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Francesco Somaini (1926-2005)

Born in Lomazzo, Italy, on August 6, 1926, Francesco Somaini embarked on his artistic journey after completing a law degree at the Università di Pavia in 1949. He sought guidance from Giacomo Manzù by attending his courses at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan. Making his debut in the world of art in 1948 at the Rassegna di Arti figurative sponsored by the Rome Quadriennale, Somaini made his first appearance at the Venice Biennale in 1950. During the mid-1950s, he crafted sculptures made of iron conglomerate, which foreshadowed his involvement with the Italian Art Informel movement.

Somaini’s artistic achievements took center stage during the late 1950s at both the Venice Biennale in 1956 and the São Paolo Bienal in 1959. His outstanding talent garnered him the First International Prize for Sculpture at the latter event. This success in Brazil led to numerous exhibition invitations throughout Italy, including a showcase of his work at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York in 1960. In 1961, he was honored with the esteemed French Art Criticism prize at the Deuxième Paris Biennale. Adhering to the principles of Art Informel, Somaini aimed to expand his sculptural language by incorporating a broader range of materials. He actively participated in a multitude of national and international exhibitions throughout the 1960s.

By the late 1960s, as his Informel phase neared its end, Somaini shifted his focus to creating large-scale works. In the 1970s, he produced a series of drawings and photomontages envisioning the integration of sculptural elements within urban settings. Notable among these were the Bridge–Square design proposal for Gustav Gründgens Platz in Düsseldorf (1980) and the Anthropomorphic Garden and Baignade for the Parc de la Villette in Paris (1982). Concurrent with these explorations, Somaini developed a novel carving technique utilizing high-pressure sand jets.

The dynamic element was introduced in his work during his Tracce series in 1975. This involved rolling a matrix along a clay trench, resulting in an imprint called traccia (trace). Somaini showcased these new works in his solo room at the Venice Biennale in 1978. From the mid-1980s onwards, the artist returned to creating large-scale compositions. Notable solo shows by Somaini included exhibitions organized by the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg in 1979, Palazzo di Brera in Milan in 1997, Castel Pergine in Trento in 2000, and the Somaini, Sculture, dipinti e disegni 1950-2001, exhibition held in Como in 2002. On November 19, 2005, Francesco Somaini passed away in Como. In 2007, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome hosted Somaini’s first retrospective exhibition after his death. has the 1986 Bologna catalog now available.