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Romolo Romani, self portrait

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ROMOLO ROMANI (Milan 1884 - Brescia 1916) STUDY FOR A SELF PORTRAIT
Black chalk on cardboard. Signed (?) Romolo Romani in pen, titled in pen on the verso La Poesia; 620 x 380 mm. As kindly Silvana Bareggi points out to me, the present drawing has been reproduced in the book which Nicodemi wrote on the art of Romolo Romani. This is really a poetic and visionary self portrait, but it fits perfectly with the photograph and the more naturalistic self portrait drawn in black chalk reproduced in Nicodemi's book.
LITERATURE: Romolo Romani. Saggio di Giorgio Nicodemi. Presentazione di Bruno Boni. Con una nota dell'editore. Como, 1964; tav. 72.

After attending high school in Brescia, Romani enrolled in 1902 at the Scuola Libera del Nudo of the Brera. In 1904 the Municipality of Milan grants him a studio in the Castello Sforzesco and a subsidy as a result of a prize which Romani received at the Mostra Nazionale della Caricatura in Varese. At the same time he met Gaetano Previati. Romani participates for the first time at the Venice Biennale in 1905. His works are marked by a symbolism of north-European origin. Deformed faces and grotesque, outlined by strong chiaroscuro strokes, emerge into geometrical structures, showing a sure affinity with the work of the sculptor Adolfo Wildt. He creates paintings and drawings deemed highly original for its time, full of esoteric and spiritualist suggestions. Some works appear as psychic-dream fantasies similar to the works by Edvard Munch and Odilon Redon. On one side Romani remains linked to figuration, on the other hand he produces some of the earliest European examples of abstraction in painting. As of July 1906 until the middle of 1908 the artist worked as an illustrator with the magazine Poesia, directed by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Sem Benelli. In Milan he met young artists as Aroldo Bonzagni, Carlo Erba, Carlo CarrĂ ; around 1909 he met Antonio Sant'Elia, Mario Chiattone, Leonardo Dudreville and Umberto Boccioni. His association with the first futurist artists led him to sign the Manifesto dei Pittori Futuristi, but in the officially published Manifesto of 11 February 1910 the names of Bonzagni and Romani disappear, replaced by those of Gino Severini and Giacomo Balla. Romolo Romani's influence on the first Futurism was however strong, determining a kind of visionary orientation, as the Boccioni's series Gli Addi demonstrates. Starting from 1911 his production loses dreamlike strength, indeed the artist seeks to recover a solidity of the figure and light. Romani moved to Brescia and continues the illustrator and poster designer, until his early death in 1916.

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