Aldo Carpi was born in Milan in 1886. He first trained in the Milanese studio of the painter and decorator Stefano Bersani and later attended the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, under the guidance of Cesare Tallone and Achille Cattaneo. After graduating in 1910, at the age of 26 he made his debut at the Venice Biennale with The Baptism, a painting that won him a gold medal.
A happy debut, between Impressionism and Nabis chromatism
At this stage, the legacy of late 19th century painting learnt from Tallone was still alive, but the young painter already showed hints of a formal and chromatic interpretation influenced by European Secessionist innovations. The figure of Christ is like a diaphanous apparition, painted with a two-dimensional colour scheme in the style of the Nabis, while the rest of the composition still reflects Impressionist brushstrokes.
The intimate and mystical intent of this first painting also marked his subsequent production. At the Venice Biennial in 1914 he exhibited After Dinner and In the Evening, two works in which the à plat application of colour particularly impressed the jury for their effective capacity for synthesis and chromatic brilliance. After Dinner was then bought by the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in the Pitti Palace in Florence. As Giulio Ulisse Arata wrote in his introduction to the solo exhibition at the Pesaro Gallery in 1920, “Carpi’s mysticism, which from the beginning had led him towards imaginary representations […] found a way to develop during the war; and his imagination, in contact with events such as one rarely sees in the usual course of life, had to find direct contact with that tragic reality that was still unknown to him”.
In the series of lithographs and paintings entitled Heroic Serbia, kept in Rome at the Museo del Risorgimento, Aldo Carpi narrates the heroic and tragic retreat of the Serbian army to the Adriatic coast. Exhibited at the 1920 Venice Biennial, this illustrated cycle won him a gold medal from the Ministry of Education. In this series, the expressionist and synthetic interpretation of human anguish is still very much alive, perfectly captured in the words of Arata, who wrote: “The physical suffering, the desolation without comfort, the badly repressed ferocity, the spectral metamorphosis of human features, the agonising agony are […] one of the most impressive documents of the entire history of war and one of the most significant collections of the entire production of the genre, both Italian and foreign”.
Exhibitions at the Pesaro Gallery: intimism and twentieth-century volumes
After the war and his marriage to Maria Arpesani, he began his happy relationship with Lino Pesaro, in whose Milanese gallery he exhibited several times over the years, starting in 1920. Among the eighty works exhibited, there are expressions of a personal and evocative symbolism, such as the Crucifixion, Franciscan Spring, Adam and Eve, The Meadows, Saint Francis, The Three Kings and many other religious subjects that show the fundamental lyrical and mystical suggestion typical of the painter.
But already two years later, at the Fiorentina Primaverile, the first hints of change can be seen. Aldo Carpi, in fact, seemed to concentrate more on family intimacy, on serene and reflective portraits, characterised by a greater volumetric fullness that responded to the demands of the Novecento. The child and the blackbird, Fiorenzo has eaten and Al mare reflect this development, which is also accompanied by another thematic reflection, that of the mask.
In any case, the graceful and magical intimism of the 1920s can be clearly seen in the works exhibited in his second solo exhibition at the Pesaro Gallery. Portrait of a Young Lady, Portrait of a Woman F. Carpi de Ferrari, Cardinal Maffi and the numerous luminous seascapes, painted in Liguria, are the paintings that contribute to give greater formal security to Aldo Carpi’s production.
The reference to antiquity and the personal, collected expression continued to underpin each work, such as The Bride at the 1926 Biennale. Three years later, he held his third solo exhibition at the Galleria Pesaro: Female Mask, Self-Portrait, Sleeping Child in the Study and Aurora once again unite a delicate mystical and religious sentiment with an increasingly constructive and volumetric chromatism, which continued to develop throughout the 1930s, marked by his participation in the Venice Biennials and the Rome Quadrennial. His last solo exhibition at the Pesaro was in 1933, where he exhibited Seascape, Leaving for Paris, My Family and Portrait of a Woman Rosy Fornaciari.