Alberto Martini

Alberto Martini

Alberto Martini (Alberto Giacomo Spiridione) was born in 1876 in Oderzo. In 1879 he moved with his family to Treviso, where his father taught design at the Riccati Technical Institute. Between 1890 and 1895 he began to paint and draw under the guidance of his father (who was described by Vittorio Pica as a unique and caring teacher). During his training Martini produced countless drawings, immediately revealing a predilection for graphics. In 1895 he started his first series of illustrations in pen in ink for ‘Morgante Maggiore’ by Luigi Pulci. He quickly grew tired of this project and instead turned his attentions to illustrating ‘Secchia Rapita’ by Alessandro Tassoni, which he devoted himself to until 1903. In 1896 he began illustrating a graphic cycle for ‘Il Poema Del Lavoro’, which consisted of 9 pen drawings in ink. In 1897 he exhibited 14 drawings at the second Venice Biennale for ‘La Corte Dei Miracoli’, which were presented the following year in Monaco and at the International Exhibition of Turin alongside his drawings for ‘Il Poema Del Lavoro’. In 1898 Martini stayed in Monaco and worked as an illustrator for the magazines Dekorative Kunst and Jugend. A pivotal moment in Martini’s career came when he met the artist Vittorio Pica at the International Exhibition of Turin. Pica would go on to support the works of Martini both in Italy and throughout Europe. In 1901 he executed his first cycle of 19 watercolour and pen drawings for the illustrated edition of ‘La Divina Commedia’, commissioned by Alinari of Florence with the intercession of Pica. Following this he participated in the IV Venice Biennale, presenting drawings from ‘La Secchia Rapita’ – 38 of these drawings were subsequently bought by the Gallery of Modern Art in Rome. In the summer of 1905 Martini started to execute display boards for the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, which he worked on until 1909. In 1912, encouraged by Pica, Martini began to paint and became particularly fond of the medium of pastel. Examples of such works are, ‘Le Sinfonie Del Sole (L ‘Aurora, La Notte, I Fiumi’) and the pastel ‘Farfalla Gialla’. At the outbreak of World War I, he made 54 lithographs entitled, ‘Danza Macabra’, through which he revealed his anti-German sentiments. These lithographs were then printed in postcard size and distributed among the allies as propaganda against the German empire. Martini also showed great interest in theatre, creating 84 colour drawings in pen and watercolour and six panels in tempera for the costumes of the ballet ‘Il Cuore Di Cera’. In 1923, Martini envisioned the idea for a theatre on water named ‘Tetiteatro’, which as its name suggests, was dedicated to the sea goddess Thetis. Disappointed and saddened by the hostility of the Italian critics, who in the late twenties seemed to completely ignore his work, Martini moved to Paris where he found friends in high places and many admirers of his art. Whilst in the French capital Martini immersed himself in the environment of critics and writers, befriending Solito de Solis, a musician and art lover who introduced him to the aristocratic salons of Paris. In 1940 Martini was forced to return to Milan due to his precarious financial situation. Here, at the Milan Triennale, he executed the sketch for the triptych ‘Battaglia d’uomini e demoni.’ Between 1935 and 1936 Martini revealed his anti-novecentism through his publication in the journal ‘Perseus’, which displayed his bitingly satirical drawings, captions and cartoons. He died on 8th November 1954 in Milan, requesting in his Last Will and Testament the establishment of a museum to guard the memories and documents of Italian Surrealism.