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Giuseppe Lazzarotto
My pictorial works_extract from “My pictorial works”

… It was the year 1941, the beginning of the second World War. I was dismissed from the military service, life was tough, we were running out of supplies and there was a rationing system for food. To make things worse, I was a victim of political persecution by the fascists because I was suspected of propagandizing against them and against the war, which in truth I was, although it was a very dangerous thing to do in those days, but I did it willingly. I was an active supporter of the Communist Party and I was convinced that I was fighting for a good cause and for a better Country. In 1943 the fight became more fierce, to the point that I could no longer sleep in my house because the black-shirted men came looking for me there more than once, until one fine day I was captured and imprisoned by the Germans , … they questioned me and I was told that the next day, at sunrise I had to be shot because I was a spy.
Luckily enough, that evening, peeping out of the spy-hole of my prison door, I saw Mr Polano, I called him and introduced myself. He spoke to the policeman in charge and he took on himself the responsibility of my actions as long as I promised to stop my political activities. I took the advice of Ilio Baroni and Andrea Mensa, whom I considered better companions than myself, and a few days later, I  left and I joined the Garibaldine Brigades of Lanzo Valley. When I reached the Valley of Lanzo in Ceres, I met commander Pietro Sulis who introduced me to commander Battista Gardoncini and commissary “Paolo” (Antonio Giolitti) …

… After a year of Partisan war I returned home, injured and weak after the painful days I had been through, mostly the last few months, but with a couple of days’ rest I got my strength back and I took up my job at the iron foundry. For years, I had had to work hard to settle down my family and it was back then that I lost my first son Luciano. It was in August 1948. I will always remember those sad days, when my poor Luciano lay in his bed at the Maria Vittoria Hospital in Turin. He used to ask me for colours, because he wanted to draw and since it was impossible for him to do so, I promised him that I would paint on his behalf, and from that day onwards in good times and in bad times, I have never abandoned the brushes … and drawing. I started painting and drawing in November 1948 …

… an old man opened the door for me,  I asked for Mr Zolla the painter, and he replied : “It’s me, what can I do for you?” “I’ve been sent by Mr Vanzini, and since you are a teacher, I’m here to see if you could teach me too” and he accepted. We agreed upon the time and from that day I started my art lessons, for two years, 4 sessions a month, at the studio of Mr Zolla and ever since I got to know the artistic environment.

Later on I went to a very interesting exhibition at Palazzo Carignano, called “Arts Club”.. I went to that exhibition four times but I did not get a clear idea of what I was seeing so I asked several visitors, who were more prepared than myself, for information about that kind of painting. I started to understand little things about the meaning of abstractionism – surrealism mostly when Professor Casorati illustrated that kind of painting with simple words. On that occasion I was lucky to meet Professor Menzio whom I asked if he could have a look at my very modest works, and he kindly gave me his address and invited me to go and see him …

One day … in the year 1951 … I read about a great exhibition being held in Milan by Caravaggio and other artists who had followed the same school, or who had had the same influence of the Maestro.

… Some time after my visit at the exhibition of the Caravaggio, a daily newspaper named “L’Unità” was inviting workers who were also art enthusiasts to present their own works for an exhibition to be held in Turin. In those days I met Professor Scroppo of the Accademia Albertina of Turin…

… He gave me a gesso mask with a sad expression, very good for drawing. Then he invited me to present two or three of my paintings to the Camera Confederale del Lavoro for the exhibition of artists amongst labourers. So I took three of my drawings to the Centro del Libro Popolare where I was lucky enough to meet Professor Francesco Giulio, a very nice person, very intelligent and kind. From the few words I said, he understood my character and we soon became Friends.
Giulio took a good look at my works and he liked them, he asked me where I worked, I replied at the Ferriera … and so on …
The “Workers Exhibition” was opened in November. The works were examined by Prof. Giulio, art critic Luciano Pistoi, artists Mino Rosso and Filippo Scroppo and other professors whose names I don’t recall, who were part of the jury. At that time I was so happy only for the fact that my works had been accepted; then the prize giving day arrived. I remember that on that particular evening, Professor Giorgina Levi held a conference about a great Russian artist; when the conference was over they gave out the prizes and I was awarded with the first prize. Prof. Giulio was the first to congratulate me and he took me in front of the Venaria painting, the winner of the first prize. It was a great achievement for me. All my colleagues paid their compliments to me, and I was thrilled. That night I was introduced to art critic Pistoi and artist Albino Rosso, professor Gobetti and professor Ugolini (writer) … that was the night of the foundation of the “Gruppo Promotore delle Arti fra Lavoratori”… The animator of the group was professor Giulio assisted by his friend Barbero and by others…

… When I arrived at my friend Giulio’s house I was very surprised to see so many paintings, some were by his ancestors, others by his daughter Cristina and others were his. It was a big surprise for me to discover that Giulio was also a painter, but his was also of great help to me because professor Giulio, whereas art was concerned, was very deep and I had so much to learn from him. One day, my friend Giulio invited me to visit his daughter’s studio … when we arrived, I had the pleasant surprise of finding some works which had been exhibited in a personal exhibition in Rome. I found those pictures a little bit faint in colour, but I appreciated their subjects because they had a very realistic social setting. Cristina Giulio described the hard lifestyle of tumblers and of those who wandered around in caravans.
Having seen Cristina Giulio’s works, I stopped to admire some drawings and her study, so wide and full of light, and I was envious because she had such space and such light whilst I was drawing on the staircase …

Going back to the first days of my pictorial activity, I would like to point out that I’ve never had a little quiet space to work in. I dedicate all the free time I have after my work at the iron foundry to study drawing and colours, notwithstanding all the difficulties, which are a lot. I am committed with all the passion I have to this study which is troubled by the lack of time and means; by my wife’s lack of comprehension who gets upset every time she sees me with my brushes and palette in front of the easel, to the extent that I had to move down to the basement where the only light I have comes from a little window or from a solar lamp.

In March 1952  the group I belonged to, Gruppo Promotore delle Arti fra Lavoratori, organised a trip to Milan in occasion of an exhibition of the great impressionist Vincent Van Gogh.
The works by Van Gogh which have struck me most were the ones of cypresses, the inside of a dotted tree, grapes harvest, the Olives, the nocturnal scene, the postman, Arles bridge, a unique self portrait, and the mines.
I think that the most important works by Van Gogh were not exhibited in Milan since considering all the self portraits he had done, there was only one displayed.
On returning from Milan, I got back to my easel to make a still life picture, I started drawing and then painting, but I was so influenced by Van Gogh’s paintings that I did not have the strength to move away from that influence. I showed my painting to Giulio, who advised me to be very careful because imitating was rather dangerous. I had to wait for a couple of days before I could get rid of Van Gogh’s influence, and then I got back to my normal studies calmly following my feelings.

One evening I was invited to a conference about modern pictorial tendencies held by art critic Raffaele De Grada and organised by the Gruppo Promotore delle Arti fra Lavoratori. On that occasion I was introduced to De Grada, after the conference he visited our school which was situated in a vast hall on the top floor of the Camera Confederale del Lavoro where we had all the works which had been exposed at the Galleria del Grifo … for the celebrations of Workers’ Day on the 1st of May. De Grada examined several works and he stopped for a longer time in front of a painting of mine, he exclaimed that it was the best amongst all.  The comments made by De Grada about my village, which he found so appealing, were very encouraging for me. I made that painting in France ( at La Tour du Pin ) during my holidays in August of 1951. This painting was judged positively by art critics Rossi of La Stampa, Marziano Bernardi of La Gazzetta del Popolo and Luciano Pistoi of L’Unità.

During the period that goes from Spring of 1952 to March 1953 there was a change in my paintings. As a matter of fact, in June I took some of my paintings to Professor Menzio for him to examine, and even Menzio could see that in these last paintings there was a notable improvement.  On that occasion Professor Menzio sent me to Venice, he offered me a return trip by train to see the Biennale, to study the various different tendencies and to see paintings by the most important contemporary artists. The trip to Venice was a great lesson to me, I had never seen so many works in my whole life!

In May 1953, the city of Turin organised a national exhibition at the Palazzo della Promotrice delle Belle Arti at the Valentino, … I sent two of my paintings which represented two villages … and they were accepted. Acceptance of these two paintings was a great happening for me, to see my paintings among those of great Artists!!

… between May and September 1953 I visited a good number of exhibitions; a very nice one by Chagal … I had the opportunity to go through all the exhibition halls at the Palazzo Madama together with my friend, the painter and writer Gatto.
In September I went to Milan to see a great exhibition of the great artist Pablo Picasso … I liked it very much, both the pink and blue period and the Vallauris landscapes, and the distorted sitting women, the cat, the massacre in Korea, the carnaro and the two different posters of war and peace, the mother’s portrait, the cubist period; which is the black period, the portraits of his son Paolo dressed as Pierrot, as a toreador, on the donkey, and as Harlequin, simple but perfect portraits decided without hesitation, clear and moving. After 1930, Picasso becomes more bloody and he is inspired by surrealism and he distorts figures, he decomposes planes, and is always very rich in harmony and shades. In his sculptures … the ferocious rammed Cock. The man with the lamb, tall upright as a sign of protection, the owl, a bicycle handle and seat … herd head, and then all his drawings, and his ceramics, the pregnant goat, etc.
Picasso moved me deeply.

When we got back from Picasso’s exhibition there was a painters gathering in Venaria to celebrate … the grapes harvest. There was also a painting competition and exhibition … the jury awarded me with an encouragement first prize in the expressionists category. From September of 1953 to January of 1954 it was a sad period for me because I did not feel like continuing my painting in the space under the staircase, I was suffering from pains in my legs due to humidity. For two years, I looked everywhere for a little place where I could have my own art studio, I asked everybody in Venaria; from the first citizen to the least significant estate holder … finally in the month of December, my friends Vanzi and Bottino from the secretariat of the Italian Communist Party (P.C.I.) of Venaria assured me that I would have had an art studio, and in fact on the 1st of February 1954 I got my studio at the Casa del Popolo, a room of 250 cms by 500 centimetres.