Nino Bertoletti was born in Rome in 1889. At the age of fifteen he began to paint, frequenting the artists and teachers of the magazine “La Casa”, with which he worked for several years publishing black and white drawings. In 1905, he travelled to Germany, where he was fascinated by the Secessionist and Symbolist tendencies. This early experience gave rise to the painting Cleopatra, which reveals a brief but effective foray into disturbing themes, which would return later in life, in the period of the Roman Secession.
The beginnings: between expressionist and symbolist tendencies
He did not start exhibiting until after he had graduated from accountancy school: his debut came at the National Exhibition in Rimini in 1909, where he presented the painting First Green. The young painter’s initial work contained two main tendencies: his adherence to Divisionist technique, but also a marked Expressionist vein, which immediately set him apart from academic schemes and manners. In 1910, he took part in the Exhibition of the Amateurs and Connoisseurs of Fine Arts in Rome with a Landscape, while the following year he presented a Gondola at the National Exhibition.
In these first public exhibitions, Nino Bertoletti’s painting was still unripe, but he shed his first rough edges and became more mature by the time he took part in the Roman Secession in 1913, where he presented a Portrait. A strong Symbolist sensibility emerges in the works of these years, especially in the observation of Giulio Aristide Sartorio’s Art Nouveau results, which can be seen in the drawings presented at the 1915 Roman Secession.
As early as 1913, the painter took a studio in Villa Strohl-Fern, an environment that involved him even more in the artistic and cultural climate of the brilliant Rome of the 1910s. It was here, in fact, that he met the painter Pasquarosa Marcelli, who was to become his wife in 1925. During the years spent in the magical and exciting environment of Villa Strohl-Fern, Bertoletti animated his landscapes with bright colours and full, synthetic brushstrokes. This was a period of strong expressionist experimentation, which was interrupted when Italy entered the war. He resumed exhibiting in 1918 at the “Bimbi e fiori” (Children and Flowers) exhibition at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, and then took part in the 1923 Roman Biennial.
The Caffè Aragno and classicism
The post-war period marked an important turning point in the painter’s poetics. He moved away from the compendiary and joyful expressionism towards a more balanced and solemn formalism, which responded perfectly to the need for a return to order that was spreading through the pages of Mario Broglio’s magazine “Valori Plastici”. In the 1920s, he and his wife frequented the third room of Caffè Aragno and, in the following decade, he kept up a long and close correspondence with Giorgio De Chirico, whom he had met on a trip to Paris in 1929.
The previous year, he had taken part in the Venice Biennale with Bathers by the Tyrrhenian Sea, a work that marked his definitive adhesion to an emotional classicism that studied and took up the tradition of the Italian Cinquecento. Titian’s chromaticism, revived in the lines of the 20th century, emerges from the Nude in the 1929 exhibition at the Galleria Pesaro “Artisti Italiani Contemporanei”.
In 1930, he held a one-man show at the Sindacale Romana in which he demonstrated how classicism had finally been united with a personal chromatic rendering, made up of small pieces that build up images, such as Fresco Figure, Portrait of Telesio Interlandi, Nude and Pink House. In the 1930s, the colour returned to an expressive and rapid tone, as in Jugglers, Heads and My Mother at the 1935 Quadriennale, while at other times it remained clean and clear, as in Female figure and Acrobats at the 1939 Quadriennale. Towards the 1940s and 1950s, his painting became more compact and intimate. Active until the end, Nino Bertoletti died in his native Rome in 1971.