From January 16 until March 28, 2009, the Patrick Derom Gallery organized in collaboration with Daniel Abadie, former director of the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, a retrospective on « Alberto Magnelli » in its Brussels gallery. Forty-three paintings, collages and drawings from 1914 to 1968 demonstrate the multifaceted talents of an artist who defined himself as «pittore fiorentino»: Florentine painter.
Alberto Magnelli, however, is much more than that. At the age of 19 he discovers painting almost accidentally while wandering in Tuscany’s countryside with an artist friend who invites the young man to paint while working himself. Magnelli gets passionate about painting and very soon participates in group exhibitions in Florence as well as the VIII Venice Biennale (1909).
His inspiration sources are diverse and eclectic but during his whole life, he will continuously refer to the masters of the Trecento and Quattrocento from his native region as his main influence because of their use of color and composition.
The real launch of his artistic development is almost as accidental as his discovery of painting. In 1912 when walking into his friend, the Italian poet Aldo Palazzeschi, he decides on the spot to join him on his journey to Paris. During this trip, he meets with Apollinaire, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, and Henri Matisse. This trip will result not only in his artistic revelation but also in the creation of numerous friendships, which will put him in a privileged position to advise his uncle, an art connoisseur and collector. This role as art advisor will give him a certain financial independence that will allow him to focus on his artistic career. Later he will also befriend Hans Arp and Sonia Delaunay, as well as Kahnweiler, Peggy Guggenheim, van Doesburg, Kandinsky, Marini, Cocteau, Soffici, Léger, De Chirico…
The confrontation with the European avant-garde prevailing at that time in Paris – an oeuvre that he only knew from black and white photographs in magazines and books – reinvigorates his style. It inspires him to abandon figurative painting and to evolve towards an abstraction that is influenced by cubism and futurism, even though he never totally adheres to these movements. Magnelli is a master of colors. Licini, who exhibits with him and Soldati in Italy in the mid-Thirties, strikingly formulated this: « Painting is the art of color and signs. Signs express strength, will and ideas. Color expresses magic.»
His creations are invariably harmonious, whatever the discipline or the materials he uses. The multiple influences he exposes himself to constantly open new perspectives, without menacing his artistic independence. The observation of his artwork does infallibly confirm his singularity. During the two World Wars, Magnelli resides in Italy and France, away from the battlefields. The resulting lack of art supplies turns these periods into times of reflection and creative re-sourcing for the artist. The most diverse materials are taken out of their original context to find new life in his poetic collages.
In the Forties his style is characterized by its complex abstraction in which even color fields are restrained by strong lines and curves. His first important exhibition takes place in Paris at the René Drouin Gallery in 1947. The Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels honors him with an important retrospective in 1954. He also receives the “Prix de la Critique” in Brussels in 1955.
Magnelli’s art summarizes the essence of the history of Modern Art. He distinguishes himself from the main movements yet complements them. His paintings, collages and sculptures are the silent witnesses of the artistic revolutions of the 20th Century, while remaining undeniably recognizable as "Magnelli".