Ugo Celada was born in 1895 in Virgilio, in the province of Mantua, hence the addition of “da Virgilio” to the name, almost a proud reference to the Latin poet, originally from Mantua. He attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Reggio Emilia, then moved to the Mantua School of Applied Art, and then specialized at the Brera Academy in Milan, where he attended Cesare Tallone’s courses.
He exhibited for the first time in 1913 at the Permanente in Milan, but the following year he abandoned painting to enlist as a volunteer in the First World War. At the end of the conflict, he devoted himself exclusively to pictorial research, also making an important formative trip to Paris, which put him in contact with the European artistic innovations.
He participated in the 1920 Venice Biennale with La sera and in the same year he exhibited an interior and two landscapes at the Promotrice in Genoa: Interior of the Cathedral of Bolzano, I Forni alto in Novegno and Piazze delle Erbe in Mantua. Celada’s pictorial address is already very clear: it is expressed with a lenticular and precise realism, all played on the transparency of the color that appears very vivid and clean, almost evocative of the absence of an atmosphere.
Places and non-places, still lifes and nudes are placed in rarefied and surreal settings, but at the same time very close to tangible reality. Participating in the climate of return to the ancient order, Celada, however, does not officially enter either in Valori Plastici or in the Novecento group, although exhibiting with it on several occasions.
Also in Genoa, in 1920 he exhibited Interior of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, Nuvoloni, Noli, The family, Cavalli in porto, Calata Mandraccio. At the 1924 Biennale he sent Portrait of a farmer and to that of 1926 Distrazione, the painting that earned him critical acclaim. In this period he is very close to the illusionistic and realist style of Gregorio Sciltian and of those who will later become the Modern Painters of Reality in the 1940s.
He trompe l’oeil, still lifes, alienating, enigmatic and solemn atmospheres are all based on glacial tones and on a clear and precise design. At the beginning of the thirties he officially breaks with the official movements and signs an anti-twentieth century Manifesto with other Mantuan painters. From this moment on he will live away from the exhibitions to devote himself to a meticulous and constant research that will last until the fifties. In 1959 he founded the Movement of Objectivist Painters with which he exhibited at the Cairola Gallery in Milan.
He painted until the seventies and died at the age of one hundred in Varese, in 1995. Only later will he be rediscovered by critics, even though he remains an artist indisputably loved in the Lombard and Emilian circles, especially by his faithful collectors.