Emma Bonazzi, known as Tigiù, was born in Bologna in 1881. She attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, where she graduated in 1913, and soon began to exhibit her works, with immediate success with critics and the public. After regularly taking part in the exhibitions of the Società Francesco Francia in Bologna, she exhibited in other Italian and foreign cities, ranging from oil to ink illustrations. Linked to the stylistic elements of Symbolism and the Secession, her subjects, almost always female, are animated by a sinuous line and a chromaticism that gives two-dimensionality, especially in her graphic works.
The Secessionist line
In 1914 she took part in the Roman Secession with The Doll and was one of the artists of the Bolognese Room, but the applied arts soon proved to be the focal point of Emma Bonazzi’s production, especially when she began to collaborate with the Chappuis typography with various graphic contributions and when she devoted herself to decorative embroidery. She won the Bevilacqua Competition in 1915 with Mater Dolorosa, while her Salome, a work reminiscent of Klimt and at the same time exoticist, but unique in that it combines painting and embroidery, won the first prize of the City of Stockholm in 1918. The following year he was at the Amateurs’ and Connoisseurs’ Exhibition in Rome with the canvas In pink. During these years, she fully expressed her secessionist tendency, becoming one of its main representatives in the Emilian area, together with Amedeo Bocchi.
The 1920s: between expressionist painting and déco graphics
In 1920, he exhibited for the first time at the Venice Biennale with the triptych Cycle of Life: Wheat, Pomegranate and Willow. He returned in 1922 with Ant. In the same year, she achieved considerable success at the Florentine Spring Exhibition, where she presented, along with a number of works in painting and embroidery and six watercolours, another triptych, dated between 1916 and 1922, featuring three female figures: Youth, Reclining Nude and Portrait of a Girl. In these canvases, Emma Bonazzi relies on an expressionist feeling in which the line almost disappears in favour of a vibrant and lively chromatism, which is certainly influenced by Matisse’s language but which, in its seductive and perturbing declination, also recalls the works of Oskar Kokoschka.
1923 was also the year he produced the illustration for the daily calendar for Pastificio Barilla, where he best expressed his Art Deco tendencies: the illustration of the First of January depicts the goddess Ceres charmingly holding a cornucopia from which pasta spills out as if it were gold, while in the background appears a more rhythmic and dry decorative line that defines stylised ears of wheat. The Art Deco style was also fully developed in her collaboration with Perugina: between 1925 and 1935 she was the Umbrian company’s artistic consultant, for which she took care of all the graphic design for advertising posters, gift boxes and boxes with highly refined designs. Active until the 1940s, she was the protagonist of a post-cubist turning point and was gradually forgotten by the Bolognese artistic environment. She died in 1959 and it was only in 1976 that Rossana Bossaglia curated an exhibition dedicated to her at Studio 900 in Bologna, which gave a decisive boost to the rediscovery of the artist.