Fortunato Depero

Born in Trento, 1892, died in Rovereto, 1960.  After studying at the Scuola Reale Elisabettiana in Rovereto, he made his debut as an artist in 1907.  At the end of 1913, in Rome, he met the Futurists.  In 1914 he showed at Giuseppe Sprovieri’s Galleria Futurista and also took part in recitals and events organized there, working particularly with Giacomo Balla, Francesco Cangiullo and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.  He continued to show with the Futurists in one-man and group exhibitions until after 1935.  Around 1914-15 his painting was characterized by a strong, abstract dynamic synthesis using flat spreads of brilliant color with curvilinear outlines.  The subjects, taken from the plant and animal world, are treated with a sort of excited surprise as though the artist were discovering a fantastic storyland.  He wrote and later re-worked a manifesto entitled Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe together with Balla and both of them signed it as “Futurist abstract artists” when it was published in 1915.  His work in the years 1917-19 typically suggested a magical fairy tale enacted by elementary geometrical forms.  The same power of fantastic imagination is evident in his theatrical designs.  In 1919 Depero founded his own “Casa d’Arte.”  There he produced designs for furnishings, particularly wall-hangings done with his wife Rosetta, and also furniture, advertising posters and other examples of applied art. 

In 1919-20 the fantastic fairy tale narrative which was to be typical of Depero’s painting in the Twenties and after, was already established.  It was his highly personal answer to a certain European “purism” and contained the same “metaphysical” suggestions.  For Depero, the “mechanical” style was a modern means to express a fabulous inner dimension, creating the image of his own present moment—not as an anecdote, but as part of the recurrent cycle of work and nature, a dimension of domestic or collective daily life.  In Capri in 1917 Depero also made “constructions”—brightly colored objects in wood, and sometimes cardboard, with elementary geometrical volumes, which reflected his feeling for peasant handwork.  Particularly in the Twenties, but afterwards as well, Depero’s Casa d’Arte Futurista was extremely active.  Depero was in Paris in 1925-26 and in New York between 1928 and 1930, where besides interiors, he produced designs and advertising work.  In Rovereto in 1932 he published the almanac Futurismo 1932-Anno X-S.E. Marinetti nel Trentino and the magazine Dinamo Futurista.  As a paroliberista, he invented the famous “bolted book,” Depero Futurista, published by Dinamo-Azari in 1927, a masterpiece of “free-word” typographical “Deformation” applied to a mainly expositive text.  Throughout the Thirties and after, his narrative became more elaborate and even ambitious, and a different, often dramatic tension replaced the fairy tale gaiety of his earlier work.