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Cipriano Efisio Oppo

( Roma 1891 - 1962 )


    Cipriano Efisio Oppo

    Cipriano Efisio Oppo was born in Rome in 1891 and attended the Capital’s Academy of Fine Arts. Once he graduated, he worked as a restorer at an antique dealer for a few years.

    His artistic debut probably dates back to 1912 when he participated in the Portrait Exhibition at the Circolo Artistico Internazionale in Rome. The following year he was present at the II Esposizione del Cnag in Naples and at the First Exhibition of the Roman Secession, exhibiting two Portraits at the latter.

    The Roman Secessions and the Expressionist style of Cipriano Efisio Oppo

    Cipriano Efisio Oppo participated in all the editions of the Roman Secession, in 1914 he was present with eleven works including: Portrait of Hans Lerche, Drawing of a Nude, and a series of graphic works with letters and dates as titles, for example D. 1914, B. 1913 and F. 1913; in 1915 he exhibited six works: Portrait, Edges, Drawing, Watercolour, Portrait and Arches, the latter an unusual view of Rome and its Tiber; in the last edition of 1916 he participated with five works: Still Life, Noon, Portrait, Flowers and Joke.

    On a stylistic level, Cipriano Efisio Oppo was initially close to a symbolist pointillism à la Plinio Nomellini, while in a second phase he turned to more expressionist interpretations: bright and violent colours that create strident contrasts, very close to the vision of the Dutchman Kees van Dongen.

    It was under this expressionist impulse that the artist founded the Gruppo Moderno Romano together with Roberto Melli and Vincenzo Costantini.

    In those years he also collaborated with newspapers such as ‘L’idea Nazionale’ and ‘La Tribuna’ drawing satirical cartoons that would be collected and published in 1916 in the booklet Fuoco!

    The first post-war period and the return to order

    Participation as a volunteer in the First World War brought with it a wound that forced him into inactivity for a few years, and a stylistic change towards the classicist instances of a return to order, joining the Valori Plastici group. With the group led by Mario Broglio, Cipriano Efisio Oppo participated in the 1922 Spring Florentine Exhibition with three works Country, Portrait of My Child and Landscape. Cipriano Efisio Oppo became one of the most significant representatives of this return to the Roman order together with Carlo Socrate and Antonio Donghi.

    In 1924, he was also present at the Exhibition L’art italien au cercle artistique de Bruxelles with Nature morte. In 1926 he participated in the Novecento Exhibition and the Venice Biennale, at the latter exhibiting La casta Susanna, a theme with a clear classical matrix, revisited through the chromatic values of Titian and Tintoretto.

    Cipriano Efisio Oppo’s Relationship with the Regime and Fascist Institutions

    At the same time, the artist became secretary of the National Fascist Fine Arts Syndicate, Member of Parliament and member of the National Council of Fine Arts, and his painting activity was considerably reduced, also because, given his role, he decided to abstain and participate more rarely in exhibitions in Rome.

    He did, however, participate in the First Exhibition of the Latium Fascist Union in 1929 with 10 works including: Lalletta, Montepulciano, Studio di ritratto, Luciano, La mia famiglia, Susanna, Isabella Oppo and Trinità dei Monti. At the Venice Biennale in 1934 he exhibited Eugenia in grey, Ritratto in verde and Ritratto in nero.

    Cipriano Efisio Oppo was very close to the figure of Mussolini, and came into open conflict with Margherita Sarfatti and her Gruppo Novecento despite having exhibited with them at the first exhibition, and in fact he would try in every way to distance Sarfatti from the Roman art scene. In 1931, the painter also became secretary of the Roman Quadriennale and excluded her with the support of the Duce.

    In the 1930s, he became more intense as a set designer for the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and La Scala in Milan. He then frescoed the Casa Madre dei Mutilati in Rome with Sironi and Santagata.

    In 1937 he was appointed deputy commissioner for the study of the E42 master plan for EUR together with the greatest interpreters of Italian architectural rationalism such as Marcello Piacentini, Luigi Piccinato and Ettore Rossi.

    In 1940 he again took part in the Venice Biennale with 25 works including Luciano with a tank, Il giovane saltimbanco, Lalletta in verde, Il giardiniere, I pesci rossi, Villa Borghese, La comunicanda, Isabella con la rosa, Ritratto della Signora Bottai, Signora con la veletta and Ritratto di banchiere.

    Cipriano Efisio Oppo emphasised his support for Mussolini by joining the Republic of Salò even after the Cassabile armistice, but without holding any political office.

    In April 1945 he was also arrested, but was saved by Afro Basaldella, his former pupil, who gravitated to partisan groups and brought him to safety in Rome. He died in his hometown in 1962.

    Emanuela Di Vivona


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