Carretti a Bagheria signed 'Guttuso' (lower right) oil on canvas 120 x 145cm (47 1/4 x 57 1/16in). Painted in 1956
PROVENANCE La Vetrina di Chiurazzi, Rome. Prof. Domenico Maselli, Rome. Private collection, Italy.
LITERATURE E. Crispolti, Catalogo ragionato generale dei dipinti di Renato Guttuso, Milan, 1984, vol.II, no.56/10 (illustrated p.48).
In late 1956 and early 1957 Guttuso painted a series of pictures of street scenes inspired by his native town of Bagheria near Palermo. The predominant theme of this series is the everyday life of peasants and labourers arrayed in a variety of compositions that brim with life. His deep affection for these people gained him both acclaim and popularity. Guttuso retained close links to Bagheria throughout his life, and bequeathed a collection of his paintings to the municipality.
The human figure was among Guttuso's favourite subjects and he returned to it throughout his career. Like many of his compositions, Carretti a Bagheria seeks to explore the inner life of the subjects, absorbed in their thoughts. The man to the left stands alone, lost in a reverie, while the two others seem to be in close conversation, although with a clearly defined balance of authority. Even in such a simple composition, it is the social dynamic which interests Guttuso.
Painted in bright, expressionistic colours, the artist introduces spaces of pure chromatic vibration especially in the areas of ochre, orange, red and white. The walls of the houses in the background are painted with large bands of white while the pigment is applied thickly to the carts and the street to give strength and depth to the work.
As Douglas Cooper noted in his foreward to an exhibition on Guttuso which introduced many of the Bagheria pictures of the mid 1950s, '[he] looks at the world around him and paints things he has seen and things he knows with the directness and force of a primitive artist' (in Guttuso, New York, Heller Gallery, 1958, p. 9).
1956 was a key year for Guttuso: he participated in the 28th Venice Biennale from June to October, and moved to a new studio in Via di Santa Maria in Rome. The first owner of this work was Prof. Domenico Maselli, an influential art critic of the Scuola Romana.