Looking up to the masters has always been a practice for the students of Fine Arts Academies, who spent hours in the museums of ancient art learning by ‘imitation’, that is, making copies of works by the great masters. In this way, by painting those works, they experimented, learned and evolved, walking again on the path of the artists who had come before them and were the protagonists in the history of art.
And so it was also for Baldessari, who together with his professor, Ciardi, and his classmates spent hours in the Venetian museums studying the ancient paintings. At the same time anyway
after having probably witnessed the launch of the futurist posters from the Clock Tower of Venice, and also seen some works by Boccioni, who had already shaken up the pictorial foundations of the time, when he moved to Florence and met the volcanic Futurists who gathered at the Bar Giubbe Rosse, it was almost inevitable he could feel deeply attracted by Futurism.
But then being a Futurist revealed to be much more exacting. Even if you were really convinced, you couldn’t wake up one morning and start suddenly to paint in the futurist way if until the day before you had made Venetian paintings ‘in the Ciardi’s style’ …
So Baldessari did nothing but apply and then transfer to the world of Futurism what he had always done in museums as a student of the Academy: take example from the masters, study and experiment their pictorial techniques and compare with them. And if once the teachers were Titian, Giorgione, Tiepolo, etc. now, however, it was necessary to learn from the masters of Futurism, that is, from Boccioni, above all, and then from Carrà, Soffici, Severini, and also from Balla (thanks to the fellow citizen Depero) and finally also to look carefully at Picasso, then in Italy.
These works were not just mere imitation of paintings realized by other artists, but rather an experiment and a personal interpretation of new expressive modalities. Baldessari always moved from a model but then tried to interpret the work, and, depending on the historical moment (the year of realization) put something of his own, or at least tried to lead it to the style he was defining little by little.
Until recently, many of these works have been unknown and forgotten, in fact due to his many travels, Baldessari never brought anything with him, not even his futurist orthodox paintings.
Besides these works, we could instead define as ‘formative’, have been lying for a long time in dark cellars precisely because in the moment Baldessari himself had outlined his style, he would have never exhibited them … as they were outdated for him.
Exhibiting them now, even if in digital form, and above all approaching them to their respective ‘sources’ is the result of a long meditation … that is, almost in the ‘fear’ that these combinations could be misunderstood, or suggest the thought the artist had no ideas of his own. Then, however, only to pass and review one by one these galleries showing an exhibition of his best works, we realize that those sources were only the ‘fuse’ which blew up the creativity of this incredible artist.
And in fact, all what followed was the result of his reached artistic maturity and expression of his original and very personal artistic style.
To close … there is a feature of his ‘imitating’ the masters that Baldessari has always brought with him over the years well beyond the training period, and which often becomes the main element of the work, or, indeed, on beautiful display also in his titles.I am alluding to the typical Venetian colorism, and in particular to the ‘red Titian’, which we can find, for example in Donna con fiori rossi (Woman with red flowers), or Donna con ventaglio (Woman with fan), Donna in rosso (Woman in red), Lucienne, and so on in many other paintings.
As if to say that for each artist the training moment is fundamental because it leaves an imprinting that marks all his following career.
And so it was, obviously, also for Baldessari.