MARINO MARINI. Graphic works


The exhibition features approximately sixty etchings and lithographs by Marino Marini, which showcase the artist’s extensive production, ranging over more than thirty years. By the early 1920s Marino, while studying at the Florence Academy, had already begun to show a keen interest in aqua fortis etching, evincing right from the outset that sure grasp of expression that was to distinguish his pictorial work. But it was in Switzerland, where he had sought refuge during the war, in the early forties, that he began to work in lithography, a new technique, in which he was to prove to be extremely innovative and capable of achieving astonishing results. The exhibition opens chronologically with the etching “The Hanged Man” (with which Marino returned to engraving in 1946 after his youthful dabbling in the 1920s), a subject which alludes specifically to the horrors of war; it is marked by a “dry, arid, crackling” quality. In parallel with his sculpture, in the 1950s Marini’s graphic style also began to mature and define itself. “The horsemen,” said the artist, “increasingly impressive, have lost their age-old domination over the animal and the catastrophes that befall them are similar to those that struck Sodom and Pompei. I thus try to symbolise the final phase of the decomposition of a myth – the myth of the heroic victorious man, the humanist man of virtue”. “His style” writes Mario De Michelis in the preface to his catalogue raisonné of the graphic work, “ thus becomes richer and more varied, is subjected to a sort of deformation that is sometimes strongly expressionist, like a figural method: one minute it tends towards the essential, preferring the pure line, the next it gives itself up impulsively to the more intricate, to filled-in patches, with an absolute stylistic and inventive mastery”. Alongside the riders and depictions of Pomona (Roman goddess of fruitful abundance, fertility symbol), his most beloved subjects, circus characters, begin to populate Marino’s world: acrobats, jugglers, fancy costumes. Over the years Marino’s vision of the world and of man becomes increasingly dramatic: lines break up, outlines become stylised, lines are deformed. Warriors and Shouts from the sixties show images in which horse and rider lie reduced to fossils, lifeless. Man has been unsaddled, symbolising the defeat of humanism, the impossibility of any longer dominating nature. But alongside the tragic images, right up to the end Marino continues to fill his world with his nude Pomonas, theatres, horses, masks, colour – the sheer vibrancy of life. His work as engraver allowed him to return periodically over the years to the etching plate, and we can witness his evolution, his improvements, his re-visitations – it is as if a creature were gradually taking shape. The artist began to add colour to his stylised black and white lines, introducing it into his lithographs in large clean single-coloured blocks. These are the works of the seventies, a “sort of crescendo,” De Micheli writes, “his lines suddenly spring into action, fluent and subtle, or else curl, thicken, darken in counterpoint to a colour that resound with reds, greens, blues and yellows; but the desired effect is also achieved with gold and silver, when he is not aiming at the nocturnal, that is, represented with a soft velvety black or a shiny ebony […] In this way Marino was able to combine the awareness of tragedy, of the looming threat, with the irrepressible desire for happiness that resides in every man”.


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