Born in Novara, Felice Casorati [1883-1963] spent his formative years in Padua, where he developed an interest in music and literature. He began to paint in 1902, and read law at the University of Padua, graduating in 1906, while frequenting the studio of Giovanni Viannello (1873-1926). Casorati's early paintings were in the symbolist mode of the Vienna Secession. His adherence to this style was strengthened by seeing Klimt's installation at the 1910 Venice Biennale, where he met the Austrian painter. Casorati had spent the years 1908 to 1911 in Naples, where he particularly admired the work of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which he saw in the Museo di Capodimonte.
Between 1911-1914, Casorati lived in Verona, where he was the co-founder with Pino Tedeschi and Umberto Zerbinati of the periodical 'La Via Lattea', for which he made a number of symbolist woodcuts. Some of the etchings of this period have echoes of the drawings of Frances Macdonald MacNair, one of the four Glasgow artist designers whose work had received great acclaim in 1902 at the international exhibition in Turin, as well as of the work of Klimt, twenty-two of whose paintings were exhibited at the Venice Biennale. He was closely associated with a group of young artists , including Gino Rossi, Pio Semeghini and the sculptor Arturo Martini, all of whom made prints, who showed in Venice at the Ca' Pesaro. Its director, Nino Barbantini, encouraged them in their rebellion against the tired academicism then dominant in the Veneto. Before being called up into the Italian army in 1915, Casorati made his first sculptures in varnished terracotta, a medium favoured by Martini.
Casorati settled in Turin in 1918, where he soon became a central figure in artistic and intellectual circles. He established friendships with the pianist and composer, Alfredo Casella, and the anti-fascist agitator, Piero Gobetti, whose Amici di Rivoluzione Liberale he joined in 1922. Gobetti championed Casorati's work in Antonio Gramsci's newspaper 'Ordine Nuovo'. Casorati's radical associations led to his arrest for a brief period in 1923. Casorati's paintings of the 1920s were radically different from his pre-war work, which he rejected as immature. Solidly constructed figures were set securely in spaces organised on the model of Quattrocento perspectival systems, especially that of Piero della Francesca. Also important for Casorati were the dramatically foreshortened figures of Mantegna. The stillness, purity, and rigidity of his compositions resemble those of the contemporary Neue Sachlichkeit movement in Germany.
In 1923 Casorati set up his own school for young artists, where he trained several of the painters, who later formed the Gruppo di Sei di Torino. He was also the co-founder of the Società Belle Arti Antonio Fontanesi, which organised exhibitions of nineteenth century, and contemporary Italian and foreign art. Much of Casorati's work in the 1920s and 1930s was in the field of decorative art leading to his appointment in 1928 as Professor of Interior Design at the Accademia Albertina in Turin, a post which he held until his appointment to the chair of Painting at the same institution in 1941. Casorati's principal patron, the Turin industrialist, Riccardo Gualino, commissioned Casorati to work with the architect, Alberto Sartoris, on the Piccolo Teatro, and on other decorative schemes. Casorati also designed costumes and sets for La Scala in Milan and the Maggio Musicale, as well as a building for part of the Piedmontese Pavilion at the 1927 International Biennale of decorative arts at Monza, once again working with Sartoris.
Casorati made about 150 prints, but very few of these were published in editions in his lifetime. He experimented with a wide variety of techniques, using papyrus, slate and terracotta matrices, probably under the influence of Arturo Martini, as well as more conventional methods. Casorati made his first etching in 1907. Some of his earliest etchings and woodcuts show knowledge of the early woodcuts of Kandinsky. Casorati's painfully thin elongated nudes may also reflect an interest in the work of the Belgian sculptor, Georges Minne. Two landscape colour lithographs of c.1912 are almost direct interpretations of the paintings of Klimt. For a brief period in 1914-1915, Casorati abandoned his Secessionist style, making woodcuts in an expressionist vein in spirit close to the Tuscan artists promoted in Cozzani's 'L'Eroica', Lorenzo Viani and Moses Levy.
Casorati seems to have made no further prints until 1927, by which time his style had become an Italian version of Neue Sachlichkeit. The simplified mannequin like figures that feature in his prints of the late 1920s and 1930s remained in his etchings, lithographs and linocuts for the rest of his career. From the 1930, several of Casorati's subjects were biblical and their compositions are often reminiscent of late fifteenth and sixteenth century Italian painting. The female nude, in repose or asleep, and bathers were other motifs that were popular with him. He also executed a few very striking and schematic landscapes. Casorati's livres d'artiste, all illustrated by lithographs, included Ugo Foscolo's 'Le Grazie: Carme', published by Edizioni della Collezione del Bibliofilo in Turin in 1946, a firm that also issued a portfolio of six of his lithographs the same year, Neri Pozza's 1947 edition of the New Testament, and an edition of Paul Valery's Cantique des Colonnes, published by RAI -TV in 1959. /from Martin Hopkinson © Trustees of the British Museum
Casorati, Felice - Pittore italiano (Novara 1883 - Torino 1963). Una delle figure più eminenti nel movimento artistico moderno in Italia. Nato a Novara il 4 dicembre 1886, vivente a Torino. Si è laureato in legge a Padova nel 1907. Si dedicò alla pittura frequentando lo studio di Giovanni Vianello e studiando Tiziano. Col ritratto della sorella, esposto a Venezia nel 1907, si rivelò pittore di notevole distinzione. Trasferitosi a Napoli (1908-1911) si rimise a studiare dal gesso e dal naturale, e dipinse alcuni quadri di figura, ove, sul caratteristico delle Vecchie (Galleria Nazionale di Roma) e delle Ereditiere, andò preponderando a poco a poco l'intento allegorico di Signorine (Gall. di Venezia). A Verona trascorse un periodo di tormentosa incertezza (1911-1915). La pittura allegorica lo aveva portato alla Trasfigurazione, col pericolo di cadere nell'astruso o nel caricaturale; il futurismo lo interessava, ma non lo convinceva; cercò inutilmente un diversità nel decorativismo del Klimt, nei musicalismo del Kandinsky; fondò una rivista: La via lattea.
Dopo la guerra, alla quale partecipò, rimanendo ferito, si stabilì a Torino e ritornò alla ricerca della verità. Intanto nel 1920, a Venezia, conosceva l'opera di Cézanne. Ancora incerto e inquieto per un biennio, solo nel '21 il C. arrivò a una faticosa conquista della forma in Le due sorelle (coll. Gualino) dov'è ancora evidente uno sforzo di volontà. Ma poco dopo, tra il '22 e il '24, raggiunse un perfetto equilibrio ed una completa fusione di forma e di colore nel gruppo di opere esposte nella XIV biennale veneziana (ritratti della sorella, ora nel Museo Civico di Torino, e di Renato Gualino; Meriggio, al Museo Revoltella di Trieste, Lo studio, Concerto). Il successo veneziano del '24 si ripeteva nel '28, specialmente con Ragazze addormentate, Dafne (coll. Ojetti) e alcune squisite nature morte: opere nelle quali era finalmente e logicamente raggiunto uno stile chiaro e preciso, disadorno e aristocratico, originale e tradizionale al tempo stesso; mentre nelle sue ultime opere, come Lo straniero (Galleria d'arte moderna di Firenze) sembra che il C. tenda quasi ad ammorbidire un po' quella maniera squadrata e compatta. Il Casorati ha ottenuto lusinghieri successi anche all'estero. /Nello Tarchiani © Treccani, Enciclopedia Italiana