Biography of Renzo Biasion
Painter, Writer and Art Critic
Renzo Biasion was born in Treviso on May 30, 1914 in a Venetian family; he died in Florence in 1996. He lived and worked in Turin, on Lake Garda, in Bologna and in Florence. He was a painter, engraver, writer, journalist and art critic.
He attended the Artistic High School of Venice and upon graduation, began teaching drawing in the Industrial Schools of Feltre. The first “interiors”, the first “city outskirts” and some “portraits” in oils and watercolors belong to these years (1938-40). He was drafted into the Italian army and sent to Brennero and was sent to the Greek-Albania front when the war erupted, with the rank of infantry Second Lieutenant, an experience that left a lasting mark on his future work. He kept a diary and a sketchbook of on-the-spot drawings of soldiers. During the Italian army’s advance through Greece and roundups in the Peloponnese, he made a series of drawings depicting ragged and undernourished “Greek children” (this series, partly lost during the war, anticipates the neo-realist poetics and painting by some years). He then landed in Crete and was assigned to the German troops; he was appointed the commander of the Military District of Kalò Koriò, Prina and Messeleri. He began the series of “Cretan Landscapes” and contributed to the “Giornale di Roma” (The Rome Newspaper) in Athens directed by Paolo Cesarini with his drawings. After a brief stay in Rhodes, where he carried out views of the city, from Crete he was transferred to the airport of Iraclion: here he drew displaced persons from the “shelters” and a series of “Greek prostitutes”, which were entirely lost on September 8, 1943. After this date, he shared the fate of the “Siena” Division, and crossed through Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria and Germany; he was transported as a prisoner to the Netherlands and later on to Poland, where he drew his fellow Italian and German soldiers and views from the prison camp. Having lost his war diary, he started a prisoner-of-war diary.
When the war ended, he went back to teaching drawing in the Middle School of San Bonifacio and later in Caprino Veronese. In 1946 he exhibited a series of “interiors” in the Piccola Galleria art gallery of Venice, which attracted the attention of Sergio Solmi, the editor of the Milan-based art review “Le Arti”. In 1948 he published Tempi Bruciati (Burnt Times) (Published by Ed. della Meridiana, Milan), which was received with critical acclaim. He was asked to work on the third page of the “Gazzetta del Popolo” (People’s Gazzette) of Turin and, two years later, he left teaching and moved to Turin where he became the special correspondent of the newspaper. It marked a period of intense literary and journalistic work. He wrote the short stories of Sagapò, which were collected into a volume only in 1953 and were chosen by Elio Vittorini for his famous series I Gettoni (The Tokens) (Einaudi, Turin); they enjoyed a great success, they were translated into several languages and reprinted several times in several languages up to the latest edition, printed on the occasion of the centennial of the artist’s birth.
Following the success of Sagapò he was offered the art editorial section of the weekly magazine “Oggi” of Milan and he was its columnist for 34 years. He moved to Bologna, he left literature and militant journalism and turned back to his first love painting.
He continued the “city outskirts” series and began the “red houses” series, and once again took up painting, on larger dimensions, “portraits” and “interiors”. In 1963 an anthology of Piccoli Interni (Small Interiors) was published by Scheiwiller with an introduction by Sergio Solmi. He exhibited at the Annunciata and the Barbaroux galleries of Milan. The Macchi Art gallery in Pisa published a large monograph dedicated to him with an introductory essay by Corrado Corazza and articles written by the leading art critics of the day. In 1964 he published, in a numbered edition, Pasqualino Locoforte (Publisher Bucciarelli, Ancona) and in 1966 L’Obiettore di Coscienza (The Conscientious Objector), also in a numbered edition, with two engravings (Published by Ed. Bischi, Urbino). In that same year he was appointed member of the Accademia Cherubini of Florence. He resumed teaching again, having won, through a competitive civil service examination, the full time professorship of the Drawn Figure at the Artistic High school in Florence. He would later be appointed member of the ancient Accademia delle arti del disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing) of Florence.
He undertook long trips abroad for the “Pirelli” magazine of Milan, illustrating them with drawings and watercolors. He illustrated poems by Vittorio Sereni with engravings, as well as short stories by Fruttero and Lucentini as well as by Mario Pomilio. In addition to his collaboration with “Oggi”, he also wrote on the “Antiquariato” and “Arte” reviews. Among the many personal exhibitions, the most noteworthy are those at the Piccola Galleria (Venice, 1948), at the Bussola gallery (Turin, 1947 and 1953), at the Arte Antica gallery (Turin, 1973), at the Annunciata gallery (Milan, 1949 and 1958), at the De Foscherari and the Loggia galleries (Bologna, 1971), at the Michaud gallery (Florence, 1976 and 1978), at the Aglaia gallery (Florence, 1979), at the Galaverni gallery (Reggio Emilia, 1985), a retrospective exhibition at the Treviso Civil Museum L. Bailo (1986), the retrospective exhibition of Imola (1973), the retrospective exhibition at the Mazzoni gallery (Bologna, 1996), at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini (Venice 2004) and at the Ponte Rosso gallery (Milan, 2004).
Biasion was asked to exhibit with groups of works at the Biennial of Venice, at Rome Quadrennial, in the leading Italian art exhibitions and abroad, among which the itinerant exhibitions of Italian painting in Germany and in South America, in the major international exhibitions of graphic arts: Sao Paulo Brazil, Paris, Moscow, Stockholm, the Intergraphic of Berlin, Florence, Leningrad, Japan. Various Italian and foreign art galleries exhibit his works: in Bologna, Florence, Turin, Verona, Venice (Ca’ Pesaro and Fondazione Cini), in the collections of the Museums of Lucca, Imola, Treviso, Rovigo, Rodi, Rovigno, Benevento, Belluno, Feltre, Pisa, Vicenza, Saint Petersburg (Hermitage), Lima. His rich corpus of engravings was purchased by the Gabinetto delle Stampe degli Uffizi (Department of Prints and Drawings of Uffizi) in Florence (105 between etchings and drypoints); the Autoritratto (Self-Portrait) of Biasion was purchased by the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence; his 73 drawings and watercolors made between 1941 and 1944 during WWII are stored at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in San Giorgio, Venice; the Museum of Senigallia has dedicated a permanent exhibition room to him; other works appear in other museums. He has had several solo exhibitions in Italy and abroad.
He has won numerous prizes, among which the Premio Napoli delle Nove Muse (Naples Prize of the Nine Muses), the Verona Prize (1st Prize), the Gonzaga Prize (1st Prize), the Antoniano Prize (1st Prize), the Capo d’Orlando Prize (1st Prize), the Ginestra d’Oro Prize, the Prize for Drawing (1st Prize) at the Exhibition of Figurative Art (Milan 1966), the Gold Medal for Painting at the Turin Quadrennial (1968), the Silver Tanagra (1st Prize for Drawing) at the Turin Biennial (1969), the Giuseppe Viviani Prize for Engraving (1st Prize, Pisa 1977). He was moreover awarded the Gold Medal of the President of the Italian Republic as a highly meritorious artist in visual arts. The most outstanding Italian critics have studied the pictorial and graphic work of Renzo Biasion.
There is a great deal of critical essays concerning his artistic activities. His “voice” is included in the most important specialized publications, in various scholastic anthologies and books on history of modern art.