Emilio Vedova


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Italian painter and graphic artist, born in Venice, where he spent most of his career. He had no formal training as an artist, but he painted from an early age and began to exhibit in 1936. From the beginning a main theme of his work was social injustice and in 1942 he joined the anti-Fascist association Corrente in Milan. The influences on his early work included Rouault and Picasso's Guernica, but also sources close to home in the dynamic spaces of Venetian churches and in the paintings of Tintoretto. After the Second World War (during which he worked with the Resistance in Rome) Vedova turned to abstraction. He was a signatory of the manifesto Beyond Guernica (1946), which urged the engagement with reality without naturalism. Initially his style was geometric, but he developed a violent, improvisatory manner with which he gained a reputation as one of the leading Italian exponents of Art Informel. He continued to express his political convictions in his abstract works (they often have titles such as Cycle of Protest and Concentration Camp) and critics have seen them as the expression of a passionate impulse for freedom and claustrophobic dread of oppression. In the 1960s he worked with projectors and electronic instruments to create effects of moving and superimposed lights. He collaborated with another politically committed artist, the composer Luigi Nono (1924–90), on the opera Prometheus at La Fenice Theatre, Venice, for which he designed a light setting. Christopher Masters commented on him that despite the embrace of the political establishment, which included the title of Cavaliere di Gran Croce della Repubblica Italiana and a commission for a tapestry in the Italian senate, ‘he remained to the end a left-wing icon, the bearded, bespectacled hero of radical Italian art’. Vedova won numerous awards for painting and graphic art, including the Grand Prize for painting at the 1960 Venice Biennale.

Further Reading

C. Masters, ‘E. Vedova’, The Guardian (26 November 2006)

Subjects: Art.

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