Pasquarosa Marcelli was born in Anticoli Corrado, a very small town in the province of Rome, in 1896. Thanks to the help of her aunt, she managed to move to the Roman capital in 1910 and began working as a model. She posed for many artists including Felice Carena, Nicola D’Antino and Nino Bertoletti, whom she married a few years later.
From model to painter
In 1913 she decided to devote herself to painting as a self-taught artist with the help of her partner in a studio in Villa Strhol-Fern. The two artists would work side by side for the rest of their lives, achieving, however, totally different pictorial outcomes: he more related to the female nude and pictorial techniques; she more focused on the search for a spontaneous and less tormented rendering. The painter was interested in the depiction of still lifes, in which objects from the female domestic world, such as planters, teapots, fans or textiles, appear mainly.
Fauves chromaticism and suggestions from Eastern Europe
His works are devoid of any academic rules or study of drawing. He paints what he sees as he perceives it, resorting solely to color and its unlimited expressive qualities. His palette consists of bright colors that he spreads in flat backgrounds, and he is inspired in this by the painting of Henri Matisse and Kees Van Dongen, whom he observed live at the Roman Secession.
However, he freely interprets their artistic language, mixing it with echoes and suggestions from the East, particularly from the figures of Michaijl Larionov and Natalija Gončarova. Despite the various influences, his style still remains outside any artistic dynamics of the European avant-garde.
Great critical and exhibition success
In 1915 he participated in his first exhibition at the Third Roman Secession, presenting five canvases, two portraying Carnations and three Still lifes. He also took part in the next edition with Fiori, purchased by the City of Rome, Interno and Giacinto. In 1918 he participated in the group exhibition at the Casina del Pincio in Rome with artists of the fame of Spadini, Socrates, Oppo, and Ferrazzi, exhibiting several Still Lifes and two Portraits. The same year also saw his first solo exhibition at the Circolo Artistico Internazionale in Rome. In 1923 she was present at the Centesima Espositiva at the Casa d’arte Bragaglia with the other Villa Strohl-Ferne artists and painters gravitating around “Valori Plastici.”
From the late 1920s the painter began to sign her works only with “Pasquarosa” and participated in numerous events in Italy and abroad. In 1929 a solo exhibition was dedicated to her at the Arlington Gallery in London, meeting with great success.
In the same year a solo exhibition was also organized at the Mostra del Sindacato fascista del Lazio in which she presented nineteen works including Chinese Fan, Cyclamen, Yellow Tulips, Bottle and Fan, Quirinal, Flowers and Fruit, Isola tiberina and Zinie in Murano Vase.
The following year he took part in the same event with three lavoi: Haystack, purchased by the City of Rome, Country and Sunset. In 1930 he also participated in the Venice Biennale with Pappagallo, bought by Margherita Sarfatti, and Fiori. He will also be present at the next edition in 1932 with Mazzo di fiori, Aragoste, Garofani, Fiori and Anemoni.
During these years he also formed a strong friendship with Giorgio de Chirico in Paris, evidenced by the numerous letters exchanged between the Pictor Optimus and the artist’s husband. She also frequented de Chirico’s house in Piazza di Spagna very often, becoming friends with his wife Isabella Far.
The 1930s and the loss of the expressionist charge
In the 1930s there is a stylistic variation in the painter’s work; in fact, serene images of country landscapes, seascapes, and views of villages recur that have lost the expressionist chromatic charge that dies out in favor of a flatter, more relaxed brushstroke. The volumes undergo a simplification and the composition becomes more classical.
In 1935 we find the three oils Still Life, Tulips and Flowers at the Third Quadriennale in Rome; and at the next edition in 1939 he presented Cyclamens, Ranunculus and Primroses.
He continued to participate in the Mostra Sindacali del Lazio as in the 1936 edition with Lettere, Ciclamini, Pappagallo, Mazzo di Fiori and Camelie, the latter purchased by the King of Italy for the Palazzo del Quirinale; and in 1939 he exhibited Aragoste, Ciclamini and Vaso di fiori.
The last years and the independent path in the European avant-gardes
During the years of World War II, the painter moved back to Anticoli Corrado with her children to escape the war. They then returned to Rome and returned to exhibit in 1948 at the Roman Quadriennale and the Venice Biennale.
Although by this time his artistic experiments were directed toward painting that was not very figurative, Pasquarosa attended several exhibitions and his art was still appreciated. In 1951 a large exhibition of twenty-seven paintings made between 1914 and 1950 was organized at the Vetrina di Chiurazzi in Via del Babuino, which was witnessed at the opening by many of his friends such as Bontempelli, Ungaretti, Oppo, Guttuso, Scialoja, Mafai, Donghi and Afro. In 1953 a jury, which included Casorati and Guttuso, awarded the painter the Marzotto Prize for her Chinese Fan, underscoring her constant and youthful autonomous taste.
In 1971 she lost her husband Nino Bertoletti in a fall, while she disappeared in 1973 in Camaiore stricken by a collapse.
Emanuela Di Vivona