He left on July 25th in the afternoon, while the sun began to fall on the waters of his lake. Giancarlo Vitali died in his sleep at the age of 88 in his home in Bellano, right under his study full of paintings and from which he has not moved for life: always been anchored to his shy and somehow lonely nature and also for this he spent his life as a painter in the narration of his microcosm that became thanks to his painting an open universe, full of a universal message, that of authentic life, simple and that he could tell with extraordinary, rapid and fluid pictorial power, sometimes dense with a melancholy irony, but always compelling, unexpected, surprising.
Not surprisingly, his subjects have always been the men and women of his village: the priest, the woman, intent on plucking a chicken, the band of the village. Powerful portraits of humble, silent humanity, often forgotten, but extraordinarily alive and handed over to a time suspended thanks to such a noble painting, which Giovanni Testori defines as a material splendor.
To paint. In quick bold strokes, as if the hand at work already contained the whole story about to flow to the canvas. Skinned rabbits, exquisite violets, ladies with cats on their heads, shoemakers cobbling, fish the rims of a plate, wine glasses left behind on a table but still tinkling, drinking pals, portraits finished. Portraits erased.
To paint life, to live painting. To leave nothing out. So this energy flows to the viewer who visits the four exhibitions of the artist Gian Carlo Vitali, hosted by the city of Milan—“Time Out”—time given back through the eyes of the painter. And his son, Velasco Vitali, also a painter and sculptor, his father’s curator, whose father told him long ago, “painting is not reality.”
A mammoth exhibition project at four venues in Milan (all to 24th September) returns to the spotlight a figure almost unknown outside his native Italy. Giancarlo Vitali has had only two solo exhibitions in other countries and there is no notable publication on him originating in English. Spearheaded by Giancarlo Vitali: Time Out at Palazzo Reale, Milan, and accompanied by a hefty bilingual catalogue, the exhibitions make clear that Vitali’s obscurity has little to do with the work itself.
Born in 1929 to a family of fishermen in the village of Bellano on the eastern shore of Lake Como, Vitali is a self-taught recluse who has rarely left his birthplace: he even eschewed the exhibitions’ opening ceremony. His renaissance has been masterminded by his son Velasco, himself a considerable painter and sculptor. Clearly compelled to paint and draw just as others might eat or drink, Vitali uses imagery that has an existential intensity made all the greater by its relatively narrow range. Landscape rarely intrudes, with the notable exception of Resegone (1991; all works collection of the artist), a panorama that ruggedly captures a local Bergamasque mountain, capping the elegant display Mirabilia Naturalia Artificialia at the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale. Instead, still-lifes, portraits and figure scenes are his staple.
attachment: The Burlington Magazine_09.2017.pdf
[...] From a completely different perspective, although still in Italy, Giancarlo Vitali’s retrospective opening this June at the Palazzo Reale in Milan (through September; exact dates to be confirmed) and titled ‘Time Out’ – with three satellite shows at the House of Manzoni, The Museum of Natural History and the Pinacoteca del Castello – should be a visual and intellectual feast. A master of bravura expressionism with a nod towards Soutine, Vitali uses slashing impasto and vivid hues to get at the often wry and visceral crux of people and things. In short, these paintings are eye-openers.
David Anfam co-curated the blockbuster survey of Abstract Expressionism recently held at the Royal Academy in London.
Keep up with Apollo’s 12 Days selection of art highlights here.
by Paula DiPerna
It was there each night, a coppery smile. A man with a joyful secret, figurative but mysterious. There was technical perfection—the lines in the face, the slight tilt of the head, and the eyes. Every night, the eyes watched me as I entered my room, mesmerizing, too excellent an etching to take for granted, but still an ornament here at my hotel, certainly relative to the lake itself. But the portrait soon sparked an adventure in the inseparable—art from place, place from artist. Who was he?