02/02/2009 – Portal SESC – Sao Paulo – Magazine
Paulistan flags (Click to see the original news)
Italian immigrant, Alfredo Volpi was walls painter and worker before to be acclaim one of the most important artists of Brazil.
The trajectory of the painter Alfredo Volpi, born in Lucca, Italy, in 1896, merges with the thousands of Italian immigrants who landed in Sao Paulo at the turn of the 20th century. Before being recognized as one of the most important artists of second generation of Brazilian modernism, this illustrious member of the Cambuci district, in the south of the capital, was graphic employee, and house painter. “Volpi was a construction worker,” says Nereide Schilaro Santa Rosa, author of the biography Alfredo Volpi, the series Masters of Arts in Brazil (Modern, 2000). “He carried paint buckets, walking with clogs; you could smell, and see the texture of the paint on his skin.” And for many years was as follows: painting walls as work. And his paintings, for pleasure, in the hours that remained to him.
Self-taught, the artist, not used a formal knowledge to do his jobs. He did not grow up in a cultural environment or was a traveled man, like other wealthier modernists. According Nereide, the painter only followed the directions. “You put the first color. Look. Then put the second color. If you are wrong, you realize and it starts all again, “said the teacher, explaining his creative process. This apparent simplicity in the composition, however, should not deceive. For the historian and art critic João Spinelli, this “mixture and look” is nothing easy. “He mixes emotion and reasoning, and that’s not simple, says João. Much remembered, the famous flags incorporated in his works from the 1950s, Volpi hid behind them something sui generis, says Spinelli. “He used the flags to create compositions. Behind this, there is thought to a fine structure, which take into account the number of shapes and number of colors. No one has done the same. “For the specialist, the artist was remarkable consistency. “His work it was consistent with himself, which was always simple and stripped, with the time in which he lived, that he knew very well to follow, and with Brazil.
Alfredo Volpi arrived in Brazil when he was a year and a half old. He was the third of five children of Giusepina and Ludovico, who lived with the money earned from trade in cheese and wine and sought a better life in the new world. Was 12 when he got a job in a print shop and, with the first salary, he bought a box of watercolors. Three years later, he began working as a painter, making decorative strips on the walls of houses of wealthy families, and was the first contact with the painting that would become more intense through the friend Orlando. Orlando studied arts in a professional school of Brás, and with whom he had conversations that disturb him more and more. Until, at 18, the first work appears, a landscape, made with oil paint on the lid of a cigar box. As has happened with many big names of Brazilian art in the first decades of the 20th century, Volpi had before it a scenario of great change. Sao Paulo began to acquire the contours of the city that would become years later. Immigrants from all over the world disembarked in the port of Santos and climbed the mountains bringing new cultures, new colors, and shapes.
In the arts, the pioneers of the modernist movement are increasingly interested in this scenario. Volpi, captures this all in his first screens, still inspired by the paintings of European impressionists of the 19th-century. The young artist began to show his first modernist references in the Mulata screen, 1927. According to biographer Nereide Schilaro Santa Rosa, the woman portrayed the painting was a waitress named Benedicta da Conceição, the great love of the painter, whom he married and had their only daughter, Eugenia.
In 1928, Volpi received the Gold Medal, of the Fine Arts Salon, achieved first prize for his painting. At this point, through exhibitions and friendship with other artists, his work became more known.
Flags and consecration
In the 1940s, Volpi starts the transition from predominantly figurative painting to the geometric. “It started with the facades and houses, but he was eliminating the lines, to reach the flags,” said João Spinelli. This season also started painting with tempera, a kind of ink prepared by himself, mixing white color and yolk of eggs, clove oil and colored pigments. “Combining colors became his preferred language,” said Nereide Schilaro Santa Rosa in the painter’s biography. “The balance in his compositions show his security and tranquility as an artist,” she says. In the following decade, Volpi was already established, having participated in the Venice Biennale. And in the Sao Paulo exhibit, where, in 1953, shared with Di Cavalcanti the award for Best National Painter. At this point, the geometric shapes in the artist’s paintings had already fallen into the graces of concretists, coming to participate in concrete art exhibitions in 1956 and 1957.
About his little flags, Volpi said: “You turn off yourself and then comes into existence the line problem, shape, and color. My flags are not flags; are only the problems of flags. “He painted until the end of his life in 1988.