Felice Bialetti was born in Mede Lomellina in 1869. He trained at the Accademia Albertina in Turin, where he was a pupil of the sculptor Odoardo Tabacchi, from whom he learnt compositional rapidity, a taste for rough, synthetic surfaces and a decidedly Impressionist approach. He was accompanied from his earliest works by a vigorous and loose workmanship, while a more expressive and confident dimension, veiled by symbolic notations, was adopted by the sculptor after he moved to Milan.
Here, from 1892, he attended the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. Felice Bialetti was welcomed under the wing of Enrico Butti, and inherited from him the spontaneous and concrete quality of human attitudes, expressions and poses, moving into a disturbing and melancholic Symbolism, which is particularly noticeable in the execution of funerary monuments.
Tormented lines and rough surfaces: funerary monuments and female figures
In 1898, he made his debut at the National Exhibition in Turin with Ghost, a detail of a funerary monument, a work that encompasses a tormented modelling that is expressed in the extremely animated and irregular rendering of the surface that holds and almost imprisons the figure of the spectre. Alongside this project for a funerary monument, he also presented the equally disturbing work The Waves, vision of a shipwreck.
The following year, he took part in his first Venice Biennale with the female subject Exhausted and in the same year he exhibited Teti at the Milan Triennale. In these sculptures we can see a happy combination of the use of polished surfaces and rough, unfinished masses, in the use of a synthetic and emotional language that leads to strongly Symbolist visions.
This stylistic and thematic approach recurs in most of Felice Bialetti’s work, as can be seen in his sculpture Abandonment at the 1902 Venice Biennale and in the profound compositional and synthetic freedom he employed in modelling the sketch for the Cavallotti Monument exhibited at the Turin Quadrennial, also in 1902. Efisio Aitelli wrote in “Emporium” about the animated base of this group, with its strong Garibaldian memories, “How light the modelling appears, and how broad and solemn the movement of this group as it proceeds, holding out the flagpole!”.
At the 1903 Biennale, he exhibited the sketch for the main group of the Monument to the Isar family and Dominant thought, which was shown again at the Florence Exhibition the following year. Maturity appeared at the 1905 Biennale and, at the 1906 Milan Exhibition for the Sempione Tunnel (the last one he participated in before his death), he presented the main group of the Monument for the family of Cavalier Bossi entitled The Death of the Believer, in which the numerous tormented lines of the bas-relief have the task of fully conveying the anguished feeling of a conscious departure from life.