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Nazareno Giusti: Antonio Ligabue cartoon

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Two pages in the cultural insert, “The Lettura” of the Corriere della Sera this week featuring the cartoon work of Nazareno Giusti based around the life of the artist Antonio Ligabue.

Antonio Ligabue – 18 December 1899 – 27 May 1965 was an Italian painter, one of the most important Naïve artists of the 20th century.

He was born in Zurich, Switzerland on 18 December 1899, and died in Gualtieri, Reggio Emilia, Italy on 27 May 1965.

Ligabue was born to Elisabetta Costa, native from Belluno, and supposedly to Bonfiglio Laccabue (the true identity of the father is still unknown), native from Reggio Emilia.

Antonio Ligabue, il grande pittore naïf, a cinquant’anni dalla morte (il 27 maggio 1965), continua ad affascinare con le sue opere di grande potenza (basti pensare al successo che riscuotono le sue mostre, ovunque si tengano). Scriveva Indro Montanelli: «Io stesso, nella mia ignoranza, sono rimasto stupito dalla nettezza dei colori e dallo straordinario potere di suggestione che sprigiona da certe sue assurde figure di leoni e di gorilla e da certe sue macabre sequenze di scarafaggi all’assalto di cadaveri». Ma l’artista continua ad affascinare, anche, per la sua vita stramba e disperata”.

In 1942 the painter changes his surname from Laccabue to Ligabue, presumably because of the hate towards his father, who considered the uxoricida Elizabetta Costa. In September 1900 he was entrusted to the Swiss Johannes Valentin Göbel and Elise Hanselmann. His mother, Elizabeth, and three brothers died in 1913 as a result of food poisoning. He began to work occasionally as a farm hand and conducted a wandering life.

After an altercation with her foster mother was hospitalised in a psychiatric clinic. In 1919, following the complaint by Hanselmann, was expelled from Switzerland. From Chiasso was conducted to Gualtieri, country of origin of the adoptive father but, not knowing a word of Italian, he tried to return to Switzerland.

Brought the town, lived in the rescue of the City Hospice of begging wagons. In 1920 he was offered a job at the banks of the Po, and at that time he began to paint.

In 1928 he met Renato Marino Mazzacurati who understood what the genuine art and taught him the use of oil paints guiding it to the full development of his talent. In those years he devoted himself to painting and continued to wander aimlessly along the River Po.

In 1937 he was hospitalised in a mental hospital in Reggio Emilia for self-mutilation. In 1941 the sculptor Andrea Mozzali him to resign from the psychiatric hospital and welcomed him to his home in Guastalla, near Reggio Emilia.

During the war served as an interpreter for the German troops. In 1945, for having beaten with a bottle a German soldier, he was interned in a mental hospital and remained there for three years. In 1948 he began painting more intensely, and journalists, critics and art dealers began to be interested in him.

In 1957 Severo Woods, “signature” Il Resto del Carlino, and renowned photographer Aldo Ferrari went to Gualtieri to meet him: there came a picture in the newspaper and still very well known.

In 1961 it was staged her first solo exhibition at The Gallery Four Rivers in Rome. He had a motorcycle accident and the following year he was stricken with paralysis. Guastalla dedicated a major retrospective. He asked to be baptized and confirmed, died 27 May 1965. Resting place in Gualtieri, on his tombstone the funeral mask of bronze by Mozzali.

He was named “Al Matt” (the madman) or “Al tedesch” (the German). In 1965, after his death, he was a retrospective in the context of the Ninth Quadrennial of Rome.

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