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Francesco Somaini was born on August 6, 1926 in Lomazzo near Como. In 1949 upon completing a law degree at the Università di Pavia, he attended Giacomo Manzù’s courses at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan. He debuted in 1948 at the Rassegna di Arti figurative promoted by the Quadriennale in Rome, and in 1950 he participated in the Venice Biennale for the first time. The iron conglomerate sculptures he completed in the mid 1950s sanctioned his affiliation with the Italian art Informel movement.
In the late 1950s Somaini’s work was critically acclaimed both at the Venice Biennale (1956), and at the Biennale of São Paolo of Brazil (1959), where he was awarded the first international prize for sculpture. Following his success in Brazil, the artist was invited to exhibit across Italy, as well as to present his work at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York in 1960. The following year he received the prestigious French Art Criticism prize at the Deuxième Biennale of Paris. Working along the lines of art Informel, Somaini was keen on expanding his sculptural language by integrating a wider range of materials. Throughout the 1960s the artist participated in a growing number of national and international exhibitions. In the late 1960s, at the dawn of his Informel period, Somaini turned his attention to large-scale works. In the 1970s, the artist produced a series of drawings and photomontages in which he envisioned the integration of sculptural elements in an urban setting. These included the Bridge–Square proposal for Gustav Gründgens Platz, Düsseldorf (1980) and an Anthropomorphic Garden and Baignade for Parc de la Villette, Paris (1982). Parallel to these studies, Somaini developed a new carving technique featuring high pressure sand jets.
In 1975 with the tracce, he introduced a dynamic element in his work. A matrix was rolled along a trench of clay and the imprint it left came to be known as traccia, these new works were shown in Somaini’s solo room at the Venice Biennale in 1978. From the mid 1980s onwards the artist reverted to large-scale compositions. Notable among Somaini’s many one-man shows were presentations organized by the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg in 1979; Palazzo di Brera, Milan in 1997; Castel Pergine, Trento in 2000; and Somaini, Sculture, dipinti e disegni 1950-2001, Como in 2002. Francesco Somaini died on November 19, 2005 in Como. In 2007 the Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna e contemporanea, Rome, mounted Somaini’s first posthumous retrospective exhibition.