Gerardo Dottori trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Perugia, which he attended for a short time, in the evenings. By day, he gained experience in the workshop of a Perugian antique dealer: his passion for decoration was born in him, so much so that in 1906 he decided to move to Milan to further his vocation.
From Divisionism to Futurism
Here he came into contact with Divisionism and took part in the fertile cultural climate, but unfortunately, due to economic problems, he was forced to return to Perugia, where he began to collaborate at a distance with the Florentine magazine “La Difesa dell’Arte”. These were the 1910s: he began to paint his first Futurist-inspired paintings, including Esplosione di rosso sul verde (Explosion of red on green), with a clear abstract intent, far removed from academic precepts. He began to animate a group of intellectuals interested in Futurism in Perugia, whom he met at the Caffè Mezza Bestia.
In 1911 in Naples he met Giacomo Balla, a fundamental figure for him in his definitive approach to Futurism. He officially joined the movement in 1912, the year in which he executed Primavera. During the war he continued to paint and compose parolibere, influenced by his contact with Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who was invited to a Futurist evening in Perugia in 1914. After the war, in 1920 to be precise, he founded the magazine ‘Griffa!’, bringing his small town out of cultural provincialism.
In the same year, his solo exhibition was held in Rome at the Casa d’Arte Bragaglia, which contained in nuce his idea of Aeropittura. In 1924, he presented Primavera umbra (Umbrian Spring) at the Venice Biennale, a rural landscape taken from a radically new point of view, that of a mountain peak. Geometric shapes almost narrated through a photographic fish-eye appear in a landscape with bright tones and curved, dynamic lines.
1926 saw him move to Rome for more than a decade: in 1929 his research led him to draft the Manifesto dell’Aeropittura, also signed by Balla, Marinetti, Benedetta Cappa, Prampolini, Depero, Fillia, Tato and Somenzi. Shortly afterwards, he participated in the Futurist Aeropittura exhibition at the Galleria Pesaro in Milan, becoming one of the main interpreters of the genre. It is no coincidence that, defining himself as a ‘rural painter’, he also drew up the Umbrian Manifesto of Aeropittura in 1941, with his dynamic visions of the Umbrian countryside in flight.
In his aeropictorial visions sky and earth merge in vibrant colours, as if the landscape were also caught in the speed of flight. Energy, a sense of freedom, vigour and fascist elements bind in Dottori’s poetics, and in 1927 he produced La partenza, La corsa and L’arrivo. He then dedicated himself to aerial visions, for the wall decorations of the Idroscalo di Ostia.
Tied to his homeland, he preferred to give Aeropittura a less mechanical version, more linked to nature and visions of Umbria from a bird’s eye view. His works from the 1932 Venice Biennale include Architettura aerea, Miracolo di luci volando, Annunciazione in un tempio d’aria, Paesaggio dall’alto, Ritratto aereo del futurista Mario Carli and L’aviatore.
Among them, The Annunciation, a sacred work, announces the Manifesto of Futurist Sacred Art, written and signed shortly afterwards by Dottori himself. He continued with his visions until the late 1940s, mainly producing Aeropictorial Syntheses of Italian Cities.
He died in Perugia in 1977; his figure was almost subjected to damnatio memoriae in the 1950s due to his clear adhesion to fascism, only to be rehabilitated later and be the focus of important retrospectives all over the world.