Adolfo Wildt

1868 – Milan – 1931

  • Figure lying down

  • Ink on wove paper laid down on canvas, ca. 1913

  • Size

    495 x 1685 mm

  • Provenance

    Artist studio, Milan; his grandson, Vanni Scheiwiller, Milan; Private collection, Rome

  • Literature

    Giuliana Olcese and Vanni Scheiwiller, Disegni di Adolfo Wildt, exh. cat., Milan, Galleria dei Bibliofili, 1972, no. 35 (ill.); Paola Mola, Adolfo Wildt. Ein italienischer Bildhauer des Symbolismus, exh. cat., Darmstadt, Mathildenhöhe, 1990, p. 205 (ill.)

  • Exhibition

    Milan, Galleria Bambaja di Busto Arsizio, Adolfo Wildt, April-May 1978

This large and impressive Adolfo Wildt’s drawing was a preliminary drawing for a sarcophagus, which ultimately was not executed. The profile of the figure is dotted in order to “dust” it on the marble. The design is typical of the style of Wildt in the early years of 1910’s, and clearly related to the central figure of a drawing titled L’Ombra and dated 1913 . Showing the purity of his line as well as being a powerful trace of his artistic process, this design also prefigures the style of some funerary monuments he made after the First World War, such as the Bistoletti and the Körner monuments, both in Milan Monumental Cemetery, although made later in the 1920’s.

The year of 1913 was indeed a key moment for Wildt. His patron Franz Rose died the year before and Wildt had to find a place by himself on the Italian scene, which had cared little about him so far. At the time, he had not made many funerary monuments or gravestones, or any major sculpture praised by the critics. Although, the present work reveals the essence of the artist’s effort, which would make him the key representative of the modern Italian sculpture in the early 20th century: i.e.. the simplification of forms revealing the intensity of the human figure. While having a resolutely distinctive style, he appears then among the sculptors who were standing at the contact point between late Symbolism and radical modernity.

From 1906, Wildt began a work of reduction, removing from his creations any element that was not meaningful but avoiding deconstruction – the trademark of the Futurists. Driven by his religious faith, he perceived the necessity to reconcile the materiality of the sculpture with spirituality. He stated his intentions in this way: “see the nature, acts and mortal aspects of humans with austere serenity, reduce them to an essential nudity, remove all that is cloudy and obsolete in them, meditate on them in my soul, give an artistic translation to the expression of my thought, achieve a matured and ordered harmony of lines and their forms.”

Born in a modest Milanese family, Wildt was first trained as an artisan. He refined unique skills for marble sculpting, in contrast to most sculptors who usually delegated part of the work to specialized artisans. He then completed his artistic training at the Brera Academy. From 1894, the support of a Prussian patron, Franz Rose, relieved him from having to find buyers for his sculptures and provided economical comfort. His patron allowed him to travel and show his work throughout the German Empire and encouraged him to develop an art detached from the vogues of the Milanese scene but rather to follow the masters of previous centuries. From antique Greek theatre masks to gothic and baroque sculpture, Wildt merged a variety of styles in a work primarily devoted to the human body, as in the present drawing, interpreting the shapes to obtain the purest expression of emotions.

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