Roberto Iras Baldessari (1894 Innsbruck – 1965 Rome)
Scene at St. Mark’s Basillica in Venice
Material: Oil on hardboard
Dimension: 26 x 30 cm
About the Artist:
Roberto Iras Baldessari was an Italian painter and engraver.
A pupil of Luigi Comel at the Royal Elizabethan School of Rovereto, he completed his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, where he came into contact with the artists of Ca’ Pesaro. Moving to Florence in 1915, he joined Futurism and frequented the group of artists at Le Giubbe Rosse café, also collaborating with the magazines L’Italia futurista and Roma futurista.
In the early 1920s he stayed in central Europe, where he experimented with Dadaist and abstractionist works. He then settled in Rome where he devoted himself mainly to engraving and landscape painting.
In the 1930s he made another trip to Europe, participating in numerous international exhibitions. After a brief return to futurism that culminated in his participation in the 19th Venice Biennale and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s 1934 Exhibition of Aeropainting, he settled permanently in Rovereto where he produced engravings and frescoes.
Roberto Marcello Baldessari was born in Innsbruck on March 23, 1894. Shortly afterwards the family left the city because of anti-Italian riots and moved to Rovereto.
His father bought the Caffè Accademia, a meeting hub for irredentists, where at the age of ten Baldessari began drawing the café’s patrons. In 1908 Luigi Comel, a professor at the Royal Elizabethan School, convinced his father to enroll him in the Venice Academy of Fine Arts. Baldessari stayed in Venice seven years, from 1908 to 1914. Here he had Guglielmo Ciardi and Emanuele Brugnoli as teachers and got to know many artists from the Ca’ Pesaro group, including Umberto Moggioli, Lucillo Grassi, Tullio Garbari, Gino Rossi, Arturo Martini, Ugo Valeri and critic Nino Barbantini. In 1914 he graduated and won the Scala Prize for landscape painting. During this period he joined Futurism and made his first experimental paintings.
In 1915 he moved with his family to Florence, where he enrolled in the Santa Croce Professional School of Decorative and Industrial Arts. Here he also began to frequent the café Le Giubbe Rosse where he met Florentine futurists, particularly Primo Conti, Achille Lega, Emilio Notte, Ottone Rosai, Emilio Settimelli, Ardengo Soffici and Lucio Venna. During this period Baldessari developed his own Futurist style, taking as his model the analytical method of Umberto Boccioni as opposed to the analogical method of Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero. In 1916 he made a trip to Milan where he met Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and other Lombard futurists, and later was a guest of Nino Pasi in Lugo, where he participated in the Art Exhibition. He also began to collaborate with the magazines L’Italia futurista and Roma futurista. In 1918 he went to Milan again, where he participated in a group exhibition at the Palazzo della Permanente. The following year he participated with 14 paintings in the National Futurist Exhibition at Palazzo Cova in Milan.
Between 1920 and 1925 Baldessari stayed in central Europe: in Berlin he met German painters Max Liebermann and Max Beckmann, Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Archipenko and Der Sturm editor Herwarth Walden, in Hanover Justus Bier, Kurt Schwitters and Friedrick Vordemberge-Gildewart. In 1921 he participated in the Futurist exhibition in Paris. In the following years he stayed in France and Spain, and to distinguish himself from architect Luciano Baldessari he adopted the name “Iras.” In 1923-1924 he expands his artistic horizons to Dadaism and abstractionism; however, his experiments are not understood in Italy. He then decided to devote himself to landscape painting and etching, particularly etchings. In 1925 he returned to Italy and the following year had a solo exhibition at the Casa d’arte Bragaglia in Rome. From 1926 to 1930 he lived in Rome, where he produced the Roman Puntesecche, Roman Lithographs and Roman Drawings.
From 1930 to 1935 Baldessari again traveled around Europe, particularly to Switzerland, Germany, and France. He exhibited in Zurich, Hamburg, Berlin, and Paris, and in 1934 participated in the Futurist section of the Venice Art Biennale. In the same year he also participated in the Italian Aeropainting Exhibition desired by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. However, he very soon abandoned this return to futurism to devote himself again to engravings and frescoes. In 1939 he participated in the Mostra d’Oltremare in Naples and the following year settled permanently in Rovereto. In October-November 1940 he participated in the IX exhibition of the Sindacato fascista belle arti in Bolzano with a portrait, executed together with Lucillo Grassi, of Italo Balbo, obtaining third prize in the category of works extolling the “era of Mussolini.” In 1957 the first monograph on Baldessari’s work, focusing on the Futurist period, was published by Rinaldo Corti. In 1958 he is included in the Archivi del Futurismo by Maria Drudi Gambillo and Teresa Fiori. In 1962 Riccardo Maroni’s monograph Roberto Iras Baldessari. Painter and Engraver, containing autobiographical notes on the artist. In the same year he held a large solo exhibition at Galleria Toninelli in Milan. On June 22, 1965, he died of heart failure in Rome.
One of Baldessari’s leading scholars is art historian Maurizio Scudiero, who compiled a Catalogue raisonné of the artist’s Futurist works and curated the retrospective R.M. Baldessari. Futurist Works at the Fonte d’Abisso Gallery in Milan in 1997. In 2011, however, the Casa d’arte futurista Depero in Rovereto dedicated the exhibition Roberto Iras Baldessari to the artist. Deposits and Acquisitions at the Mart.