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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Felice Casorati

Girl on Red Carpet, 1912, Felice Casorati
One of the fascinating parts of writing about other artists is in discovering through their work that they have struggled with some of the same technical problems that I have. Several years ago I visited the ancient tourist town of Taormina in Sicily. Over the years, many artists have visited and painted scenes from the area, usually centering on the ancient Greek/Roman amphitheater and its scenic relationship to Mount Etna in the distance. But one of the most distinctive features of this more than two-thousand-year-old town is it's main square, sprawling about half-way up the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. The square's stone pavement is done in a checkerboard pattern of low contrast blue-gray and pale yellow. I shot numerous digital images then later stitched them together to form a Postmodern source photo from which to paint my hands and arms holding a small, digital camera taking a picture of the square (below). The Italian artist, Felice Casorati probably never visited Taormina, but in painting his Girl on Red Carpet (above) he encountered the same problem in 1912 as I did exactly a hundred years later--perspective.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Picture Taormina, 2012, Jim Lane
I have long contended that you can very well tell the caliber of an artists by whether or not he or she appears to struggle with the very logical drawing science of linear perspective. By that criteria, Felice Casorati and I appear to be of the same caliber. Look carefully at the two paintings. Normally such a patterned floor would be a matter of two sets of intersecting lines receding to vanishing points usually outside the picture frame. Most competent artists can handle that (I used to teach two-point perspective to middle-school kids). However, when the floor pattern extends nearly to the theoretical horizon (a line drawn between the two vanishing points), the draughtsmanship, not to mention the painting, becomes anything but simple, two-point, linear perspective. The images below of the two paintings help explain what I mean.
It's very likely the cause of such perspective problems is the
same for both paintings--the use of multiple photos. 
For the most part, Felice Casorati's other works either don't rely on the demanding drafting techniques of Realism (or perspective). As he matured, his work moved in the direction of German Expressionism and Symbolism as seen in his Gustav Klimt-like female images such as And Life Calls (or The Prayer), from 1914 (below).
And Life Calls (or The Prayer), 1914, Felice Casorati
A Felice Casorati woodcut print.
Casorati's Dreaming of Pomegranates (below), would also suggest an influence from England's Pre-Raphaelite move-ment. His works of the 1920s is typify, in their emphasis on geometry and formal clarity. The "return to order" tendency then prevalent in the arts, which was a reaction to WW I. Although many critics found Casorati's work cold, cerebral, and academic, he achieved international re-cognition as a leading figure in this move-ment. Often working in tempera, Casorati drew inspiration from his study of Ren-aissance masters, especially Piero della Francesca.
Dreaming of Pomegranates, Felice Casorati
Casorati was born in Novara (northwestern) Italy. He showed an early liking for music, but was forced to abandon his study of the piano due to a serious childhood illness. As he recuperated, Casorati became interested in art. To please his mother he studied law at the University of Padua until 1906. However, his ambition to be a painter was confirmed in 1907 when a painting of his was shown in the Venice Biennale. The works he produced in the early years of his career were naturalistic in style, but after 1912 the influence of the Symbolists, and particularly of Gustav Klimt, turned him toward a more visionary art.
Casorati was one of several early 20th-century Italian
artists who struggled to find their place, and Italy's
place, in the postwar art world.
Casorati was arrested in 1923 for his involvement with an anti-Fascist group, After being briefly detained, the artist subsequently avoided antagonizing the regime. Beginning in 1923, he opened his studio to the young art students of Turin, and to emerging Italian artists such as Quinto Martini and painters of the Gruppo dei Sei (Group of Six). In 1925, one of his students was Daphne Accatino, whom he married. After 1930 the severity of Casorati's earlier style softened somewhat and his palette brightened. He continued to exhibit widely, winning many awards, including the First Prize at the Venice Biennale of 1938. Felice Casorati died in Turin in 1963.
Felice Casorati also painted a tremendous number of
female nudes as well as still-lifes, portraits (below), and Fiats
(bottom), most of which I do not find particularly appealing.

(Okay, maybe the Fiat.)
Two Girls, Felice Casorati
Fiat, (possibly an ad), Felice Casorati

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