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Fausto Melotti


A major figure in 20th century sculpture, Fausto Melotti was born on 8 June 1901 in Rovereto. He attended the Scuola Reale Elisabettiana before moving to Florence with his family. In 1918, he began studying maths and physics at the University of Pisa and, two years later, joined the Polytechnic University of Milan. During this time, he became friends with his cousin Carlo Belli, a theoretician of music and Italian abstract art, and Gino Pollini, with whom he shared an interest in the avant-garde but, above all, a passion for music. His mother taught him the piano but it was the organ that became his favourite instrument, allowing him to deepen his knowledge of counterpoint and harmony. He thought about a career in music but finally opted for the plastic arts. Thanks to the futurist Fortunato Depero, he discovered new means of expression through materials such as terracotta and clay. While he chiefly collaborated with architects during the 1920s, he essentially worked alongside Fontana. With the latter, he attended sculpture classes at the Accademia di Brera in 1928, taught by Adolfo Wildt, whose work Melotti respected. In 1931, he became an assistant then a teacher of plastic arts at the Regia Scuola Professionale del Mobile e del Merletto [Royal Professional School of Furniture and Embroidery], which brought him into contact with the decorative arts. During these years, his influences were varied and his work, characterised by its diversity, often betrayed a certain indecision.

He participated in the 5th Triennale di Milano in 1933, dominated by the international rationalist movement, and his first private exhibition was held in the Galleria del Milione in 1935, where he presented 18 of his sculptures. However, critics attacked his work and the artist found himself in a period of 'artistic silence', during which he abandoned abstraction and accepted the monumental public orders of the fascist regime. In 1937, he travelled to Paris to see the World Fair, then to Rome in 1941 for a sculpture project intended for the World Fair, which never saw the light of day. Two years later, his studio in Milan was bombed and destroyed resulting in the loss of the majority of his early works. This marked a turning point in Melotti's oeuvre. He took this opportunity to experiment with a new material, ceramic, which was rarely used in sculpture. Starting in 1948, this new means of expression earned him numerous prizes and this late recognition allowed him to participate in several prestigious exhibitions.

Besides his work as a sculptor, he tried his hand at poetry and published a collection in 1944 entitled Il triste Minotauro, as a tribute to Picasso. Nineteen fifty-nine marked the beginning of a new creative phase, when he produced his first wire or brass wire sculptures. A retrospective of his work was held at the Museum am Ostwall in Dortmund in 1973.

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