Guido Righetti was born in Milan into a middle-class family: his mother also owned the Hermitage of San Salvatore, in Brianza, which was to become a fundamental place for the sculptor in the future, as he used it as a studio, far from the hectic Milanese life. At a very young age, he began to devote himself to drawing, focusing in particular on the animal world.
A first visit, as a teenager, to the Milan zoo made him a keen student of the morphologies of exotic and local animals. The anatomies of elephants, birds, gazelles, kangaroos, antelopes, monkeys, but also goats, cats and native species became his daily bread, also thanks to his assiduous attendance at the Museum of Natural History in Milan.
Guido Righetti’s characteristic feature: animalier sculpture
His first animalier sculptures were very early, created by modelling wax and clay and then transposed into plaster and finally bronze. The artist did not undertake a specific and canonical academic training: he studied as a self-taught artist and had as a reference model above all the vibrant and moving surface of Paolo Troubetzkoy’s sculptural production, a figure he approached not only artistically but also personally.
From his earliest years, Guido Righetti took advantage of his mother’s property at the San Salvatore convent in Brianza. At first he frequented it occasionally with his family, then he decided to settle there permanently. In the refectory of the hermitage he built his studio, which gradually filled with a wide variety of animal figures. His style recalls an authentic and refined naturalism which, in the 1920s and 1930s, led to a captivating decorativism that transformed his sculptures into elegant and exclusive pieces of furniture.
Exhibitions, from the Venice Biennial in 1914 to solo shows
Guido Righetti made his debut at the Venice Biennale in 1914, where he exhibited a bronze animalier subject entitled Impression from life. At the Brera Exhibition of the same year he presented the exotic Monkey Hamandryas, while after the war, in 1918, he took part in the Second Exhibition of the Lombardy Art Federation with Tigger, Antelope and Bear. Three animals that reveal a careful chiselling process that was then finished by hand to make the surface lively and palpitating.
Guido Righetti’s real success came at the Fiorentina Primaverile of 1922, where he exhibited eleven animalier subjects in a personal room, all of exotic inspiration, including Giant Antelopes, Young African Elephant, Flamingo Group, Pelicans, Japanese Monkeys and Bufalino of Africa. This exhibition marked the definitive public affirmation of the sculptor, who was well received by critics and collectors, at least until the 1930s.
In 1930 he held a one-man show at the Galleria Micheli in Milan, in which, among other works, Giant Kangaroos and The Suffocation – the Antelope and the Young Boa appeared. The exhibition at Bottega d’Arte in Livorno, where he exhibited not only sculptures but also a series of eleven pastels, also dedicated to the animal world, dates back to 1933. He continued his sculptural activity until the end of the 1930s and died in Milan in 1958.