Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ubaldo Oppi

He must have sensed the knives of pain in his own body to operate with them successfully. (Ernst Jünger, The Adventurous Heart, 1929)

 Ubaldo Oppi, La giovane sposa, 1922

Ubaldo Oppi (1889-1942) was born in Bologna as the son of a merchant and spent his youth in Vicenza. He was largely self-taught as a painter staying in Germany and Austria between 1907 and 1909. In Vienna, he attended the lessons of Gustav Klimt and, at the same time, studied anatomy. After spending a year in Italy in 1911 he moved to Paris, where he sought to combine his experience of Secessionism with expressive elements and vibrant colors. Later, Oppi studied the Italian painting of the Tre-and Quattrocento as well as Picasso's blue period. Talking about Picasso: His lover at that time, Fernande Olivier, left Picasso during a stormy love affair with Oppi.

Ubaldo Oppi, Donna alla finestra, 1921

Towards the end of the World War I Oppi spent some time in Austrian captivity where he produced a series of drawings anticipating many design elements of the New Objectivity. After another stay in Paris (1919-1922), he settled in Milan where, in 1922, he founded together with Achille Funi, Mario Sironi and others the artist group Novecento Italiano. Although he immediately distanced himself ideologically, he used the group's organization until the late twenties to show his works not only in Italy but also abroad to a larger audience.

Ubaldo Oppi, Artist and Model (Self-Portrait), 1920

Portraits played an important role in Oppi's art. A hard linearity and almost frozen colors predominate. The cool and distanced portrait artist and his wife, both of 1920 gives the impression of a lack of communication. While Oppi is shown as a painter, his wife holds the score of a Mozart sonata in her hand, allegorically showing the union of the two arts.

 Ubaldo Oppi, The Three Surgeons, 1926

One of Oppi's most significant paintings, The Three Surgeons of 1926, displays a group of doctors with cold technical precision and accuracy. It might well be that this painting was inspired by Max Oppenheimer's Operation (produced during Oppi's stay in Vienna) and that it in turn influenced Christian Schad's famous 1929 operation painting (Schad stayed in Italy between 1920 and 1927 where he developped his style studying the Novecento Italiano artists).

Christian Schad, Operation, 1929

In Oppi's later years religious motives became increasingly important. 1928 and 1930-32 he produced large-scale wall paintings with Christian themes. Ubaldo Oppi died on 25.10.1942 in Vicenza.

 Ubaldo Oppi, The Surgeon, 1913

You can see more works of Ubaldo Oppi here in my Flickr set.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for your reply on the Schad thread! I keep reading it and looking at all the paintings and every time I discover something new!

    I am just going to send a copy of the Three surgeons here to someone. I found it interesting that one of them is smoking ... obviously painted before all the health risks had been written about. His hand is wonderful. I love the sparse quality of the design and the white overalls look so monk like ... almost Zurbaran!
    I am drawn to the look on the cat's face in the portrait of Marcella (back with Christian Schad) ... I am not over fond of cats actually! but this one is very expressive and makes me laugh.