Mario Sironi, Il camion giallo, 1918
Mario Sironi (1885-1961) was born in Sassari on the island of Sardinia, but spent his childhood in Rome. He embarked on the study of engineering at the University of Rome but quit after a nervous breakdown in 1903, one of many severe depressions that would recur throughout his life. Thereafter he dedicated himself to painting, and attended the Scuola Libera del Nudo, where he met Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and Umberto Boccioni. These artists, who would later become the leading Futurists, were then painting in a Neo-Impressionist style. Sironi's development closely tracked theirs, and he adopted the Futurist style by 1913.
Mario Sironi, La Lampada, 1919
After service in World War I, Sironi's version of Futurism gave way to an art of massive, immobile forms. In paintings such as La Lampada of 1919 (above), mannequins substitute for figures, as in the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. Like many artists in the period following the war, Sironi looked to the art of the past for inspiration, and works such as Solitudine (Solitude) of 1926 (below) with their contained, geometric forms, bear some kinship to the neoclassicism evident in works produced at the same time by Picasso.
Mario Sironi, Solitude, 1926
In 1922, together with Ubaldo Oppi, Achille Funi and others, Sironi founded the artist group Novecento Italiano. Toward the end of the 1920s, Sironi's style became more painterly. Through all of his stylistic developments, Sironi's was always a somber and dramatic vision, characterized by blocky forms, stark oppositions of light and shadow, and a generally pessimistic air.
Mario Sironi, Urban Landscape, 1923
A supporter of Mussolini, he contributed a large number of cartoons - over 1700 in all - to Il Popolo d'Italia and La Rivista Illustrata del Popola d'Italia, the Fascist newspapers. Rejecting the art market and the concept of the easel painting, he became committed to the ideal of a fusion of decoration and architecture, as exemplified by Gothic cathedrals. He felt that the mural was the proper basis of a popular national art.
Mario Sironi, Italy Between the Arts and Sciences, 1935
The state commissioned from him several large-scale decorative works in the 1930s, such as the mural L'Italia fra le arti e le scienze (Italy Between the Arts and Sciences) of 1935, (above) and he also contributed to the Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution in 1932. Although his esthetic of brutal monumentality represented the dominant style of Italian Fascism, his work was attacked by right-wing critics for its lack of overt ideological content.
Mario Sironi, The Motorcyclist, 1920s
As an artist closely identified with Fascism, his reputation declined dramatically in the post-World War II period. Embittered by the course of events, he also suffered the loss of his daughter Rossana by suicide in 1948. He had returned to easel painting in 1943, and worked now in relative isolation. The paintings of his later years sometimes approach abstraction, resembling assemblages of archaeological fragments, or juxtaposed sketches. He continued working until shortly before his death in 1961 in Milan.
Mario Sironi, Composizione con treno e figura, c. 1930
You can see more works of Sironi here in my Flickr set.