In my aircraft paintings there is always that sea horizon that I took away with me as a boy when I let Zadar sink into nostalgia
Tullio Crali was born in December 1910 in Igalo, Dalmatia (present-day Montenegro), but soon moved with his family to Zadar where he had his first decisive encounter with an airplane, a seaplane that fell right in front of his house.
In Gorizia, where he moved to in 1922, he attended the Technical Institute and began to demonstrate his artistic skills.
In 1925 he discovered Futurism by reading Napoli’s Mattino Illustrato and remained faithful to the Futurist Movement throughout his life. His first attempts at painting, signed with the pseudonym “Balzo Fiamma”, are from this period. His introduction to futurist literature dates back to 1926, and was made possible by trading his school books for texts by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, Luigi Russolo, Soffici and others. He soon stopped hesitating and wrote to Marinetti who welcomed him “into the futurist struggle”. This meeting, as well as the meeting with the founder of the Giuliano Futurist Movement, S. Pocarini, pushed him into an intense phase of artistic experimentation. Thanks to Pocarini the young Tullio exhibited at the second Goriziana d’Arte Exhibition. The thirties began with one of his most famous works, “Le forze della curva” and with contacts with futurist groups; he was invited to the Exhibition of the “7 Futuristi Padovani” and in 1932 to that of the Italian Futurist Aeropitori in Paris and Brussels with works such as “Acrobazie aeree”, “Pilota da caccia”, and “Ali tricolori”. Thanks to some professors who believed in him and supported him, he managed to go to Venice to support his artistic maturity and then to Rome to qualify for the teaching of artistic subjects. Attentive to the profound changes in the city and prompted by the artistic production of Antonio Sant’Elia, the young Crali dedicated himself to architectural projects in which buildings with bold volumes appear, but which are also functional and anticipate real construction solutions. In these years he continued his affirmation as a protagonist of Futurism, in particular of aeropainting; he also turned his attention to scenography and fashion, both female and male, and he wore the “synthetic suit” and the “anti-tie shirt” every day.
In 1932 he had meetings with Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Tato (Guglielmo Sansoni), Luigi Russolo, and Giacomo Balla as well as a series of important exhibitions in Italy and abroad.
1933 marked the beginning of his activity as a declaimer of “words in freedom”, a genre of poetry that must be recited in its entire range of “timbre and volume” variations. The following years saw Crali protagonist of exhibitions and conferences. He also devoted himself to his other great interest: poetry.
1936: The artist exhibited “Lotta grecoromana” and “Lotta libera” at the second National Exhibition of Sports. The two paintings were later selected for the International Olympic Exhibition of sports art in Berlin. The second Venice Biennale hosted three of his works (“I sommersi”, “Gli aeronauti” and “I naviganti”) which were significant for an evident achieved autonomy of figurative language.
1938: Thanks to Col. Klinger, president of the Ala Littoria, he was allowed to fly for free on all its lines for artistic reasons. He returned to Gorizia where he attended the Hunting Squadron, a crucial experience for the genesis of the work “Incuneandosi nell’abitato”, also known as “In tuffo sulla città”. The young artist logged many flights on board fighter aircrafts in the second half of the 1930s. He left with a passion and readiness to face works of great commitment which he exhibited in a room dedicated to him at the Venice Biennale (“Motore seduttore di nuvole”, “Ammaraggio nel golfo”…). 1940 was also an important year for his private life: he married Ada Savelli who would become his life-long companion and the inspiring muse for many of his works. The joys of marriage were however interspersed with the growing concerns and serious problems that the outbreak of the Second World War brought. From a professional point of view, however, the dramatic period that precedes and goes hand in hand with conflict was very fruitful for Tullio Crali who was now the undisputed protagonist of the Italian artistic-futurist scene and Marinetti’s “right hand” who had named him “travelling salesman of the ideal. ” In 1943 he participated for the second time in the Quadrennial of Art in Rome in and 1944 in the last meeting of the Futurists in Venice. Crali as a soldier was assigned various positions at the Centri Mascheratori of Civitavecchia, Fabbrica di Roma, Parma and finally Macerata from which he moved, under the fury of the bombings, to Gorizia. In 1944 Massimo was born, greeted by Marinetti’s “most fervent wishes”. In the same year, the artist started the first Poetry Gathering which would be followed by numerous others. At the end of the war, in 1945, he was arrested in Gorizia by the Italian-Slav partisans: of the 150 prisoners only 20 came back alive, among them Crali.
In the first post-war period, the artist moved with his family to Turin where he resumed teaching in high schools, continuing to exhibit and take an interest in the sensations of paratroopers in flight. In 1950, in the Marinetti home in Milan, he took part in a meeting of the Futurists. Following this meeting, instead of decreeing the end of Futurism (as Benedetta, wife of the founder of the Movement, and others would have liked), Crali dissociated himself and exhibited in the Galleria Bergamini in Milan, and also organized an evening of futurist poetry, the first since the end of the war.
The Flight determines a “near-far” constant that occurs in the simultaneous presence of precise and detailed shapes and simplified shapes up to the limits of the most complete abstraction
In 1951 the artist began to write his “Diaries” in which, over the course of more than thirty years (the last is from 1985), he would collect impressions, judgments, preparatory drawings, and travel memories: a varied and personal universe of an artist that leaves nothing out.
1950-1959: The Parisian Experience
The Italian environment was now was becoming too small for him, so Crali decided to ask for a post abroad. With initial disappointment, he was assigned that of the “Lycée Italien” in Paris, a city that the artist felt was a challenge but which he would then want to better understand through its songs, bistros, signs, clochards, markets, and cabarets. Crali would never tire of looking, browsing, and documenting everything he saw, wandering along the streets and squares, always carrying an album and his faithful “flowmaster” with him. A series of canvases and a large number of drawings remain from this period as a testimony to his interest in the real life of Paris. Thanks to the activities of the previous years and the exhibitions organized in the Parisian years, the French critics praised the artistic commitment of Crali and its originality. His artistic vision was also enriched by visits to the great museums of Paris and by periods spent along the Breton and Norman beaches where Crali discovered a world made of “menhirs”, cliffs, thunderous waves that dig rocks, granite boulders, and of fragile boats that challenge the ocean. When he left Paris he did so with little luggage but with many silicas and granites that he would later use to give life to his abstract universes called Sassintesi.
From 1960 to 1967 Tullio Crali was in Egypt, at the direction of the Italian School of Art in Cairo, painting section. He also organized exhibitions and conference cycles here: from Radio Cairo he commemorated Marinetti, “Italian poet of Egypt”. In the Italian School of Art, he found an atmosphere of the past, made of “dust and mold”, thus deciding to bring a breath of novelty, focusing on the use of color, spaces, proportions and “human material” he had at his disposal: Egyptian, Greek, Armenian, Saudi, Coptic, and Jewish children … all enthusiastic and capable! The artist communicated to them the need to draw on their imagination and courage and to dare to create something new. Doing this led them to understand how the contact between the ancient and the modern could yield great results, those that would materialize, despite the numerous obstacles, in exhibitions of their works.
This new environment rich with history, the East, and the desert, brought a patrimony of new emotions to the artist, an inevitable and lasting comparison with an art that would leave a profound mark on him and the awareness that it is necessary to bring back the past in modernity.
From 1968 onwards, Crali returned to Italy and enthusiastically resumed his futurist commitment by participating in exhibitions, futurist evenings with declamations of poems by Marinetti and Fortunato Depero, and conferences. He rejected the commitment proposed by his old futurist friends to resume the movement and prefered to continue his “spatial” research. In 1970 the first post-war Futurist Aeropainting exhibition was held at the Gallleria Blu in Milan, while in 1971 the Galleria Tribbio in Trieste set up an exhibition of “Sassintesi” and “Cosmiche”. In 1975 he took part in the fifth “Convegno Mitteleuropeo sulla pittura tra il 1890 e il 1930”, a European painting conference held in Gorizia.
Verticality and its parallels on the Earth’s axis no longer exist in aeropainting.
In 1977 he created a Futurist Documentation Center for his students in his studio in Milan. In 1978, the catalog for the exhibition curated by Luciano Chinese at the Galleria Spazio Due in Venice, opened with Crali’s words on the “birth of aeropainting” and on the “new spiritual values that spring from the relationship between MAN and COSMO”. In the following years, participation in exhibitions and conferences was very intense. In 1986 his aircraft jewels, created thirty years earlier, were exhibited at the Vicenza Jewelery Fair. He had his own personal battle with critics: he esteemed some and willingly ignored others. On the other hand, Crali’s artistic, human and spiritual dimension was not easily accessible, over the years it had been exhalted and refined so as not to be readily accepted by everyone.
In 1987 he began a long and fruitful relationship with the Pattuglia Acrobatica delle Frecce Tricolori the Italian Acrobatic Patrol whose pilots saw the now elderly, but always enthusiastic painter, as an unavoidable reference point; a great admiration reciprocated by Crali. The artist dedicated a series of impressive canvases to the Frecce Tricolori, the last of which he finished in 1993.
1988: He exhibited mechanical lithographs in Russia, was present at a collective of Arte Giuliana in Melbourne, and presented “Aeronautical structures” at an exhibition in Lima.
1990 An important stage in his career saw him protagonist of “Futurismo Veneto” a futurist exhibition of the Veneto region, created by the Cassa di Risparmio di Padova, in collaboration with the architect Salvan Rebeschini and others.
In 1994 MART dedicated a large personal exhibition to him which included paintings, sculptures, polymaterials, and posters. The catalog (edited by Claudio Rebeschini) was accompanied by a large autobiography by Crali. To MART, the artist entrusted in donation, not only a large number of his works (about forty) including “Incuneandosi nell’abitato”, but also a great amount of documentary material on Futurism, collected in the “books” created in the last twenty years of his life.
Tullio Crali died in Milan on August 5, 2000.
For more information on the life of the artist:
– Claudio Rebeschini (edited by) – CRALI AEROPITTORE FUTURISTA- book printed on the occasion of the “Crali Futurista” MART exhibition in Rovereto, 1994-95; ed. Electa, Milan 1994
– AA.VV. “Crali. Il Volo dei Futuristi”. Catalog printed on behalf of the Museo Revoltella Trieste by “Editoriale Ergon”, Ronchi dei Legionari 2003