At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Alberto Sughi - painter

20th century artist who was unwitting victim of plagiarism


Alberto Sughi's work was copied by a Japanese artist who had visited his studio in Cesena
Alberto Sughi's work was copied by a Japanese artist
who had visited his studio in Cesena
The artist Alberto Sughi, an acclaimed  20th century painter whose style was defined as “existential realism”, was born on this day in 1928 in Cesena in Emilia-Romagna.

Sughi was regarded as one of the greatest artists of his generation but is often remembered mainly for his unwitting part in a famous case of plagiarism.

It happened in 2006 when a Japanese painter, Yoshihiko Wada, was awarded the prestigious Art Encouragement Prize, the Japanese equivalent of the Turner Prize, for a series of paintings depicted urban life in Italy - one of Sughi’s specialities.

A month after the award was announced in March of that year, the Japan Artists Association and Agency for Cultural Affairs received an anonymous tip-off questioning the authenticity of Wada's work, which then sparked an investigation into possible plagiarism.

The anonymous accuser had noted that several pieces of Wada’s art in an exhibition before the award was decided bore striking similarities to paintings by Sughi. Two examples were Wada’s Boshi-zo (Mother and Child), which looked almost exactly like Sughi’s Virgo Laurentana, even in tiny details, and Wada’s Muso (Reverie), which appeared to be a near-identical copy of Sughi’s Piano Bar Italia.

One of the paintings Wada passed off as his own was one of  Sughi's many works depicting women in bars
One of the paintings Wada passed off as his own was one of
Sughi's many works depicting women in bars
Wada initially denied plagiarism. He claimed he he had known Sughi since he studied in Italy in the 1970s, and had been influenced by him while studying with him.

Later, Wada changed his story, saying he had painted with Sughi "in collaboration" and therefore the paintings were not plagiarised. He described his own paintings as "an homage to Sughi".

However, when contacted by the Japanese embassy in Italy in early May, Sughi denied the pair had worked together and said he was unaware Wada was even an artist. According to Sughi, Wada had introduced himself merely as a fan and had visited him as many as five times, always asking if he could photograph his work.

Subsequently, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs took the decision to strip Wada of the award, the first time such a decision had been taken since the Art Encouragement Prize was inaugurated in 1950.  Sughi considered suing but later revealed he had received a visit from Wada shortly before the decision to disqualify him was announced, after which he had concluded that the shame he would suffer was punishment enough.

Sughi painted a number of works in which his theme was the relationship between man and nature
Sughi painted a number of works in which his theme was
the relationship between man and nature
Self-taught, Sughi began drawing before he could write, inspired by an uncle who painted as a hobby. He worked as an illustrator for the newspaper Gazzetta del Popolo in Turin in the 1940s and began to paint at the same time, choosing the realism of figurative art over the abstract styles that were fashionable. His paintings often depicted moments from daily life, with no attempt to moralise.

It was a visit to the Venice Biennale in 1948, where he was captivated by a still life by the French painter André Fougeron, that did most to influence the style he favoured. Later that year, Sughi moved to Rome where he remained until 1951. There he met several artists, including Marcello Muccini and Renzo Vespignani who were part of the Gruppo di Portonaccio, an affiliation of like-minded painters who would meet and work in Portonaccio, a poor, industrialised suburb.

He returned to Cesena, where he would be based until the early 1970s, when he left his studio in the city for a country house in the hills.

Sughi was still active as a painter well into his eighth decade of life
Sughi was still active as a painter well into
his eighth decade of life
Sughi’s work followed thematic cycles, beginning with his so-called 'green paintings', which examined the relationship between man and nature (1971–1973), followed by the Cena - Supper - cycle (1975–1976), in which his focus was on bourgeois society. This preceded Imagination and Memory of the Family, dating from the early 1980s, and Evening or Reflection, from 1985.  In 2000 he exhibited a series of large canvases entitled Nocturnal.

The director Ettore Scola chose as poster for his 1980 film La terrazza one of Sughi’s paintings from his Cena series.

Sughi’s standing in the art world was such that galleries and museums not only in Italy but in Russia and South America staged regular exhibitions of his work.

Between December 2005 and January 2006, a large retrospective exhibition of Sughi’s work was held at the Palazzo della Pilotta in Parma, containing 642 of his works, including paintings, tempera, drawings, and lithographs, made between 1959 and 2004.

Sughi died in Bologna in March 2012 at the age of 83.  Today, his works are held in the collections of the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the Galleria d’Arte Maggiore in Bologna, among others.

The Piazza del Popolo is the main square of Cesena
The Piazza del Popolo is the main square of Cesena
Travel tip:

Cesena, where Alberto Sughi was born, is an historic city in Emilia-Romagna, about 38km (24 miles) south of Ravenna and a similar distance northwest of Rimini. The city found fame of an unwanted kind in 1377 when Pope Gregory’s legate ordered the murder of thousands of citizens for revolting against the papal troops, in the so-called ‘Cesena bloodbath’. The city recovered and prospered under the rule of the Malatesta family in the 14th and 15th centuries, who rebuilt the castle, Rocca Malatestiana, and founded a beautiful library, Biblioteca Malatestiana, which has been preserved in its 15th century condition and still holds valuable manuscripts.

A pair of giant hands reaching from the water to prop up the Ca' Sagredo Hotel was an exhibit at the 2017 Venice Biennale
A pair of giant hands reaching from the water to prop up the
Ca' Sagredo Hotel was an exhibit at the 2017 Venice Biennale
Travel tip:

The Venice Biennale is an international art exhibition featuring architecture, visual arts, cinema, dance, music, and theatre that is held at various venues in the Castello district of Venice every two years during the summer. It was founded in 1895 as the International Exhibition of Art of the City of Venice to promote “the most noble activities of the modern spirit without distinction of country.” The festival expanded in 1932 to include the Venice International Film Festival and again in 1934 with the addition of the International Theatre Festival. After World War II it became the leading showcase for contemporary and avant-garde art and in 1998 it expanded again to include architecture and dance. It typically attracts more than 300,000 visitors to the city.

More reading:

Giorgio Morandi - the 20th century master of still life

How Giorgio de Chirico founded the scuola metafisica

The man who invented Concrete Art

Also on this day:

1658: The birth of Mary of Modena

1712: The birth of the great Venetian artist Francesco Guardi



Home



No comments:

Post a Comment