Francesco Alessandro Di Cocco was born in Rome in 1900 and his passion for art had its roots in his youth, right from his years at the Roman Technical Institute. In 1917 he attended a single year at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, following Duilio Cambelotti’s lessons.
His beginnings were within the movement of Italian Futurism, a work that bears witness to this phase is the collage I rumori (The Noises); while after the First World War he approached the ideas of the return to order, embracing them and becoming one of its most significant exponents. Francesco Di Cocco looks to 16th century Venetian tonal painting and Rembrandt, but also to the impressionist painting of Armando Spadini, which is filtered and mixed with his Renaissance aesthetic references. Le balie, exhibited at the 1925 Roman Biennial, is very much influenced by Venetian tonalism, as is La madoninna, which recalls Giorgionesque atmospheres, while Autoritratto reinterprets Flemish modes à la Rembrandt.
Francesco Di Cocco’s return to order
Francesco Di Cocco participated in the Novecento Exhibition in 1926 in Milan, but had his most significant experience when he exhibited in 1927 at the Pensione Dinesen in Rome with Giuseppe Capogrossi and Emanuela Cavalli. The three artists were bound by a deep friendship, but also by a common reflection on the return to order, now far removed from the conception established by Margherita Sarfatti’s group or Valori Plastici.
Francesco Di Cocco toned down the solid classicism and harmony of Renaissance forms and space in his works, towards a more primitive inspiration, almost anticipating the experiments of the Roman School of Scipione or Mario Mafai. In 1927, the artist took a studio at Villa Strohl-Fern, and the following year left for Paris to join Fausto Pirandello and Capogrossi, together with Cavalli.
Francesco Di Cocco began to participate in various national exhibitions: in 1929, he was present at the Exhibition of the Lazio Fascist Union with Studio, Lavandaie, La passeggiata, I tre alberi, La ragazza e l’arancio, Paesaggio, 9 disegni in una cornice and Riposo; in 1930, he participated in the following edition with Natura morta, Figure e paese, La bagnante and Figure e paese.
The following year, in 1931, he exhibited three works, Composizione, Bagnanti and Composizione at the First Quadriennale in Rome.
In 1932, he participated in both the Venice Biennale with two works, Riposo and La vita serena; and in a solo exhibition at the Mostra del Sindicato Fascista del Lazio with 30 works including: Paggio, Annunciazione, Marina, Divertimento, La famiglia, Paesaggio romantico, Elefante, Natura morta, La bella e la bestia, Dona alla fontana, Paesaggio, La mongolfiera, Gli orsi, Madonna and Studio all’antica.
In 1935, he exhibited Portrait of Master Castelnuovo Tedesco and his family at the Seconda Quadriennale in Rome.
The United States and the artistic experimentation of Francesco Di Cocco
On the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War, Francesco di Cocco found himself in total disagreement with Fascism and the Laws of Latium, which is why he took the decision to leave Italy and move to the United States. He was in New York for his solo exhibition at the Comet Art Gallery in 1938, then travelled to Mexico, but eventually decided to spend the next thirty years in California.
During his American years, Francesco Di Cocco experimented with many different artistic pursuits:
In the 1950s, the artist first turned to Surrealism and Metamorphism, and then to American Abstract Expressionism. In the 1960s there was a further stylistic change, he came into contact with the Minimalist milieu and produced aluminium sculptures that characterised the later phase of his artistic production.
By now an old man, he returned to Rome and died there in 1989.
Emanuela Di Vivona