Alberto Burri


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(b Città di Castello, Umbria, 12 Mar. 1915; d Nice, 13 Feb. 1995).

Italian painter, collagist, and designer. In 1943 he was captured whilst serving as a doctor with the Italian army in north Africa and he began to paint in 1944 as a prisoner of war in Hereford, Texas, using whatever materials were to hand, including sacking. After the war he settled in Rome and abandoned medicine for art. In 1948 his work became abstract, and in 1949 he began incorporating sacking in his pictures as collage elements; often he splashed red paint on the cloth in a way that suggested bloodsoaked bandages (Sacking with Red, 1954, Tate, London). From the late 1950s he also began to use more substantial materials in his pictures; they included objects such as pieces of charred wood or rusty metal that again reflected his experience of the carnage of war, even though the pictures are elegantly constructed. Burri was a fairly reclusive character, but he won international fame for his work; he was one of the first artists to exploit the evocative force of waste materials, looking forward to Junk art in America and Arte Povera in Italy. He also designed stage decor for La Scala in Milan and other theatres.

Subjects: Art.

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