Carlo Bocca was born in Vigevano in 1901. He was introduced to art by his father Luigi, a painter and decorator, whom he worked with in the decoration of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Pompei in Vigevano, together with Casimiro Ottone. Around 1917, the young man moved to Milan to study at the Brera Academy, following in his father’s footsteps.
He then attended Ambrogio Alciati’s nude course, a fundamental stage in his training in Milan, which introduced him to his favourite genre, the portrait. His early works are characterised by a clear reference to Alciati’s models, especially in the use of evanescent colours and a palette of dark tones.
A balanced and solid naturalism
Later, as the 1920s approached and he was involved in the balanced plasticism of the Novecento movement, Carlo Bocca adopted clarity of composition and a harmonious formalism, accompanied by a clear and luminous drafting of colour. He made his debut at the Promotrice in Genoa in 1919, and then continued to exhibit in Turin and Brera, until he reached the Venice Biennale in 1930.
It was on this specific occasion that the painter from Vigevano was able to communicate his best pictorial quality through what can be considered his most successful work. In fact, the portrait Calabrian Peasant Woman, is not only the painting that decreed his success, but one that encompasses a solid formal balance delivered by the plastic value of the colour and the heartfelt rendering of the impassive and timeless face of the Calabrian woman in traditional dress.
The following year, in the wake of this initial success, he was commissioned to paint the portrait, now in the Ospedale Maggiore in Milan, of Antonio Jorini, an engineer, teacher at the Politecnico and member of the Istituto Lombardo di Scienze, Lettere e Arti. In this work the desire to adhere to the solid and measured language of the return to order returns, with a strong focus on the physiognomic and introspective rendering of the character represented.
For some time, between the 1930s and 1940s, Carlo Bocca’s painting activity came to a halt, giving way to his passion for film, which led him to move to America for a few years to work on various projects, later patented, on cinema in colour. He collaborated with the Institute of Chemistry and Physics at the University of Padua to continue his research, which was completed in New York at the end of the 1930s.
Returning to Italy in 1940, he did not settle in Milan because of the outbreak of war, but returned to the serene tranquillity of his home town of Vigevano, devoting himself to still life and landscapes away from exhibitions. He died in his hometown in 1991.