Gigi Supino was born in Genoa in 1894. The son of an economics professor, he spent his childhood in various Italian cities before settling in Milan in 1903. Here, he attended the classical lyceum and was encouraged by his parents to enrol in the Polytechnic. In fact, the young Supino, after visiting the 1906 Milan Exhibition for the Sempione Tunnel, was deeply impressed by the sculptures on display and began to model his first figures.
After the first two years at the Politecnico he decided to devote himself definitively to sculpture, frequenting Ernesto Bazzaro’s studio, at least until the outbreak of the First World War, when he was called up to fight on the Carso as an artillery lieutenant.
Sculpture between the two wars
It was therefore in the post-war period that Gigi Supino’s first sculptural activity took place, engaged in the execution of war memorials, funerary monuments, portraits and figures. Following the flow of the evocation of antiquity led by the Novecento group, of which he was not officially a member, the artist gave plastic value to his figures and groups, strong with a silent and timeless drama.
A soft primitivism can be seen in the sculpture Thoughts exhibited at the 5th National Exhibition of the Lombardy Art Federation in 1921. In 1930 he was at the Venice Biennale with The Church and in 1932 with The Voice of Christ.
At the 1934 Biennale he presented one of his most famous works, Apollo and Dafne, in which the Ovidian text delicately emerges as the god chases the nymph and both draw with their naked bodies a dance step, an elegant curve in the air, between tension and lightness. In 1936, Triumph of Water and Woman in the Sun appeared at the Biennale.
As a Jew, he was forced to take refuge in a small village on Lake Como under a false name after the racial laws were passed in 1938. Many of his works were destroyed when his studio in Milan was bombed, but after the war he continued to dedicate himself energetically to sculpture until his last days.
Keeping his solid modelling and sense of timeless, primitivist suspension alive, he continued to participate in the Venice Biennale after the war: in 1948 he presented Medusa combing her hair. As the years went by, he gradually disappeared from the public scene; he did not hold personal exhibitions or participate in group shows. He devoted himself to writing short stories that were published in the collection The True Story of Galatea in 1962. He died in 1980.