Renato Guttuso, ‘Edizioni Seat’ Portfolio, 1982

Renato Guttuso (1911-1987) was an Italian painter who established his own style of realism using a range of colors with a loose drawing method. He used this style to express his political beliefs, which were anti-fascist. Born in Bagheria, Italy, in December 1911, Guttuso was surrounded by a stimulating art environment. He began painting landscapes of his home town at a young age, showing great talent as an artist. He attended school at Palermo where he learned how to draw the classical European figure and other traditional art styles. Guttuso later turned away from academic style as he became influenced by artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso.

Renato Guttuso, untitled still life, 1982. Lithograph, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

We can see this clearly in the portfolio of 34 lithographs published by Edizioni Seat, as he uses colors unrealistically to express emotion.

Renato Guttuso, untitled, 1982. Lithograph, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

The figures are still drawn in a realistic style, yet Guttuso’s lines are quick and almost look rushed. This alone shows his modernist influences as opposed to the traditional style he was taught in school. Although his style is modern in this sense, Guttuso still uses his training in the academic style with his figures, a combination which has helped him to express his political views. He moved to Rome and in 1931 showed his work for the first time at the Quadriennale. He gained fame in the art world while continuing to express his political views through his pieces.

Renato Guttuso, untitled figure study, 1982. Lithograph, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

Guttuso joined the Italian Communist Party; his artwork was able to express this political stance with paintings such as Battle of Ponte Ammiraglio. The “Fronte Nuevo delle Arti” movement was co-founded by Guttuso. Its members used realism as a tool to make artwork that was easy for the masses to interpret while still presenting a unique and modern style.

Renato Guttuso, untitled still life, 1982. Lithograph, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

Guttuso made many paintings of the everyday working class, as opposed to the traditional style which was dominated by grand narratives and images of the upper class. Guttuso won many awards, such as the Lenin Prize; his work was featured in magazines and shown in exhibitions all throughout Europe and America. On January 18, 1987, Guttuso passed away in Rome.

Renato Guttuso, untitled figure study, 1982. Lithograph, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

In these 34 lithographs, Guttuso depicts working class women as well as still lifes, animals, and figures in different poses. Many of the images of women are partial nudes, and he shows no faces, so the women lose their individual identity. This series of lithographs looks like a study, as Guttuso is playing with colors and line quality. It is obvious that the artist enjoys the figure, about which he once said evocatively, “wet round mouth—wet caress hanging me by a voice flesh suspends its life and senses become heaven.”

Renato Guttuso, untitled figure study, 1982. Lithograph, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

If the women in these lithographs were fully nude, they would adhere more to a classical style, but Guttuso has them wearing clothing that sexualizes these figures. This approach makes the images modern—Guttuso was able to keep his talent for drawing the figure, while still being modern in his treatment of the subject.

Megan Curtis was a student in History of 20th Century Art in Fall 2010.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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