Ritratto di Alberto Savinio inscribed Savinio (lower left), signed and dated 1917 (lower right) pencil 28.7 x 22.5 cm. (11 1/4 x 8 7/8 in.)
Exhibited: London, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, Carlo Carrà, Works on paper, 10 October 2001 - 20 January 2002, p. 48 (illustrated).
Literature: Franco Russoli, Massimo Carrà, Carrà disegni, 1977, no.287, p.245 (illustrated in black and white)
1987 (May-July): New York: Camillos Kouros Gallery, Carlo Carrà. The Primitive Period 1915-1919, exhibition catalogue edited by Maurizio Fagiolo dellArco, no.3, p. 20 (b&w). The drawing was published to illustrate the editors article entitled: Carlo Carrà 1915-1919. The Wonder of the Primeval, pp.9-34
Russo, Franco and Massimo Carrà, Carrà disegni, Bologna: Grafis, 1977, no. 287, p.245 (b&w), p. 68
This drawing dates from one of the most influential periods in the life of both Carlo Carrà and his sitter, Andrea de Chirico, alias Alberto Savinio (1891-1952). Having been drafted into the war in 1917, Carrà had been sent to the capital of the province of Emilia-Romagna, Ferrara, as a wounded soldier. He spent the early months of that year convalescing at the Villa del seminario, the newly set up military hospital located just outside Ferrara. Once there, Carrà was urged by his good friend Ardengo Soffici to contact Giorgio de Chirico and an exchange of correspondence occurred between Giorgio and Carlo before their eventual meeting, in April 1917. It was during this time that Carrà also made the acquaintance of Giorgios brother, also stationed in the city. Together with the painters Filipo de Pisis, Carlo Carrà and other fellow artists, the de Chirico brothers organised frequent group gatherings to discuss the influence of Surrealism and the direction of Futurism in Italy. In his memoirs, Carrà reminisces upon these happy moments during a time of political upheaval: Gli incontri casuali con Ravegnani, Govoni, De Chirico, Savinio, De Pisis, erano momenti di gioia per me. Parlare darte e di poesia con qualcuno era un sollievo e uno sfogo. Ritornato in caserna pensavo a queste parentesi con il rammarico della loro brevita.[La mia vita, Milano: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, 1981, p. 131]. Like Andrea and Giorgio, Carlo Carrà had spent some time in Paris before the outbreak of the war. There, he had been admitted into the circle of elected surrealists and became a close friend of Guillaume Appolinaire. The result of the Ferrara gatherings was the founding of the School of metaphysical painting, in which the artists strove to express the inner aspect of the objective world.
The present work draws on the earlier origins of Carràs inspirations. The solidity of the head and the angular markings of the facial features carry the stigma of the artists Primitive Painting and Early Renaissance heritage. Furthermore, the drawing shows the artists interest in the use of space in his attempt at placing the tilted sphere on the drawing page; indeed, he carefully lets the spherical mass hover within the given space in order to concentrate on inner and outer shapes. Nothing is really grounded. The result conveys a sense of intense wit mixed with a refined perception of poetical values.
Alberto Savinio is considered as one the unsung heroes of Italian Surrealism. His extensive humanist knowledge covered literature and painting, drama and music. Born in Greece in 1891 from parents of Italian nobility, Andrea de Chirico was given a classical education. He also excelled at the piano, which he studied at the Athens Conservatory of Music. In 1910, with his brother Giorgio, he moved to Paris. Andreas association with Apollinaire led him to compose the dramatic poem Chants de la mi-mort (1914), in which elements of literary surrealism intertwine with references to his brothers early metaphysical paintings. With the outbreak of the war, the De Chirico brothers returned to Italy, arriving in Ferrara in 1917. In June, Savinio left for Macedonia, where he was appointed as a military interpreter. A drawing and a poetic fragment by Carrà commemorate the Departure of the Argonaut Savinio, conveying the friendship which had developped so rapidly between the two men over the few preceding months. For a comparative study of our drawing with another portrait of Savinio by Carrà of 1918, see: Franco Russo and Massimo Carrà, Carrà disegni, Bologna: Grafis, 1977, no. 306, p.251 (b&w). For further readings, see: M. Fagiolo, Alberto Savinio, Milano, 1989 and P. Vivarelli, Savinio. Opera completa, Milano, 1996