1915 - 1995
An early, rare linoleum cut, 1935, signed in black ink, dated, inscribed 'Sant Eufronio', there is no known published edition of this subject, on wove paper, framed
sheet: 252 by 191mm 9⅞ by 7½in
Acquired directly from the artist; thence by descent to the present owner
This lot is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Fondazione Burri.
Under Fascism’s spell, 20-year-old Alberto Burri falsified documents to support Mussolini’s army in war-torn Ethiopia. Coinciding with the start of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, this early self-portrait, dated 1935, depicts a bold, young artist and military volunteer, blissfully unaware of the traumatic journey he is about to endure.
In the following years, Burri was captured during World War II and sent to a P.O.W. camp in sweltering Texas, where he turned to art as an outlet. Perhaps recalling the drawing lessons of his youth, he sent several figural works home to Umbria. Pained by the memories of war, he later destroyed most of these paintings, making this self-portrait an incredibly rare example of his early, largely unknown figurative oeuvre.
The great pioneer of the radical Arte Povera movement, Burri is better known for his abstract, expressive collages made from everyday, recycled objects. A jute sack from the Texas camp, for instance, became his first Sacco in 1949. While it stands in stark contrast stylistically with his better-known collages, the present linoleum cut demonstrates similar ingenuity. With limited resources, the artist relied on what resources and models were immediately available.