Ottone Rosai

Dynamism Bar San Marco


Fragmentation of a Street



Rosai was born in 1895 in a working-class neighbourhood of Florence. His father was a carpenter. In 1909-12, Rosai studied at the Accademia of Florence and in his early years admired the work of Corot, Courbet, Cézanne and Daumier. In 1913 Rosai, with his friend Betto Lotti, showed a group of works in Florence in via Cavour, in a site next to the Futurist exhibition organized by Lacerba. His show was visited by Marinetti, Soffici, Carrà and other Futurists. Rosai then joined the Futurist movement and experimented with polimaterism in his art. He also contributed to Lacerba.

During World War I, Rosai volunteered in the Arditi, the daring assault troops, and was wounded several times. In the post-war years, he participated in the creation and in the activities of the local Fascist squads. In 1919 he published his first book Il libro di un teppista. His disillusionment with Fascism began with Giacomo Matteotti's murder in 1924, and was furthered after the establishment of the regime.

In 1920, Rosai held his first one-man show in Florence, which was favourably reviewed by De Chirico and Soffici. In the post-war years, Rosai's art combined the simple forms and suspended mood of Metaphysical painting with a naturalist, atmospheric brushwork. His subject matter focused on the popular neighbourhoods of Florence and their working class inhabitants. His strong sense of realism, solidly grounded in folk tradition, was often pushed to the verge of caricature. In 1926, Rosai showed in the exhibition of the Novecento italiano. In 1929 he began contributing illustrations to the Fascist periodical Il Bargello. In 1930 the Milanese Galleria Il Milione opened with a one-man show of his work. In 1930, Rosai published his second novel, Via Toscanella, and in 1934, his third, Dentro la guerra. In 1939, he was appointed professor of drawing at the Liceo Artistico Fiorentino. Rosai died in 1957 in Ivrea, while there for the opening of a large retrospective at the Centro Culturale d'Ivrea.

credits: Hangar Design Group