Lot 4
  • 4

Alberto Burri

700,000 - 900,000 GBP
1,085,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Alberto Burri
  • Bianco Cretto
  • signed, dated 77 and inscribed Ad Anna e Giuseppe Vespini con amicizia, Buon Natale on the reverse
  • acrovinyl on celotex
  • 59.8 by 50 cm. 23 1/2 by 19 7/8 in.
  • Executed in 1977.


Private Collection, Porto Sant'Elpidio

Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner


Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, Burri, Contributi al Catalogo Sistematico, Città di Castello 1990, p. 247, no. 1060, illustrated in colour

Bruno Corà, Ed., Burri, Catalogo Generale, Pittura 1958-1978, Volume II, Città di Castello 2015, p. 333, no. 1497, illustrated in colour, Volume VI, p. 220, no. 7745, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

A uniquely sculptural white surface, Bianco Cretto evokes the perfect equilibrium between the sensuality of texture and the vitality of materials. Executed in 1977, the present work is a consummate example of Alberto Burri’s exceptional Cretti series that the artist first began in the 1970s. These highly textural works were created using a combination of zinc white and kaolin, which was then covered with PVA glue and water and left to dry. Consequently, as the water vaporised the paint surface solidified, contracted and cracked. Having previously explored the expressive qualities of everyday materials such as burlap, wood and iron, Burri turned to the primal notions of earth and water to create these organically evolving sculptural networks. On the cusp between absolute destruction and creation, they exemplify Burri’s revolutionary transfiguration of the two-dimensional work of art.

The inspiration for the Cretti stemmed from Burri’s multiple trips to California and the American Southwest, where the artist first travelled to in 1958 to visit his dear friend and fellow artist Afro. Completely encapsulated by the withered scenery of California’s Death Valley, Burri first paid tribute to these striking natural patterns in his 1950s Bianco works and it remained a strong visual influence for decades to come. As explained by curator Lisa Melandri, the barren plains of dry earth visible in his photographs from these trips “mirror the visual interests and formal choices in his works of the 1970s and 80s" (Lisa Melandri, ‘Finding Alberto Burri’s Place in America’ in: Exh. Cat., Santa Monica, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Combustione: Alberto Burri and America, 2010, p. 24). Discussing his Cretti series the artist explained: “The idea came from [Death Valley], but then in the painting it became something else. I only wanted to demonstrate the energy of a surface” (Alberto Burri cited in: Giuliano Serafini, Burri: The Measure and the Phenomenon, Milan 1999, p. 209).

In Burri’s Cretti the thickly encrusted surfaces are seemingly autonomous entities. Herein, they bear resemblance to Piero Mazoni’s iconic Achromes, in which the artist sought to create a self-governing work of art, devoid of figuration and literal representation. Manzoni began this pursuit in an attempt to reduce the interaction between the artist and the work, by soaking his canvases in kaolin and leaving them to dry in the sun. Ultimately it was through the self-defining drying process that the works achieved their final form. Likewise, in Burri’s Cretti the medium itself is the catalyst that drives the composition. Nevertheless, there always remains a certain degree of control. The size of each Cretto for example, was dependant on the thickness of the paint mixture, as well as the amount that was applied. 

A mesmeric mosaic of sculpted furrows, Bianco Cretto epitomises the artist’s revolutionary approach to material. Exhibiting his ability to transform these into a medium capable of expressing his powerful artistic vision, the present work is an exquisite literation from one of Burri’s most revered series.