Angelo Savelli completed his degree at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Rome and from 1940-1954 taught in this same art school. The influence of these years is displayed in his early works, comprising landscapes, portraits and still lifes in an expressionist style (Capriccio no. 2 – Masks, 1940, Self Portrait, 1940, Flowers and Puppet, 1941). Angelo Savelli featured at a number of major Italian artistic events during the Second World War, such as the Bergamo Prize (1941 and 1942) and the 4th Rome Quadrennial (1943). The impact of World War II are evident in many of his works from the period, featuring harrowing scenes such as crucifixions and representations of the extreme suffering caused by the severe bombing of the capital. Halfway through the 1940s, Angelo Savelli visited a church in Florence with a grey interior which gave him the visual impression of white in the shadows of the building. He was fascinated by the concept and from this point onwards white featured heavily in his works. For example, patches of white started to appear in the sky, not as clouds but as “spaces” painted white and is also used in some of his religious paintings to represent Mary Magdalene’s spiritual love of Christ. Giuseppe Selvaggi highlighted the predominance of white in Angelo Savelli‘s compositions as early as 1947, describing him as a “painter so modern as to transmute his white architectonic spaces into painting”. In 1956 he created ‘Bianco su Bianco’. From this moment, white became his colour of choice and led to him later winning the first prize for graphic art at the 1964 Venice Biennial, where he presented a room of white on white reliefs. During 1947 he spent some time in Venice. This period resulted in a new figurative-abstract style, a turning point which he called the linea zero. Examples include Disquieting (Construction), 1950, exhibited together with two others works painted in the same year (Anxiety and Beyond Anxiety) in the major exhibition Arte astratta e concreta in Italia. A radical turning point took place in Savelli‘s art in 1948 after he was awarded a grant by the Ministry of Education to study in Paris for a month, a placement that he managed to extend for almost a year. In Paris he discovered a new artistic world, which in his own words he described as “white disappeared from my hands unwittingly, momentarily erased by the more urgent interest in the new and thrilling artistic dimension that Paris offered me.” He was left astonished by the kaleidoscopic patterns of the stained-glass windows of the Notre Dame and replicated their structures in various abstract works in watercolour and India ink on paper. The period from 1949 into the early 1950s saw an increase of bold, aerodynamic lines against backgrounds of glowing colours , seen in Absurd but Real (1950), Deep Contrasts (1950) and Vital Source(1953). In 1954, the artist left for New York and in 1955 introduced the production of graphics and collage and his work became influenced by the research of Dadaismo. He continued teaching in the United States, where he worked with Piero Dorazio to reorganize the programmes and studies of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which led to the school becoming the best school of art in America over the decade 1960-69. During his time in the States he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for 1979-1980 and the prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 1983. After producing Fire Dance, his first completely white painting, in 1957, he eliminated colour from his palette and white became his colour of choice for the next four decades. In 1961 he started to create the first works with the use of rope, for example Memory of Childhood (1961), Little Nest (1962) and most famously Dante’s Inferno, 1964. From 1970, the artist began to eliminate the use of a stretcher, instead using irregular geometric forms of white-painted canvas which are sometimes arranged on a transparent piece of nylon, directly attached to the wall with steel pins. Examples of this type of work include Of the Surface, 1970, Hiroshima, 1984 and Dove’s Feather Drifting Gently Over Milan, 1984. In 1984 significant works were presented in a monographic exhibition at the PAC (Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea), Milan curated by Luigi Sansone. He continued to exhibit works in prestigious galleries such as Cavallino in Venice, Naviglio and Lorenzelli in Milan and Miccoli in Parma. In 1994 he returned to Italy for good. In 1995, XLVI Bienniale Venice and the Pecci Prato Museum dedicated two solo exhibitions to him. The artist didn’t manage to inaugurate the exhibitions because he died in Castello di Bodenega in Dello (Brescia) on 27th April 1995 at age 83. On 15th December 2012, the MARCA Museum in Catanzaro (Savelli’s hometown) organised an important exhibition with 70 works, both paintings and sculptures which was curated by Alberto Fiz and Luigi Sansone.
Photo Credits: Paolo Monti [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons