Biographical notes


Giannetto Fieschi is born on June 10, 1921, in Zogno, Bergamo. His father, David, was a respected and innovative surgeon, at the head of the surgery department of Ospedale Maggiore in Bergamo; his mother is Gina Levi. They are descendants of the historic medieval Genoese family of the Fieschi, Counts of Lavagna, whose family tree counts a saint, Santa Caterina, two blesseds, Tommasina and Bonifacio, two pontiffs, Innocent IV and Adrian V, several cardinals, bishops, admirals, patriots, patrons, and benefactors. The family established itself in Lombardy when, in the thirteenth century, Innocent IV, Sinibaldo Fieschi, gave the Fieschi, Conti di Lavagna, a certain amount of land between Piacenza and Cremona, in return for their services during the war against the emperor Frederick I. Through his father, who was a utopian and musician as well as a surgeon, Giannetto is exposed to a series of strong cultural stimuli, influenced by scientific-positivist thinking and by utopian socialism. His upbringing is Catholic. In 1931 he moves to Genova with his family, where he attends the Gymnasium and then the Classical Lyceum, already devoting himself to drawing and engraving at this age. In 1937 he meets Paul Klee in Aflenz, Styria, Austria. 1940 He begins studying medicine; he attends the Academy of Fine Arts in Genova and takes engraving lessons from Alberto Helios Gagliardo; in 1945 he studies painting under Giovanni Novaresio and fresco under Giovanni Bevilacqua. He abandons medical school. He works for the art critique section of the "Tribuna del Popolo". He shares for some time a studio in Piazza S. Agostino with Rocco Borella, “in which he humorously establishes the ‘School of Patechism’, that is, a ‘watermelon’ kind of painting, plethoric and flowing. He then moves his studio to the domed apartment in via Monticelli, haunted by ghosts". In 1946 he receives the support of Felice Casorati and in 1947 Giulio Carlo Argan visits him in his studio, a figure who will later be of great support for Fieschi for over a decade. In 1948 he exhibits his work for the first time at the XXIV Venice Biennale. He begins the Cyclists engravings series, completed in 1950, and begins illustrating texts by Baudelaire and Mallarmé, which he will work on until 1953. He begins working with Francesco Arcangeli. In 1950 he is invited to the XXV Venice Biennale. In 1951, with Giulio Carlo Argan’s support, he wins a scholarship from the French Government and attends the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris; he carries out research on medieval semantics and graphics at the Sorbonne (with special attention to ocial and Gaelic scripts, from which, with symbolic figurative amendments, he develops the handwriting found in his paintings and his signature). He creates and exhibits (in 1953 at the Centre Saint Jacques) the Stations of the Cross cycle. In 1952, again with Giulio Carlo Argan’s support, he wins a scholarship from the Spanish Government, moving to Barcelona, where he visits the Museum of Catalan Art and its medieval frescoes, the Museu de la Catedral, the objects on display at the Mares Museum, and Antoni Gaudi’s architectures: "he is struck by objects, sacred and profane: like the openable bust of a Saint, within which purple and gold are kept". He develops much of the Stations of the Cross cycle. 1953 He begins his period in the U.S. "In Richmond, Virginia, he took the mantle of Edgar Allan Poe, in Poe's own house, a figure that was extremely significant to him: he had won a Fulbright Scholarship to stay in New York, having again received from Argan, president of the jury, an increase in vitality. He turns down courses at New York University and is assigned to its practical courses. He attends the celebrated Arts Students League. He chooses to take the preferred graphic direction by studying under Harry Sternberg and George Grosz, with whom he studies layout and is led to start the book of collages and drawings known as Cats Are Hungry. In August that year he holds his first of many solo shows in the U.S. at the Brown Hall at the College of William and Mary, in Willimsburg, Virginia. In New York he creates a pictorial setting he calls "the McPherson Shrine", at 122 Waverly Place, where he has his studio. He also creates, among others, the cycles of engravings Evangelistae and The Seven Deadly Sins (eight pieces). Some of his engravings will be then acquired by the Metropolitan Museum. It is at this time his father dies. In 1954 he takes part in the XXVII Venice Biennale. He wins a scholarship from the Art Students League, and with the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture for the Summer. 1957 He becomes a member of the ltaly Fulbright Association. He creates several pictorial settings in Genova: the entrance corridor of Casa Forno, in Vico Acquacalda 6, in Sestri; the hallway, the living room, and the double bedroom of Casa Ceccattini, in Vico Acquacalda 8, also in Sestri; the "seventeenth-century" double bedroom of Casa Finzi, in Corso Monte Grappa 9; the bathroom in Via di Famagosta 4; the staircase in Casa Primavera, in Marina di Massa; the Assembly Hall in the Palazzo del Genio Civile, in Imperia. In 1958 he marries Rosina De Battista in Genova; he has two children, Limbania and Ibleto. He is elected fellow of the Pontifical Academy in Rome. Having won an international competition (again with Argan’s support), he returns to the USA in September that year to direct, until 1961, the Department of Fine Arts of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. In these years he also comes to teach Aesthetics along with Painting and Engraving, holding courses on Primitive Art, The Eighteenth Century Concept of the Sublime, The Basis of Classical Art, The Aesthetic Theory of Benedetto Croce, and Modern Dynamic Pre-Art Forces in Art. He also directs the University’s Art Gallery’s activities. He becomes fellow of The American Federation of Arts and The American Association of University Professors. He creates the cycle of paintings The four Seasons for the walls of the Gailor Dining Hall of the University of South, a mural that will be inaugurated in April 1959. His mother, Gina Levi, dies. 1959 He is elected Academic Professor of merit at the Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti in Genova. Between 1959 and 1961, he makes fifteen large engravings of Santa Caterina Fieschi’s Treatise on the condition of souls in Purgatory (which have yet to be published adequately). 1961 He donates some of his works to a black church in Baltimore. After declining the US citizenship that was offered to him, he leaves the direction of the Department of Fine Arts of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and returns to Genova. 1962 The Arbalest Press in Boston publishes Talbot Lawrence Talbot’s text A Study on the Neologism of Figure in the Paintings of Giannetto Fieschi. 1963 Fieschi’s meeting with Enrico Crispolti gives life to the idea for an exhibition to accompany one of Sergio Vacchi at L'Aquila in Elements of Contemporary Art. There is an exchange of letters with Bruno Sargentini, the owner of the Roman gallery L'Attico, to organise a solo exhibition, that would not however take place. He comes into contact with Cesare Zavattini. 1964 At the XXXII Venice Biennale he presents his great painting From the gallows Antoine Laurent Lavoisier proves and proclaims the indestructibility of matter, censored by the patriarch of Venice. From 1965 Fieschi is engaged in an intense exhibition activity and in constant collaborations with the critical activities of Francesco Arcangeli, Franco Solmi, Luigi Carluccio, Antonio Del Guercio, Enrico Crispolti, Mario De Micheli, Duilio Morosini, Luciano Caramel, Gérard Gassiot-Talabot, who invites Fieschi to the La Figuration Narrative dans l 'art contemporain exhibition in Paris, and Renato Barilli. In 1970 Silva Editore in Rome publishes Gian Paolo Boetti’s monograph Epistemology through Style in Giannetto Fieschi. In 1971 Giovanni Lagustena creates in Genova, in Via Nizza 8, a sort of shrine dedicated to Fieschi known as "Private Honours". "He was a precious gatherer of his arbitrary taxonomies whom the Austere Master would coordinate in weekly mythologies as subjects to 'Divine Giannetto'". In 1972 he takes part in the X Art Quadrennial in Rome, while in the summer of 1973 he begins the Danger cycle of paintings, completed in 1977 for the Anthological exhibition in San Gimignano, Siena. It is on this occasion that the precious lithographic book on Danger was published. The exhibition resulted in the establishment of the Fieschi Museum in San Gimignano, a project that evolved into a conspicuous presence of his most significant secular paintings in some of the rooms of the Gallery of Contemporary Art of San Gimignano, which will be inaugurated in 1999. In 1977, in Genova, he moves to Corso Carbonara. In 1980 he creates the large Pentecost altarpiece, a 370 x 245 cm panel for the Parish Church of Alte Ceccato, Vicenza. He is appointed professor of Engraving Techniques at the Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti in Genova, where he will teach until 1995. In 1982 his brother dies, Andrea, a writer and a poet.

Fieschi takes part in many important exhibitions in the following years, bringing his work to the Visconti Castle in Pavia, the Royal Spanish College in Bologna, the Spanish Academy in Rome, Villa Croce, the St. Augustine Museum, and the XI Art Quadrennial in Rome. 1987 He holds a drawing course in Como at the Ratti Foundation as part of the educational activities directed by Francesco Somaini and Giuliano Collina. At the end of the 1980s he starts working with ceramics. In 1988 he begins working on a great sculptural ensemble in bronze, Monument to Santa Caterina Fieschi, completed in 1996. In 1992 the project for a large donation of sacred paintings is born to establish the Fieschi Collection within the Staurós Museum of Contemporary Sacred Art, accompanied by a conference on The sacred in Fieschi. In 1996, on the occasion of its Anthological Exhibition, a number of paintings were donated to the Sanremo City Museum. In 2001 the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Genova e Imperia publishes a monograph titled "Giannetto Fieschi. Painter”. The artist dies on March 15, 2010, in Genova.