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Fabrizio Clerici was born in Milan on May 15, 1913. In 1920 he moved with his family to Rome and graduated with a degree in architecture in 1937. He was considerably influenced by ancient monuments and both Renaissance and Baroque painting and architecture. As a student he attended conferences held by Le Corbusier in Rome, and in 1936 he befriended Alberto Savinio, who introduced him to Surrealism. He moved to Milan at the end of the 1930s and associated himself with Filippo de Pisis and Giorgio de Chirico. At that time he devoted himself to both architecture and drawing.
In 1943 he held his first solo exhibition at the Cairola art gallery in Milan, where he exhibited drawings, watercolors, lithographs, and etchings. His first illustrated books also date from this period, among them Bestiario by Leoncello Leonardi and Il fu Mattia Pascal by Pirandello. In 1947 Clerici made his debut as a set designer for a production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw, thus commencing what would be prolific activity in theater, ballet, and opera. The following year, he participated in the Venice Biennale for the first time. There, he met Salvador Dalí and designed sets and costumes for Igor Stravinskij’s Orpheus, which was playing at La Fenice theater.
Clerici settled in Rome in 1949, where he increased his set-designing activity and took part in shows at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Canergie Institute, Pittsburgh. In 1953 he travelled to Egypt and was inspired to paint the Templi dell’uovo, a series of tempera paintings about ideal archaeological excavations that he then presented at the 1956 Venice Biennale. In 1955 Clerici met Jean Cocteau and Federico Zeri; he published Taccuino Orientale in Milan, a collection of drawings about an imaginary journey to the Middle East; participated in the São Paulo Bienal; and held a solo show at the Sagittarius Gallery in New York. During the last half of the 1950s, he had the idea of creating a series that would decontextualize pegs, safety pins, and other common objects and present them as archaeological finds. Between 1974 and 1985 he created a series of paintings and drawings inspired by the well-known painting by Arnold Böcklin, The Isle of the Dead. During the 1980s and 1990s Clerici was the subject of retrospective exhibitions at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara (1983), the Palazzo Reale, Caserta (1987), and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome. Clerici died in Rome on June 7, 1993.