Vaso di fiori con ventaglio signed and dated 'Pisis/42' (lower right) and signed again 'V.R.' (centre right) oil on canvas 80 x 59.8cm (31 1/2 x 23 9/16in). Painted in 1942
This work is sold with a photo-certificate of authenticity from the Associazione per il Patrocinio e lo Studio dell'opera di Filippo de Pisis, dated Milano, 24 febbraio 2004, archive no.02211.
Filippo de Pisis' first love was literature, and it was literature and philosophy that he studied at the University of Bologna. It was thus as a poet and writer that he joined the artistic circle around Giorgio de Chirico, his brother the poet Alberto Savinio and Carlo Carrà, who he met in Ferrara in 1916. Through them he made contact with the Parisian avant-garde, corresponding with Apollinaire and Tzara. However as a child he was passionate about natural history, collecting butterflies and wild flowers and preparing herbaria, collections which are now preserved at the University of Padua. When he began painting in earnest in the early 1920s, as a natural extension of his engagement with modernist circles, his early compositions regularly featured botanical still lifes, clearly linking back to his early passions.
He moved to Paris in 1925, and although his style remained loose and fresh he borrowed freely from the works he encountered there, for example the Impressionism of Pissarro and the colour sense of Matisse. This can particularly be seen in the characteristic still lifes such as the present work. The shifting planes of the composition and the deliberately contradictory sense of depth, together with the juxtaposition of unusual objects, create an unsettling sense which echoes the concerns of the Pittura Metafisica group. In an approach derived from Nietzsche, de Pisis was concerned with the problem, if not impossibility, of representing or relating to any sort of external reality. Through the 1930s and 1940s he was very active in literary and philosophical circles. The pictures from these years, such as the present work, are fascinating in their expression of the tension between the artist's theoretical analysis and his more scientific personal interests in botany and natural history.