Lucio Fontana


Lucio Fontana (Rosario, February 19, 1899 – Comabbio, September 7, 1968) was an Italian painter, ceramist and sculptor.

Of Italian family, but Argentine by birth, in Milan he attended the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, devoting himself to sculpture, returned to Buenos Aires drew up the Manifiesto Blanco with which he laid the foundations of the Spatialist movement. In the early 50”s he made canvases with holes which were followed by the famous “cuts”. In his artistic achievements he used many techniques, both in painting and sculpture and in ceramics.

Son of the Italian sculptor Luigi Fontana (1865-1946) and Argentine mother, he began his artistic activity in 1921 working in the sculpture workshop of his father and his father”s colleague and friend Giovanni Scarabelli. He then became a follower of Adolfo Wildt. Since 1949, breaking the canvas with holes and cuts, he overcomes the traditional distinction between painting and sculpture. The space ceases to be the object of representation according to the conventional rules of perspective. The very surface of the canvas, interrupting itself in reliefs and recesses, enters into a direct relationship with real space and light. At the end of the 1940s, he collaborated with Fontana Arte on the creation of ceramic bases for tables and coffee tables (designed by the architect Roberto Menghi), and with the company Borsani.

Lucio was born from a relationship between Lucia Bottini, daughter of the Swiss engraver Jean and who later married Juan Pablo Maroni, and his father Luigi who kept his son with him and later married Anita Campiglio, always considered by Fontana as a real mother. Fontana”s family was quite wealthy, so the young Lucio was sent to Italy to study first in important colleges and then at the technical institute Carlo Cattaneo and at the artistic high school of Brera. In 1917 he enlisted as a volunteer in the army. In 1921, he obtained the diploma of building surveyor and returned to Argentina. In 1924 after working with his father opens his studio in Rosario abandoning the realistic style of his father and looking instead cubist ways of Aleksandr Archipenko as in Nude (1926) and La mujer y la balde (1927). In the first work, influences of Archipenko and Secessionism can be seen, while in the second work, the lesson of Aristide Maillol can be seen.

In 1927 he returned to Milan and enrolled at the Brera Academy and graduated in 1930. Undergoes the influence of his professor Adolfo Wildt.

He would say in 1963: “I had a great master as a guide: Wildt, I was considered the best student in the course. And Wildt, indeed, had expressed to me several times that I should become a continuer of his art. Instead, as soon as I got out of the Academy, I took a mass of plaster, gave it a roughly figurative structure of a seated man, and threw tar on it. Just like that, for a violent reaction. Wildt complained, and what could I say to him? I held him in high esteem, I was grateful to him, but I was interested in finding a new way, a way that was all my own. “Thus was born one of the most important works of Fontana”s early period: The Black Man (1930-now lost). Recalling works by Archipenko and Zadkine he seeks a return to the origins of form. The black tar and the almost shapeless mass, are in contrast with the recovery of Roman and Etruscan forms of Arturo Martini and Marino Marini. Together with Renato Birolli and Aligi Sassu considers expressionism an alternative to the fashion of the twentieth century as in Olympic Champion (or Champion waiting) (1932).

It also realizes numerous ceramics from the vivacious colors. It knows the avant-garde architectonic Milanese: Figini and Pollini and the group BBPR that is: Belgioioso, Banfi, Peressutti, Rogers. He acquired the lesson of Le Corbusier. The closeness to architecture is clearly visible in the monument to Giuseppe Grandi (the great sculptor of the Lombard “Scapigliatura”) unfortunately never realized (1931) and designed together with his cousin architect Bruno Fontana and engineer Alcide Rizzardi. The project includes an inverted cone and crystals. The derivation from constructivist and rationalist works can be seen: see Melnikov (Colombo Lighthouse 1929) and Tatlin (monument to the Third International). In the thirties Fontana is always on the edge between expressionist figuration and rarefaction of form and two-dimensionality. See Il fiocinatore (1934) or Scultura astratta (1934).

In 1937 it travels to Paris for the Universal Exposition. He knows Tristan Tzara and Constantin Brancusi and sees the works of Picasso. He visits the ceramic workshops of Sèvres and makes new ceramics. From 1940 to 1947 he lives in Argentina and together with other abstract artists he writes the Manifiesto Blanco: A change in essence and form is required. The overcoming of painting, sculpture, poetry and music is required. A greater art is needed in accordance with the demands of the new spirit.

In 1947, together with Beniamino Joppolo, Giorgio Kaisserlian, and Milena Milani, Milani wrote the First Manifesto of Spatialism. It is impossible for man not to pass from canvas, bronze, plaster, and plasticine to pure aerial, universal, suspended images, just as it was impossible for him not to pass from graphite to canvas, bronze, plaster, and plasticine, without in any way denying the eternal validity of the images created through graphite, bronze, canvas, plaster, and plasticine. This was followed by the Technical Manifesto of Spatialism in 1951 (The first spatial form constructed by man is the aerostat. With the mastery of space, man builds the first architecture of the Space Age – the airplane. To these spatial architectures in movement will transmit the new fantasies of art. A new aesthetic is being formed, luminous forms through spaces. Movement, color, time, and space the concepts of the new art).

In 1952, the Manifesto of the Spatial Movement for Television was published: “For the first time in the world, we Spatialists transmit through television our new forms of art, based on the concepts of space, seen from a twofold point of view: the first is that of space, once considered mysterious and now known and explored, and therefore used by us as plastic material; the second is that of the still unknown spaces of the cosmos, which we want to address as data of intuition and mystery, data typical of art as divination. Television is for us a medium that we have been waiting for as an integration of our concepts. We are pleased that this spatial manifestation of ours will be broadcast from Italy, destined to renew the fields of art.

His monochrome canvases, often spray-painted, bear the mark of the precise, confident gestures of the artist who, after leaving his brushes, handles razor blades, knives and saws. Everything is played on the shadows with which the grazing light emphasizes the solutions of continuity.

The work Il fiore (or Concetto spaziale) of 1952 introduces movement: a flower made of iron slats painted yellow with a series of neat holes moving between them. But perhaps the most interesting work of this period is the Struttura al neon for the IX Triennale di Milano in 1951. A continuous neon that is intertwined more vote hanging from a ceiling colored blue (designed with architects Baldessari and Grisotti) and seems to crystallize the movement of a flashlight or the movement of a sketch on paper (as can be seen from the preparatory sketches) similar to the spiral paths of Hans Hartung. In the subsequent 1950s he would create a series of works increasingly representative of informal thought. The series of Stones, the series of Baroque and that of plaster casts. He meets Yves Klein, who in turn admires him. Fontana opens a door to a search for infinity, space, spirituality. The same search for spirituality operated by Kandinskij, Pollock, Yves Klein and Rothcko.

Fontana arrived at the poetics of his most famous works (the cuts on the canvas) in 1958, meditating on the lesson of the Baroque, in which, as he wrote, the figures seem to abandon the plane and continue in space. As openly provocative gestures should be understood some of his monochrome canvases, such as holes and cuts, scandalized the public for the ease with which you can redo them. On an increasingly monochrome background, he cuts into the canvas with one or more cuts so that the illusion of the canvas as a support for a drawing is interrupted and the work becomes a material that transforms the canvas into a three-dimensional sculpture. The canvases characterized by the cuts are also called Spatial Concept (or Waiting) depending on the number of cuts. At the beginning, the canvases present many cuts, also arranged in more or less orderly series, and are colored with aniline; later, the cuts are reduced, the canvases are colored with water paint and the cuts are closed in the back by black gauze. Here are grouped by theme the series of works by Lucio Fontana:

Le Sculture (1925-1967), I Buchi (1949-1968), Le Pietre (1952-1956), I Barocchi (1954-1957), I Gessi (1954-1958), Gli Inchiostri (1956-1959);

Gli Olii (1957-1968), I Tagli (1958-1968), I Quanta (1959-1960), Le Nature (1959-1960), I Metalli (1961-1968), La Fine Di Dio (1963-1964);

I Teatrini (1964-1966), Le Ellissi (1964-1967), Le Ambientazioni (1926-1968), I Disegni (1928-1968), Le Ceramiche (1949-1968).

There were many forgers, but few with a sign as sure. To protect himself, Fontana wrote nonsensical phrases on the back of each canvas, a simple crutch for calligraphic expertise. He has been a painter, sculptor, ceramist, mosaicist, he has dealt with Painted Cement, he has also practiced Architecture. In Pozzo Garitta Square, in Albissola Marina, there is the “Lucio Fontana Space” where, in the 50”s and 60”s, was located the artist”s atelier, who, for the local “Walk of the Artists” made a design for a mosaic and cast a metal sculpture.

In Albissola Marina, he also worked in Via Ferdinando Isola, in the Fornace “APA Assalini Poggi Albisola”. At the beginning of the sixties had correspondence with admirers, among them with the art critic Franco Russoli. In 1963-64 he exhibited at the exhibition Peintures italiennes d”aujourd”hui, organized in the Middle East and North Africa. He died in Comabbio, in the province of Varese, on September 7, 1968, at the age of 69 years.

His wife Teresita Rasini, in 1982, gave birth to the Lucio Fontana Foundation, to which she left more than six hundred of the artist”s works and of which she was president until her death in 1995. The foundation collaborates to the organization of exhibitions, hosted by important public or private institutions such as: the great anthological exhibition, the Guggenheim exhibition, the travelling personal exhibition in Japan and the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Currently the president of the foundation is Nini Ardemagni Laurini.

On April 12, 2008 in the Christie”s auction room in London, the author”s work “Spatial Concept. Waiting,” estimated at between £3.5 million and £5.5 million, fetched £6,740,500, or €9,018,789, in the “Post-War and Contemporary Art” auction.

Beginning March 27, 1965 Studio Fontana hosts the Zero Avantgarde exhibition. On display are works by Nobuya Abe, Armando, Bernard Aubertin, Hans Bischoffshausen, Agostino Bonalumi, Pol Bury, Enrico Castellani, Lucio Fontana, Hermann Goepfert, Hans Haacke, Yves Klein, Yayoi Kusama, Walter Leblanc, Adolf Luther, Heinz Mack, Piero Manzoni, Christian Megert, Henk Peeters, Otto Piene, George Rickey, Jan Schoonhoven, Turi Simeti, Jesùs Rafael Soto, Paul Talman, Erwin Thorn, Giancarlo Tognoni, Günther Uecker, Jef Verheyen, Nanda Vigo, Herman de Vries.


  1. Lucio Fontana
  2. Lucio Fontana
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