Alberto Magnelli

(Firenze, 1888 – Paris, 1971)


Born in Florence, he came from a family of wealthy textile traders. Magnelli taught himself to paint, studying from pictures in museums and from fifteenth century frescoes in Tuscan churches. In 1911, he came into contact with Futurism through Giovanni Papini and Soffici, and with Cubism through the illustrations in Apollinaire's 'Les Peintres cubists: Méditations esthétiques', before he travelled to Paris in 1914. There, Magnelli purchased paintings by Picasso, Gris, and Carrà, and sculpture by Archipenko for his uncle's collection. In this period, Magnelli’s work was primarily figurative. The artist’s first abstract works appeared during the winter of 1914 – 1915. At the outbreak of the First World War, Magnelli was in Italy, where for two years he painted entirely abstract works, before returning to figuration after an interruption due to military service and illness. From 1925, Magnelli began to use brighter tones again, and simplified both his modelling and perspective.

During World War II, the artist lived in Grasse, France, keeping company with artists Robert Delaunay and Jean Arp. Beginning in 1936, Magnelli created textural geometric collages, such as Cahiers d’Art (ca. 1937), using materials including corrugated cardboard, emery cloth, music paper, stitched wire, and metal plates.

During this time, Magnelli also participated in the activities of the Abstraction–Création group with Vasily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Arp. He returned to Paris in 1944, and soon began making refined geometric works such as Diffuse Light (Lumière diffuse, 1950). In 1959 he moved to Meudon, France, where he died on April 20, 1971.

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