionary effects and trompe-l’oeil will later be published in the American magazine Art News Annual in 1954. In Milan he spends time with Giorgio de Chirico and Carla Marzoli who, thanks to the writer Raffaele Carrieri, had founded the La Chimera publishing house. In December the magazine Domus publishes three of his etchings with a text by Leonardo Sinisgalli.
In Milan he lives at Via Santo Spirito 24. Edizioni della Chimera publishes Bestiario, a volume by Leoncillo Leonardi with twenty lithographs by Clerici and a preface by Raffaele Carrieri; the following year the lithographs receive enthusiastic reviews by Leo-nardo Sinisgalli and Libero De Libero. He begins a cycle of drawings representing cardinals and monsignors, which he will exhibit at a solo show of his work at the Galleria Cairola in 1943. He publishes articles in Lo Stile, with which he had collaborated in previous years. Together with the architects Lina Bo and Carlo Pagani he remodels the Milan apartment of Commendatore Vittorio Zaffagli He starts work to refurbish Villa Sartori in San Remo. He designs a house in Spalato; the project is published in the magazine Lo Stile.
He is awarded the Premio Pizzi at the Milan Triennale for a group of drawings created as an annotation to the story Diario di un parroco di campagna by Nicola Lisi. In September, in Milan, Piero Fornasetti prints a numbered edition of Dieci litografie di Fabrizio Clerici e uno scritto di Alberto Savinio. The portfolio is inspired by the tragic events Italy is shaken by during the war.
In February his first solo show opens at the Galleria Cairola, presented in the catalogue by Raffaele Carrieri. He works on remodelling the apartment of Gualtiero Giori, as well as another apartment in Via Zarotto in Milan, commissioned by the engineer Ancarani. In March, his drawings and lithographs are on display at the Galleria Minima “Il Babuino” in Rome, presented in the catalogue by Alberto Savinio. After 8 September he leaves the army and together with his brothers he takes refuge in the home of their maternal grandmother in Brianza for about nine months. Thanks to Domenico Mazzocchi and the magazine Domus he manages to receive an advance for a publication.
On 25 January he signs a project for the remodelling of an apartment owned by Dino Fagioli in a building in Piazza Fiume, at the corner of Via Parini, in Milan He leaves his studio at Via Santo Spinito 24 to his brother Francesco, a promising engineer. With Ruggero Orlando’s help he returns to Rome, crossing Occupied Italy. At first he stays in the house of Giorgio de Chirico, who has also just arrived in Rome; Savinio eventually finds a room he can rent close to his home in Viale Martiri Fascisti (later Viale Bruno Buozzi). He resumes his drawing and starts to work on his second series of Quaderni del Vomero. Clerici meets Leonor Fini, and they become close friends. He will recount the magical atmosphere that characterizes his meeting with Leonor in an article published in the Roman magazine Quadrante in 1945. He mingles with artists and literati, and he befriends Elsa Morante. Two of his articles are published in Domus, one is about Andrea Palladio, the other is about Paolo Veronese in Maser.
In January he and Savinio participate in a group show in Rome which is presented by Mario Praz. During the same month and in February two of his articles are published in Quadrante. In March he has his first American exhibition presented by Peter Lindamood. Two volumes illustrated by the artist are printed in Milan: Bestiario, favole, facezie by Leonardo da Vinci published by Edizioni Toninelli, and Il fu Mattia Pascal by Pirandello published by Arnoldo Mondadori.
The magazine View, directed by Charles Henri Ford, publishes several of Clerici’s drawings. As he reads and collects the issues of Labyrinthe, published by Sidra from 1944 to 1946, his work on illustrated books and drawing grows more intense. In February the magazine Harper’s Bazaar publishes two of his works. Boris Kochno buys one of his drawings in Paris (in 1991 the work will be auctioned off at Sotheby’s in Monaco together with some important works in the Kochno collection).
The Milan publishing house Electa releases the monographic text Allegoria dei sensi di Jan Brueghel. It is the fruit of a long study by Clerici on the work of Brueghel the Elder’s son. Alberto Mondadori publishes Leviathan by Julien Green with illustrations by the artist. In March he exhibits a table with an onyx top featuring an inlaid spun glass ribbon motif at the Mostra dei capi dopera dello studio di Villa Giulia di Enrico Galassi, at the Studio d’Arte Palma of Rome. In November the Galleria del Naviglio di Milano exhibits his watercolours. He and the engineer Gaetano Ficara design a Foyer for the New “Tabarin” below the Cinema in Milano. He designs and builds a clothing store in Milan’s Via Montenapoleone. Piero Fornasetti provides the decorations. Gio Ponti dedicates a long review to it in Lo Stile, later also published in Ulrich’s Arredatori contemporanei in 1949. The year ends with the publication in Domus of an article by Clerici on set designs.
This is the year that Fabrizio Clerici and Lucio Fontana work together on a project for a Patio for a House at the Seaside; Fontana produces the sculptures and Clerici makes the decor and architectural concept for Handicraft Development Inc. in New York. In April Clerici debuts as a set designer for George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, performed by the company of the Russian actress Tatiana Pavlova at the Teatro Nuovo of Milan. He spends some time in Catania where he has been given a commission as an architect, although he still draws. A drawing he made in 1944 is exhibited in the group show Handicraft as a Fine Art in Italy. 37 Italian Artists in New York.
It is the year of his first contribution to the Venice Biennale, and a great deal of the artist’s future output is visibly stated in the works on display. In Milan he begins painting The Minotaur Publicly Accuses His Mother the first, among several versions, in the obsessive cycle Processes, drawings and temperas in which the artist’s dramatic autobiographic memories from the 1930s re-emerge. The painting, which is incomplete and left blank in the middle of the scene, is much appreciated by Salvador Dalí, who visits Clerici’s studio at Via Santo Spirito 24 while passing through Milan in the autumn. In the summer, in the Roman home of the artist Olga Signorelli, a great friend of Clerici’s, he and the Hungarian choreographer Aurel M. Milloss prepare the performance of Orpheus, the ballet by Igor Stravinsky, scheduled for September. It is to be the European premiere of the performance at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice.
Together with Milloss, Clerici creates an extraordinary combination in the field of set designs for a ballet. He draws Mesmerian Phenomena, a tribute to Franz Anton Mesmer and to his ideas about magnetic attraction, which had met with opposition in the late 18th century; replicated in several versions, the work will be the subject of a series of paintings produced in 1974. A variant from the same period appears among the sixteen plates illustrating James Branch Cabell’s The Nightmare, published in 1949 by Arnoldo Mondadori in Milan. This same year Clerici prepares the scenes and costumes for Roland Petit’s ballet Baroque Concert, a performance that will never be staged.
Clerici moves to Rome once and for all, living in a two-room apartment on the mezzanine of an 18th-century palazzo at Via della Lungarina 65, in Trastevere. For Christmas he gives Anna Magnani a drawing. He had met the actress before and they have since become close friends. As he starts to focus on the scientific works of Athanasius Kircher, the anamorphic images of Erhard Schön and the perspectives of Padre Pozzo, the latter of which he had admired as a child in the church of Sant’Ignazio, his work as a set and costume designer grows more intense. In January Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is performed, with set designs and costumes by Fabrizio Clerici, and choreography by Milloss. The performance is directed by Alberto Lattuada, whom Clerici had already portrayed in 1939. In February, for the same director and the same theatre, he curates the installation of The Rape of Lucretia, a musical tragedy by Benjamin Britten. In June, at the Museum of Modern Art of New York, a major exhibition entitled Twentieth-Century Italian Art opens, at which Clerici presents two works on paper in the Peter Lindamood collection. He makes the set designs and costumes for the Coronation of Poppea, with music by Claudio Monteverdi, performed in September at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza first, and at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice later. In December he shows eight engravings at the group exhibition Italienische Malerei der Gegenwart at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste of Vienna. Arnoldo Mondadori publishes Cabell’s The Nightmare, illustrated with the sixteen plates that Clerici had made the year before. For Domus, he writes two articles on the set designer Hein Heckroth and on the architect Aldo Buzzi, respectively, both of whom are friends of him.
For the Minneapolis Institute of Arts he designs and realizes a foyer for a marionette theatre, reviewed in various magazines and the following year in House & Garden. For the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino he creates the scenes for Armida with music by Giovanni Battista Lulli, and choreography by Milloss. In October The Minotaur Publicly Accuses His Mother is displayed in the major American show entitled The Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Paintings at the Carnegie Institute. He writes the presentation for an exhibition of the Russian artist Pavel Tchelitchew held at the Galleria L’Obelisco of Rome. Tchelitchew along with Leonid and Eugene Berman are Clericis’ close friends, and they, as well as Christian Bérard, are part of group of “Neo-Romantic” painters and visionaries who are very active in Paris in the 1930s. He makes eight panels for La Rinascente in Milan and does some jewelry design.
He creates the sets and the costumes for Claudio Monteverdi’s ballet Combat de Tancrède et Colorinde, installed in June at the Theatre Municipal in Strasbourg, and in April of the following year at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. In December his work is displayed at the 6th Rome Quadriennale. His drawings are included in the group show Italy at Work. Her Renaissance in Design Today, held at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He creates the set designs for the romantic ballet in a painting by Milloss, Nostalgic Vision, planned for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
Domenico Gnoli, eigtheen years old at the time, contacts Fabrizio Clerici and goes to see him at his studio; Clerici helps him by sending along with a letter , to his friend Leonor Fini in Paris; in 1954 he will help him contact Lanfranco Rasponi for an exhibition in New York.
Having been commissioned to completely refurbish palazzo on the Grand located next to the church of Santa Maria della Salute owned by Countess Anna Maria Cicogna Mozzoni Misurata, he contiues to work on the huge project planning its interior décor so that it includes stucco, marble, mosaics and glass, creating an inlaid floor trompe-l’ œil piece of forniture. He calls the German painter Fabius von Gugel to help him with some of the decorations, and the sculptor Andrea Spadini for the caryatids in the garden. He begins to make the painting Venice without Water, which he replicates in several versions over the years; Leonor Fini who is in her way through Venice presses her appreciation for the work, one of the first made using a thinned oil technique. After the work on the house is finished, the magazine Town & Country and Maison & Jardin dedicate a great deal to that unique décor in their December 1953 issues.
In June the artist has his first solo show at the Paris Galerie Doucet, in Faubourg Saint Honore. During a visit to Versailles. Clerici admires the equestrian statue of Luis XIV made to a model by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The statue is located in the dry, overgrown grassy area near the Bassin des Suisse, and Clerici has the curious idea of transferring it to Paris, to the centre of the Cour Carée of the Louvre. He speaks to the French Minister of Culture, Andre Cornu, about it, who shows interest in the idea, but thinks the enterprise is Utopian. Clerici’s original project will eventually be carried out thirty-seven years later, in 1989, as part of the urban makeover of the Grand Louvre, which involves placing a copy of the statue (made in 1988) opposite I.M. Pei’s pyramid in the Cour Napoleon. All that remains of Clerici’s project is a refined watercolour, and several photographs that show him busily drawing at Versailles and at the Louvre, as he indicates to the photographer the exact place where the marble group should be placed.
In December, he and a group of friends go to Sicily, where he is deeply impressed by the Baroque splendour of Giacomo Serpotta’s stucco decorations in many of the oratories in Palermo, as well as by the convent of the Capuchins in Sàvoca with its 17th-century crypt. He begins his cycle of paintings entitled Palermitan Confessions, made between 1952 and 1954. He designs studies and figurines for Carlo Goldoni’s Voyage to the Moon, with music by Paisiello, for the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome; the work will never be performed.
In Rome he meets Tamara de Lempicka, whom he will have the chance to meet again on other occasions, and also in Paris.
In January he leaves for Egypt in the company of the film director Goffredo Alessandrini; they stay there for a month. He visits the Egyptian Museum in Cairo eight times, as well as the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria. In the spring he travels to Libya, taking the archaeological route that he will repeat each year until 1967. He creates a large first preparatory study of the painting Roman Sleep, which he finishes in 1955 by cropping thirty centimetres from the edges of the canvas. He creates the set designs for the play The Shrewd Widow by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Giorgio Strehler with costumes by Leonor Fini. It is performed at the Fenice in October as part of the International Prose Festival of the Venice Biennale, and later at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. Between the end of the year and the beginning of the next one, for the Piccola Scala in Milan, he designs the sets and the costumes for Antonio Vivaldi’s La ninfa e il pastore and for Il maestro di musica by Pietro Auletta with a duet and two arias by Pergolesi; neither of the performances will ever be realized.
Helena Rubinstein, queen of the cosmetics world, purchases America (1953), an oil panting on wood, for her private collection in New York, and becomes an important collector of Clerici’s work. The artist contributes his work to a travelling exhibition (Rome, Capri, New York) entitled Twenty Imaginary Views of the American Scene by Twenty Young Italian Artists, and a group of his drawings are shown at the 2nd São Paulo Art Biennial in Brazil.
He shows his work at the Venice Biennale. His first version of Maria Goretti insistently traces over the cloudy sky, smoke and desolate landscape motif, memories of the plains he used to cross on horseback in the company of his father when he was working on the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes. These inferno-like and suspended atmospheres are also evoked in other paintings from the same period, such as Eclipse (1951), Odour of Sanctity (1953), The Shroud (1955), The Magic Circle (1956). He is awarded the Premio Benati for engraving. He contributes his work to the lithograph section of the 10th Milan Triennale, and also sends one of his works to Eterna Primavera. Young Italian Painters, a travelling exhibition in the United States.
In May, while having lunch at the Palazzo Galloppi Volpi di Misurata in Rome, he is introduced to Jean Cocteau, who gives him a copy of Marco Polo’s On the Island of Madagascar, illustrated with his etchings and published in Milan by Vanni Scheiwiller. Clerici and Cocteau become very close friends. This leads to the invention of their “scenery notebook” of 1957 for Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde, a play in three acts by Cocteau himself, published in 1963 by Canesi in Rome. He meets Federico Zeri. It is the beginning of a long friendship based on mutual esteem, as proven by the many writings by the well-known historian on Clerici’s art.
In Milan the publishing house Electa publishes a facsimile of Taccuino orientale, which contains drawings made using mixed media and watercolours. The introductory essay is by Libero De Libero. On the large previous study Clerici completes Roman Sleep (6), one of the most important paintings of his whole career: the setting is a gloomy underground scene where Roman, Hellenistic and Baroque sculptures lie about in an ambiguous state wavering between sleep, the ecstasy of love and death. In its architectural layout “inspired” by several blackand-white postcards of the Baths of Diocletian, kept by Clerici in his studio (7), the painting, which was reproduced in a large scale in 1985, shows a sort of Roman excavation in layers, which has just been detected and is illuminated from above by a golden light. In an (almost) central perspective, built upon dilapidated scaffolding, starting from the top and moving leftwards, we can see The Ecstasy of Blessed Ludovica Albertoni (8) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini; at her feet is a small cherub inspired by those made by Giacomo Serpotta (9); farther down is a Hellenistic-style Eros Sleeping (10) placed on one half of a Roman arch; in the niche are the remains of ribs, bones, stones and a mitre; lying on a floor covered with wobbly panels is a veiled body (11) inspired by Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Veiled Christ (12); on the left wall, up against a shelf with a torn canvas, is a Roman marble sculpture of a Head of a Dying Persian (13); below it is the mascaron of the Mouth of Truth (14); next to it is a head of a Sleeping Erinys (15), a copy of the Hellenistic original; to the left, serving as the predominant marble group, is Stefano Mademo’s St. Cecilia (16); in the middle foreground of the painting, set on grey marble slabs, is a composition of skulls and pomegranates, symbolizing rebirth and regeneration; below, inside a Serbian crypt under the floor, are three clothed skeletons inspired by the Baroque ones of the Abbey of Waldsassen (17); lying atop a round stretcher featuring a torn canvas are a Sleeping Ariadne (18), a Roman copy after the Hellenistic original dated to the 2nd century B.C., and a St. Martina (19) by Niccolò Menghini, from the mid-17th century; located above is the Barberini Faun (20), originally GraecoAsian from the Imperial Age; at its feet, amidst architectural ruins and pottery, black drapery is wrapped around another head of a Sleeping Erinys; in the battlements underneath is another fragment of a Head of a Dying Persian; downwards towards the right lies a Sleeping Ariadne inspired by the Medici piece, currently at the Uffizi Gallery (21), as well as by Marcantonio Raimondi’s engraving of Cleopatra (22); in the foreground to the right is Giuseppe Giorgetti’s St. Sebastian (23); lastly, we can see the Sleeping Hermaphrodite (24), a Late Hellenistic work.
The first two monographs about the artist are published by Electa in Milan; one of them is by Raffaele Carrieri; the other one is in French with a text by Marcel Brion.
Clerici designs the sets and costumes for the film adaption of the opera Turandot, but the film will never be made. He participates in several group shows, including the 3rd São Paulo Art Biennial in Brazil, and the 7th Rome Quadriennale in November. The catalogue includes an introduction by Alberto Moravia, republished in the catalogue for the artist’s American solo show held during the same month at the Sagittarius Gallery of New York, with about forty works, including paintings and drawings. In New York he meets Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine.
Eight of the artist’s works from the Temples of the Egg cycle, with a catalogue introduction by Libero De Libero, are shown at the Venice Biennale. Clerici travels to Germany and Holland. Over the course of the year he finishes the painting that Princess Elvina Pallavicini had commissioned from him in 1955, using the same small scale as the Derelitta, a work attributed to Botticelli in the Pallavicini Rospigliosi collection in Rome. His client had asked for a painting that would offset the heartbreaking sadness of the Derelitta, so in Clerici’s Pallavicini Hope the allegorical figure of the Derelitta is associated with that of the Aurora frescoed by Guido Reni for the ceiling of the Casino Pallavicini. A large-scale replica of the painting will be made later. He begins working on the painting Phlegraean Minerva, commissioned from him by Luisa Feltrinelli Doria; it is a meditation on the motif of transience and is inspired by Virgil’s words in Book VI of the Aeneid. In the meantime two solo shows open in the United States, at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum of San Francisco and at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Santa Barbara, respectively.
Although he keeps his studio at Via della Lungarina 65, Clerici uses a larger space at Salita di Sant’Onofrio 21, where he is hard at work on the glass panels on the theme of the Faith of Saint Catherine for the Siena basilica. The following month he visits his friend Luchino Visconti at Cinecittà, where he meets Jean Marais and Maria Schell, who are both filming White Nights. In March a solo show of his paintings and drawings opens at the Galleria dell’Ariete in Milan, with an introductory essay written by Alberto Moravia. In the summer he travels to Spain; while in Madrid he visits the Prado Museum.
During the year and continuing into the next one, he is busy preparing studies for a theatrical trilogy proposed by Jean Cocteau: Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde, Orpheus, L’aigle a deux têtes, performances which will never be staged. He participates in many group exhibitions, including Trends in Watercolors Today at the Brooklyn Museum of New York, and the show Grosse Kunstausstellung 1957 at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, promoted by the Rome Quadriennale.
Clerici completes the set designs and costumes for Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde as well as for Orpheus and L’aigle a deux têtes by Jean Cocteau. He makes an etching, which is published in Amor, mundo en peligro, a book of poetry by Pedro Salinas, for Scheiwiller. He is also working on the set designs and costumes for Alcestis, directed by Tatiana Pavlova; the performance will never never be staged.
In January a solo show of the artist’s works opens at the Galleria Galatea in Milan, with a catalogue essay by Luigi Carluccio. Clerici begins work on a group of drawings that are supposed to illustrate Dante’s Purgatory. In November he goes back to Libya, where he takes pictures of the archaeological campaigns carried out by Ernesto Vergara Caffarelli. He designs the installation (25) for the 8th Rome Quadriennale, where he shows five paintings from his Mirages cycle; the catalogue preface is written by Marcel Brion.
On the occasion of the presentation of Federico Fellini’s film La dolce vita, Rizzoli publishing house in Milan prints a brochure containing ten blackand-white and colour plates by Clerici. He also makes eight plates to illustrate Libero De Libero’s Il guanto nero, published in Venice.
Clerici makes ten plates illustrating The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa published by the Reader’s Digest. In May he has a solo show at the Galleria L’Obelisco in Rome; in November he has a solo show at the Centre for Italian Studies in Tripoli. He participates in Arte fantastica italiana, which opens in October at the Galleria Schwarz in Milan He makes three panels with shells for Villa 11 Delfino in the Gulf of Tigullio.
He makes panels for the Casa Enriquez in Milano as well as for the Albergo Sestriere. He produces a large decorative panel for Count Alberto del Bono’s house in Dongo, on Lake Como. The count will later purchase one of his most emblematic paintings, Le Krak des Chevaliers, 1967-68. He produces maquettes made out of fireproof plastic material for the ballroom on the ocean liner “Leonardo da Vinci”.
In April A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, directed by Luigi Squarzina, is performed at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, with set designs and costumes by Clerici; the costumes are created under the supervision of Lidia Doboujinsky, and are prevalently made using plastic materials. During the same month a solo show of Clerici’s work opens at the Galleria Minima, with a catalogue essay by Dino Buzzati. In June, Orontea, composed by Antonio Cesti, directed by Luigi Squarzina, and with set designs and costumes by Clerici, is performed at the Piccola Scala in Milan.
Machiavelli’s The Prince is published by Laterza, with twelve plates by Clerici. The first documentary on Clerici’s work, made the year before in Rome, directed by Aglauco Casadio, and with commentary by Libero De Libero, wins first prize at the Venice Biennale’s International Film Festival. The artist participates in the group shows Da Boldini a Pollock. Pittura e scultura del XX secolo in Turin, and the 15th Premio nazionale di pittura F.P. Michetti in Francavilla al Mare. He makes two tapestries with the Arazzeria Scassa in Asti.
He produces the set designs and costumes for Turandot, composed by Ferruccio Busoni and directed by Virginio Puecher, performed in February at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and replicated in 1973 at the Fenice in Venice. Later, in June, the Royal Opera House in London presents the opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini, directed by Peter Ustinov, with set designs and costumes by Clerici. In the spring the artist takes a long trip to Libya, Jordan and Turkey. He participates in some major group shows and five of his paintings are shown at the exhibition Surrealismus. Phantastische Malerei der Gegenwart at the Künstlerhaus of Vienna.
One of the artist’s works is acquired by the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. As the year goes by, the artist becomes more involved in his work as a set designer, preparing sets and costumes for as many as four particularly demanding performances: Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (Le creature di Prometeo), with choreography by Milloss, and Estro barbarico, a ballet by Milloss with music by Bela Bartok, both of which are performed at the Opernhaus in Cologne in April, and later in Vienna; in June, All Baba, composed by Luigi Cherubini and directed by Virginio Puecher, is performed at the Scala in Milan; lastly, the ballet Salade, with choreography by Milloss, is performed in December at the Staatsoper in Vienna. The latter work will again be performed in Rome in 1967, and at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 1975. The art edition Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde, with a text by Jean Cocteau and drawings and temperas by Clerici, is published by Canesi in Rome; the group of temperas is exhibited at the Centro Culturale Francese in both Rome and Naples. In May an exhibition dedicated to Clerici’s work as a set designer opens at the Galleria Attilio Colonnello in Milan; the catalogue introduction is written by Giovanni Comisso. In November the artist definitively moves to his studio-home to Via dell’Anima 16-17, whose attic overlooks Piazza Navona.
Clerici begins to make a series of drawings and watercolours for the art edition of Orlando Furioso which he will publish in 1967 and continue to make changes to until 1979. At the same time he publishes the Satyricon, a numbered edition published by Canesi in Rome. The volume Leptis Magna comes out, edited by Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli and Ernesto Vergara Caffarelli, with photographs by Fabrizio Clerici. Clerici prepares the studies and figurines for Mil-loss’ version of Macbeth. The performance, which is to be held at the Opernhaus in Cologne, will never be staged. He makes several studies and figurines for John Huston’s movie The Bible. In June he shows five of his paintings at the exhibition Phantastische Malerei at the Altes Schloss in Bregenz, Austria.
His elder brother Gustavo dies.
In the spring he travels to Jordan, Libya and Syria. He participates in the Artisti italiani oggi exhibition at the Cultural Institute in Tripoli in the autumn, and shows some of his drawings at the Mostra nazionale dantesca at Palazzo Venezia in Rome. He plays a part in the movie Kappa directed by Nato Frascà.
Gustav Rene Hocke writes Mitologia di Clerici, a long essay published in the journal Civiltà delle Macchine. Between October 1966 and March 1967 three of Clerici’s paintings are showcased in the major travelling exhibition Labyrinth e. Phantastische Künst von 16. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart, which involves several German museums.
The art edition in three volumes of Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto is published by Electa with a text by Riccardo Bacchelli. Some of Clerici’s paintings are included in the travelling exhibition of Italian art in America organized by the Rome Quadriennale. In December the artist’s installation for the ballet Salade is replicated at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome.
In September, upon invitation by the Senato delle Arti e delle Scienze, Clerici inaugurates his first major retrospective at the Berlin Galerie des XX. Jahrhunderts (paintings, temperas, drawings, art editions), with catalogue essays by Helmut Uhlig and Gustav Rene Hocke, as well as at the Rathaus Tempelhof (studies for set designs and costumes). Clerici makes three lithographs to illustrate Manuscript Found in a Bottle by Edgar Allan Poe, published by Nuova Cometa in Rome. He paints The XXV Hour, in which, for the first time, Egyptian culture appears to be re-evoked in the sarcophagus motif. His reading of Jurgis Baltrusaitis’ La Quête d’Isis, published in Paris a year before, inspires him to further explore the lesser known side of Egyptian iconography.
Schinkel’s Rooms, a tribute to the German architect, is based on Clerici’s recollections of a previous trip to Berlin. In the paintings he produces this year, appearing for the first time, besides the Egyptian motif of the sacred ram, is the god-falcon Horus. Both the figures of the falcon and the ram are taken from the respective bas-reliefs preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, of which Clerici has perfect replicas in his studio. A large retrospective of his work is held in Ankara, Smyrna and Istanbul; on the occasion of the Smyrna exhibition the artist holds a conference at the French Cultural Institute on the relationship between the literary work and the illustration. He participates in the group show entitled Maler and Modell at the Staatliche Kunsthalle of Baden-Baden.
For the Berlin publisher Propylaen he illustrates Marco Polo’s Il Milione with forty-one drawings and twelve lithographs. He participates in the exhibition Manierismus in der Kunst at the Galerie R.P. Hartmann of Munich, where he will also have a solo show in the summer.
He makes three more paintings for the Raymond Roussel cycle, begun in 1968. The exfoliation of the chromatic timbres evokes the motif of the ocular fundus membrane under the effect of hallucinogens, which Clerici had previously studied scientifically with his physician friend Vittorio Vanni in 1932. In October a solo show is held at the Galerie Brusberg of Hannover, with a catalogue essay by Gustav René Hocke, and at the end of the year, thirty-six drawings and ten lithographs are on view at the artist’s solo show at the Kunstshaus Fischinger in Stuttgart. His works are included in two important group shows: Albrecht Dürer zu Ehren at the Nationalmuseum, and D’après. Omaggi e dissacrazioni nell’arte contemporanea at the Museo Civico in Lugano. He collaborates on a series of four lithographs published by Graphis Arte of Livorno.
Clerici’s work arouses a great deal of interest in Germany, and the public-service television broadcaster ZDF makes a colour feature film on Clerici’s painting, directed by Heinz Dieckmann. The ballet Dedalus is performed at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, with music by Guido Turchi, set designs and costumes by Clerici, and choreography by Milloss; a replica is held in September at the Staatsoper in Vienna.
In May, he is invited by Pietro Maria Bardi and Lina Bo to participate in a conference on the Baroque at the Museu de Arte in São Paulo, Brazil; the project is never realized. In the summer he shows a version of Venice without Water in a section of the Venice Biennale whose theme is “Venice yesterday today tomorrow”. He participates in the 10th Rome Quadrennial.
The image of a laser beam appears in the paintings from the “Egyptian” series of the early 1970s; the image is often meant to evoke disturbing values or arcane destructive forces.
As Clerici delves further, in his drawings and paintings, into the theme of the transformation of the everyday object into a mysterious fossil trace in our day and age, he begins work on a cycle of paintings in which the “metaphysical” or claustrophobic void of a room immersed in pearly lights, and enigmatically inhabited by a horse (the diptych Pro-Menade), Horus or by the serpent Anubis, is a recurring theme. The theme of the eye, the gaze, the udjat, which in Egyptian myths is the symbol of the human eye and the eye of the falcon, appears in the paintings made during the current year and 1974.
At the Fenice in Venice, the opera Turandot is performed again, after it was previously performed in 1962. At the same time as the performance of the ballet Marsyas by Milloss, with music by Luigi Dallapiccola, and set designs and costumes by Clerici, at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, a solo show is held at the Galleria La Tavolozza in May, with a catalogue essay by Leonardo Sciascia.
In June Clerici travels to Turkey, painstakingly describing his trip in a written record, Diario turco.
The painting Böcklin Latitude introduces the cycle of paintings and drawings related to the famous painting by Arnold Böcklin entitled The Island of the Dead, of which Clerici paints various versions between 1974 and 1985. He paints The Obelisk, conceived after a conversation with Federico Zeri about the fact that the large obelisk of the Stadium of Domitian was still lying in the cellars of the Palazzo Patrizi in Rome. In this same period he spends time with Balthus, director of the French Academy of the Villa Medici in Roma until 1976. He shows his plates for Orlando Furioso, accompanied by a text written by Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara in late June, and at the Ridotto del Teatro Comunale of Reggio Emilia in October.
An important monographic text about the artist written by Patrick Waldberg is published; he is invited to participate in the group show Neomanierismus at Frankfurt’s Westend Galerie, and the following year in the group show Italienische Druckgraphik der Gegenwart at the Germanische Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. In December he gives Pope Paul VI I legni della Croce, a work inspired by the Crucifix of Cimabue, miraculously saved from the flood of 1966 in Florence. Renato Guttuso portrays him, together with de Chirico and Savinio, in the painting Caffè Greco, currently preserved at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.
Clerici makes the lithographs for Le bestiaire ou cortège d’Orphée by Guillaume Apollinaire, with an introduction by Savinio. In June he leaves for his first trip to Russia, where a travelling show dedicated to his temperas and drawings is held from June to September (Kiev Museum of Western Art, Fine Arts Museum of Alma Ata, Pushkin Museum in Moscow). The exhibition at the Pushkin Museum is very successful, and Irina Antonova, museum director, writes him a letter filled with praise. The museum acquires both the painting Horse Stable, 1955, and the lithographies for The Bestiary of Apollinaire, 1977, for its permanent collection. The artist’s plates from Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde are displayed at the French Cultural Institute.
Drawing inspiration from children’s fairy-tale books Clerici makes felt-tip drawings of the Metamorphoses. These are small-format notebooks “in sectors”: i.e. seven of the eight images are cut horizontally into four or three strips, so that thousands of different figurative combinations can be obtained.
The exhibition on the artist’s series of Ariostesque drawings is held at the Museo del Tesoro in Assisi.
Clerici executes versions of Dresden Studio, representing Friedrich’s studio just as it had been portrayed by Georg Friedrich Kersting in 1811. During this period, in addition to Böcklin, Caspar David Friedrich and later Max Klinger (in 1980) constitute his most important cultural references. At the end of the year, while in Paris Clerici shows Georges Perec his Quaderni delle Metammfosi, from which he is inspired to create eight short prose poems. These are divided into “sectors” as well, and will be published for the first time in 1981 in the French journal Action Poétique.
In Rome Clerici meets the very young artist Eros Renzetti, who begins to spend a great deal of time in Clerici’s Rome and Siena studios, and soon becomes his favourite pupil.
After a visit in the spring to the chapel of San Brizio in Orvieto Cathedral, Clerici begins work on the cycle Bodies of Orvieto.
Petronius’ Satyricon is reprinted by the Franklin Library, Pennsylvania, previously illustrated by Clerici in 1964.
The artist uses thin felt-tip markers and tempera to create his album of the Metamorphoses, which harks back to the graphic inventions contained in his 1978 notebooks. After completing the Bodies of Orvieto cycle, he works on the Sistine Scaffolding, a cycle of various plates painted using mixed media, conceived after his visit to the scaffolding for the early restoration of the Sistine Chapel in the company of the German scholar Christoph L. Frommel.
In March a solo show opens at the Galerie Philippe Guimiot in Brussels, with a catalogue essay by Marcel Brion. Also in March, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Bologna dedicates a major exhibition to the artist, which focuses on his works for Orlando Furioso, introduced in a new reprint by Giuliano Briganti. He participates in the group shows Zur italienischen Künst nach 1945. Deutsche Künstler and Italien at Frankfurt’s Westend Galerie, and Con Savinio. Mostra bio-bibliografica di Alberto Savinio in Fiesole.
He uses Indian ink and watercolour to make the drawings in the group entitled Plates Added to the Encyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alembert.
In October a major retrospective is held at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna – Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara; the critical essay in the catalogue is by Federico Zeri. The book of drawings … alle cinque da Savinio, with a preface by Leonardo Sciascia, is published. The first series of drawings, collected in a notebook, is dated to 1979-1981. It is supposed to be titled Savinio’s Memorial House.
In the early part of the year, on the occasion of the artist’s trip to Moscow, where he had been invited to take part in a meeting on peace in the Soviet Union, Clerici travels all the way to Uzbekistan, visiting the remains of some Islamic architectures in Samarkand and Bukhara.
Vincenzo Consolo writes Retablo. It is set in the 18th century and its main character is the traveller Fabrizio Clerici. Seven of the artist’s drawings are included in a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, published in Italian as Scritti ritrovati 1839-1845, Shakespeare & Company, Rome.
On 28 April, in the Sala della Promoteca of the Campidoglio in Rome, Clerici is awarded the 1985 Premio Alcide De Gasperi for painting; the sculpture prize is awarded to Giacomo Manzù. Clerici is awarded the Premio Vittorio De Sica for painting. In May a solo show opens at the Solomon Gallery in London. He completes Roman Sleep, a much larger-sized replica (520 x 305 cm) than the previous 1955 masterpiece.
In February Italian State Broadcaster RAI makes a television documentary on the artist’s painting. Clerici makes a new cycle of drawings for Theban Variations and begins the group of watercolours for his Eclipse in Naples cycle, some of which will be exhibited for the first time at the retrospective held at the Palazzo Reale in Caserta in 1987. Five drawings inspired by the Ephebus of Motya are published by Edizioni dell’Elefante in Rome for Constantine P. Cavafy’s Tombe, with five poems in Guido Ceronetti’s version and an essay by Giorgio Savidis. In June the 11th Rome Quadriennale opens at the Palazzo dei Congressi: Clerici exhibits his recent cycle on Labyrinths. He participates in several other group shows: Der Traum vom Raum. Gemalte Architektur aus 7 Jahrhunderten at the Kunsthalle and Norishalle in Nuremberg.
In October a major retrospective opens at the Palazzo Reale in Caserta, with forty-one paintings and fifty-seven drawings, watercolours and temperas on view; the catalogue is published by Franco Maria Ricci. One of the group shows Clerici participates in is Exhibition of Contemporary European Artists in Tokyo.
Clerici adds new paintings to the vast cycle of fantastic compositions called Triumphs. He participates in the travelling exhibition Italienische Zeichnungen 1908-1988 which is held in the cities of Frankfurt, Berlin and Zurich.
He curates and works hard on the project for a major retrospective that the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome intends to devote to his work. In April he takes his last trip to Egypt; he chooses to follow an unusual route, as far as the Pharaonic quarries in the Eastern desert between Luxor and the Red Sea. A group of his works is included in the travelling exhibition in Italy entitled L’ occhio di Horus. Itinerari nell’immaginario matematico, on the occasion of which he writes an essay on labyrinths published in the catalogue. His youthful drawings collected by Ungaretti are on display at the exhibition Giuseppe Ungaretti. Iconografia e documenti at the Museo Laboratorio dell’Università La Sapienza in Rome.
In April a major retrospective opens at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, with more than two hundred oil and tempera paintings, drawings and engravings from public and private, Italian and foreign collections. Shown for the first time are the artist’s Quaderni delle Metamorfosi. I Cento Amici del Libro publishes, in Milan, Della fisonomia dell’ uomo by Giovanni Battista Della Porta.
During this two-year period he completes a series of monochrome paintings as well as his illustrative plates for Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, which he had begun in 1984.
He meets the physicist Bruno Pontecorvo, whom he had spent time with in the 1930s in Rome.
The exhibition Fabrizio Clerici al Teatro alla Scala opens in Rome; on view are the artist’s studies and figurines made from 1953 to 1963 for the performances at the famous Milanese theatre. On that occasion Clerici is awarded the prestigious Ambrogino d’oro; the Museo del Teatro alla Scala acquires six studies for Alì Babà.
In 1992 he participates in the group exhibition La seduzione da Boucher a W arhol at the Accademia Valentino in Rome.
Fabrizio Clerici dies in Rome at Villa Margherita clinic on 7 June.
Federico Zed says this of the artist: “I consider Fabrizio Clerici the true Italian metaphysical painter after de Chirico, I consider him to be the artist who paved the way for and distinguished a new chapter in Italian art after the pictor optimus. He was the supreme draughtsman, a perspicacious interpreter of Classical Antiquity, a set designer of rare talent. His youthful drawings were surprising, and they have influenced other artists”.
1994-2014. The artist’s memory
The Archivio Fabrizio Clerici is founded. Its mission is to preserve and protect Fabrizio Clerici’s opera omnia, valorizing its multifarious aspects according to his will.
A year after Fabrizio Clerici’s passing he is commemorated with an exhibition of unpublished works at the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca in Rome, curated by Federico Zeri.
In 1996, in November, on the occasion of the restoration of Signorelli’s cycle of works in Orvieto Cathedral and the worldwide celebration of the event, the exhibition Fabrizio Clerici. I Corpi di Orvieto opens at the Palazzo dei Sette. On view, in addition to his most famous drawings and paintings in the cycle, are his earliest preparatory sketches. The catalogue includes a text by Clerici and a series of monologues by the artist recorded in the studio at the Eremo di Barottoli.
In December 1996, a major retrospective opens, with 95 titles at the Panorama Museum di Bad Frankenhausen. In January 1998, another exhibition is held in Germany, organized by the Galerie Götz in Stuttgart. Later, at the Akhnaton Centre of Arts – Zamalek in Cairo the exhibition Fabrizio Clerici. Ritorno in Egitto is inaugurated, curated by Carmine Siniscalco, and organized by the Italian Cultural Institute. On view are 59 works altogether, including oils and works on paper and 40 studies, set designs and figurines, for both theatre and cinema. A new exhibition of 44 works, including paintings, drawings and engravings, opens in May at the Galleria Comunale d’Arte in Cesena, presented by Raffaele De Grada. Group shows held during the year include: Der faden der Ariadne. Phantastische and visionäre Kunst al Kunst im Herrenhof Mussbach in Neustadt; Da Fattori a Burri. RobertoTassi e i pittori. Ottocento e Novecento in Italia, curated by Marco Goldin, at the Palazzo Sarcinelli in Conegliano.
In March a major retrospective, curated by Marco Goldin, is mounted at the Palazzo Sarcinelli in Conegliano: it includes works from both public and private collections. Giorgio Soavi writes these words for the catalogue: “The great architect and builder Fabrizio Clerici built scaffolding, grandiose structures as if he were always about to start building a whole ancient city. But he also painted relics, of his own invention, so that the sands of the desert could still unveil something to us: giant safety pins made of stone just restored banks of fossil pins, glacial stones, the profiles of animals, shards of relics to be quickly slipped inside one’s pocket in the hope that none of the others with us in the desert would realize we had stolen a finding. The great theatre of history was with him”.
The exhibition Novecento Arte e storia in Italia, curated by Maurizio Calvesi, opens at the Scuderie Papali al Quirinale in Rome. On view in the section called “La classicità tra metafisica, tradizione e concetto” is Clerici’s Lunar Yolk, 1971, on view along with the works of de Chirico, Carrà, Severini, Morandi, Sironi, Savinio, Casorati, Campigli. In his catalogue essay Calvesi says: “And Clerici’s moderate realismis is likewise reconciled in a dream with the Classical”.
The Teatro Stabile di Catania’s version of Vincenzo Consolo’s Retablo is performed in Catania and later in Milan. Fabrizio Clerici’s character is played by Pino Micol. For the occasion Consolo says: “Theatre is visuality and sonorousness. In my Retablo these two components are explicit: the painterly style (the magnificent, surreal or visionary one of a painter like Fabrizio Clerici) and the sonorous style of my writing. The action on stage, in the theatrical adaptation of the story, action that is never realistic, undoubtedly unfolds on these two levels: dream-like, evocative, and therefore strongly metaphorical”.
The painting Horse Stable, made by Clerici in 1953, is presented at Roma 1948-1959. Arte, cronaca e cultura dal neorealismo alla dolce vita organized by the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome; the painting is part of an important American collection, and it is shown along with works by Savinio, Afro, Burri, Calder, Fautrier, Matta.
As part of the exhibition Pittori del Novecento al Maggio musicale fiorentino, Clerici’s studies for Armida are shown at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
One of the great exhibitions held at the Complesso del Vittoriano in Rome, Clerici. Una retrospettiva, curated by Claudio Strinati and Maria Teresa Benedetti, is mounted on the first floor. It is held at the same time as the tenth anniversary of the artist’s death.
The publishing house Taschen publishes Arte fantastica, edited by Uta Grosenick, with a text by Walter Schurian; representing Italy are Giorgio de Chirico, Fabrizio Clerici and Maurizio Cattelan. In September the exhibition Jean Cocteau. Il poeta, it testimone, l’impostore opens at the Fondazione Magnani Rocca in Mamiano di Traversetolo (Parma). On view are works by Cocteau, de Chirico, Clerici, Savinio, together with Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Braque, Modigliani, Severini, Soffici, de Pisis and other masters whose works are part of the Magnani Rocca collection.
The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Modema in Rome shows a version of The Minotaur Publicly Accuses His Mother, which is part of its permanent collection, within the exhibition entitled Surrealistic italiani attraverso le collezioni della Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna.
The Vatican Museums, on the occasion of their 5th centennial, mount the exhibition Laocoonte. Alle origini dei Musei Vaticani; on view is Clerici’s tempera on paper work Lessing’s Light. Micol Forti writes these words for the catalogue: “Fabrizio Clerici chooses to add the wooden silhouette of the whole marble group in the rarefied atmosphere of his Stanze, compressed, empty and silent ambients, crossed by traces of history represented outside of time and space”. Francesca Boschetti adds: “On the other hand, the Stanze series, to which the three works belong, and which Federico Zeri identifies as being ‘the highest point’ of Clerici’s painting, are true and proper existential meditations”.
In November the exhibition Fabrizio Clerici. Opere 19381990 opens at the Galleria Sagittaria in Pordenone.
Organized in collaboration with the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and held at the Accademia d’Ungheria in Rome, is the documentary show Omaggio a Milloss, which includes the letters Fabrizio Clerici wrote to the great Hungarian choreographer. Kristina Herrmann Fiore, in the exhibition catalogue for Dürer e l’Italia, at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, writes: “Albrecht Dürer‘s influence on Italian artists decreases over the centuries, such as in the eighteenth and nineteenth, during which decorative effects, idealizing stylizations or formal abstractions prevail. It is not until the early twentieth century, thanks to artists like Giorgio de Chirico, Mario Sironi, Alberto Giacometti, Fabrizio Clerici as well as others, that the German artist is rediscovered”. In July Clerici’s first Sicilian retrospective opens in Marsala, cu-rated by Sergio Troisi, at the Convento del Carmine, with a catalogue published by Sellerio . The exhibition Peggy Guggenheim e l’immaginario surreale is held in Arca – formerly the church of San Marco, Vercelli, with works that are part of the Venetian museum of the same name, including The Cloud, 1968. From November 2007 and April 2008 an exhibition entitled La parola nell’ arte is mounted at the MART in Rovereto; on view are works that belonged to the collection of Vanni Scheiwiller, a friend of Clerici’s from the 1940s.
Francesco Bonami opens the exhibition Italics. Arte italiana fra tradizione e rivoluzione 1968-2008, at the Palazzo Grassi; on view is The Labyrinth painted by Clerici in 1983 (oil on panel, 100 x 150 cm), along with works by Gnoli and Pistoletto.
Also on display are two other paintings by Clerici, Corpus hermeti cum and An Instant Later, both made in 1978 (oil on panel, 100 x 150 cm).
In the summer, the exhibition Leonor Fini. L’Italienne de Paris opens at the Museo Revoltella in Trieste, with various works by Clerici; in her catalogue essay Laura Gavioli examines Leonor Fini’s relationships with the artists, not just Italian ones, who were also her friends. In November Clerici’s work is on view at Italics. Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution 19682008, mounted at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. In April 2010 and November 2011 exhibitions dedicated to artists’ books, including work by Clerici, are held at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence and the Palazzo Magnani in Reggio Emilia, respectively, organized by the prestigious Associazione Cento Amici del Libro.
The exhibition FabrizioClerici. Nello spazio nel mito opens in late June, in Umbertide, an area the artist was very fond of. The exhibition Legami e corrispondenze. Immagini e parole attraverso il Novecento romano opens in February 2013 at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Rome; the documentary show which includes a painting by Clerici, Mirage, 1955 (tempera on paper, 70 x 50 cm) that belonged to Alberto Moravia. In September a major exhibition entitled Traum-Bilder. Ernst, Magritte, Dalí, Picasso, Antes, Nay Die Wormland-Schenkung is held at the Pinakothek der Modern – Sammlung Mod-erne Kunst, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung in Munich; on view is Recovery of the Trojan Horse, 1955 (oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm), a painting by Clerici from the museum’s permanent collection. For its 2014 calendar, the New York MoMA, among other works by artists in its permanent collection, chooses Duet for Harp and Cello, made by Clerici in 1944 (pencil on paper, 35 x 28.8 cm).
(1) Roberto Papini, Per gli ambasciatori d’oggi, in Ambasciate e ambasciatori a Roma, preface by Ugo Ojetti, Bestetti & Tumminelli, Milan-Rome, 1927.
(2) “Which, to be honest, was adequately compensated for”. From a written testimony by Francesco Clerici addressed to Maurizia Tazartes, 18 February 1995.
(3) Jean Clair, “Lo sconosciuto del-la festa”, in FMR, April 1988, p. 107.
(4) Fabrizio Clerici, from a manuscript from the 1930s. Fabrizio Clerici Archive.
(5) Bompiani, Milan, 1944. The copy in the Fabrizio Clerici Archive was given to the artist by Leonardo Sciascia with the following dedication: “For Fabrizio –the Fabrizio in this book – the Fabrizio who is a ‘stendhalian friend’ of Savinio and mine – affectionately. Leonardo, Rome 5.3.81″. As early as 1940 Savinio mentioned his friend Fabrizio (younger by 22 anni: when they met, in 1936, Savinio was 45 and Clerici 23) in many of his writings. (6) Roman Sleep, 1955. Oil on canvas, 90 x 150 cm. Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, Rome. Reproduced in a larger scale in 1985: Roman Sleep, 1955-85. Oil on canvas, 305 x 520 cm. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome. In order to produce this painting, Clerici rented the piano nobile of the Palazzo de Cupis in Rome, in Piazza Navona, for two years, where he lived in the attic.
(7) Besides this, as the painting was being executed, available to him were black-and-white postcards of the various sculptures: some of them had been shaped by the artist so as to simulate the painting’s composition. Material preserved at the Fabrizio Clerici Archive.
(8) Gian Lorenzo Bernini, L’estasi della Beata Ludovica Albertoni, 1671-74. Marble and jasper. Altieri Chapel, Church of San Francesco a Ripa, Rome.
(9) Clerici had previously dedicated the works in the series Palermitan Confessions, painted between 1952 and 1954, to the stucco works of Giacomo Serpotta (1656-1732).
(10) Eros Sleeping / Reclining Cupid from a Hellenistic type. Parian marble. Musei Capitolini, Palazzo Clementino, Rome.
(11) Clerici had made a sort of plaster model for this detail, which he had already used for other paintings, such as: Odour of Sanctity, 1953; Maria Goretti, 1954; a second version of the Large Palermitan Confession, 1954; and then The Shroud, 1955.
(12) Giuseppe Sanmartino, Veiled Christ, 1753. Sansevero Chapel, Naples.
(13) Roman art, Head of a Dying Persian, 1st century BC – 2nd century AD Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Sperlonga. To paint Roman Sleep Clerici refers to a black-and-white postcard from circa 1890 printed by the Anderson editions.
(14) Mouth of Truth, sculpture dat able to around the 1st century AD. Pavonazzetto marble, diameter 175 cm diameter. Pronaos front the church of Santa Maria it Cosmedin, Rome.
(15) Head of a Sleeping Erinys, copy of the Hellenistic original, 2nd century BC. Boncompagni Ludovisi Collection, Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Altemps, Rome_
(16) Stefano Maderno, St. Cecilia
1600. Pentelic marble from Greece: from a Roman excavation. Confessional Altar, Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome.
(17) Papal basilica, the oldest in Waldsassen, a German city in., Bavaria on the border with the Czech Republic.
(18) Sleeping Ariadne, Roman copy after the Hellenistic original dated to the 2nd century B.C. Fine grain marble probably Greek. From a Hellenistic original elaborated the Pergamon School in the 2nd century BC. Vatican Museums, Museo Pio Clementino, Vatican City.
(19) Niccolô Menghini, St. Martina, mid-17th century. High altar of the church of Santi Luca and Martina, Rome.
(20) Barberini Faun, 250-200 BC-Asiatic marble. Staatliche Antikensammlungen and Glyp-.
(21) Medici Ariadne, Roman copy from the 3rd century BC. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
(22) Marcantonio Raimondi, Cleopatra, 1490-1534. Engraving. Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi Florence.
(23) Giuseppe Giorgetti, St. Sebastian, reserved in the chapel of San Sebastiano, Basilica of San Sebastiano fuori le Mura, Rome.
(24) Two copies of the Sleeping Hermaphrodite are preserved in Rome, at the Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo and at the Galleria Borghese, respectively.
(25) Installation observed by Arturo Schwarz who in 1960 wrote these words to Clerici: “Dear Clerici„ this past Sunday I visited the Quadriennale and allow me to compliment you on the splendid installation you created to house the works on display. […] I am writing to ask you if you could send me a picture of the room where the tribute to Dante is installed: I would like to copy the double central display case so that I can make a similar one for my own Gallery. Would that be possible?” Letter written by Arturo Schwarz to Fabrizio Clerici, Milan, 27 April 1960. Fabrizio Clerici Archive.
fonte: Archivio Fabrizio Cleirici – CLERICI – Skira Ginevra-Milano – edition 2013