Working in an array of materials, including wood, wire, plaster, and ceramics, Fausto Melotti is known for creating enigmatic and compelling sculptures whose symbolic forms express what has been described as the ‘inner realms of human experience.’ Melotti’s artistic career spanned the mid-20th century, drawing upon the influences of fellow Italians Giorgio de Chirico and Lucio Fontana.
Educated in Florence, Melotti, who was born in Rovereto in 1901, completed a degree in engineering, before enrolling at the Accademia di Brera in 1928 in Milan, where he studied sculpture alongside Lucio Fontana, with whom he became close friends. One of the leading sculptors of interwar Italy, Melotti’s early work was abstract, combining nature, rigorous geometry, and music in delicate and perfectly balanced brass or plaster sculptures. In 1931, he joined the French non-figurative movement, Abstraction-Création.
Following the trauma of the Second World War, Melotti’s work changed and became increasingly figurative, a turn described by some critics as a return to humanism. He began creating ceramic stage sets or ‘teatrini,’ which were narrative and theatrical in their appearance and meaning. As the post-war period progressed, Melotti gradually reintroduced metal elements into his sculpture, creating works composed of delicate threads and thin sheets of brass, iron, and gold. At once fragile and delicate, robust and dynamic, these whimsical works, unique within post-war sculpture, enabled Melotti to combine his love of music and story-telling with his interest in math and geometry.
Melotti’s first solo exhibition was held in 1935 at the Galleria del Milione in Milan. From this time onward, his work was regularly exhibited across Italy and beyond. In 1979, a retrospective was held at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, and two years later an exhibition was staged at the Forte Belvedere, in Florence. Melotti’s work was subsequently shown in solo and group shows in New York, London, Zurich, Frankfurt, and Paris. Today his work can be found in public collections throughout the world.
Fausto Melotti died on June 22, 1986, the same year he was posthumously awarded the Golden Lion at the 42nd Venice Biennale.