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Stories of women

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BETTO LOTTI biography

Betto Lotti, born in Taggia in 1894, was the son of Vincenzo, an art teacher, headmaster and painter, and Vittoria dei Marchesi Curlo, both of Ligurian origins.
He studied at the School of Art in Venice and later at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. Here, in the intensely intellectually stimulating environment of the Tuscan capital, his formative years and his first steps to becoming a painter and an etcher. He held his first exhibition in 1913, at the Cavour Gallery, together with his dear friend Ottone Rosai. The event was attended by artists of the calibre of Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founding fathers of Futurism, who impressed by the originality of the two young artists’ approach, encouraged them to pursue their path in the art world.
Drafted into the army in WWI, Lotti was later imprisoned and interned in the Sigmundsherberg concentration camp in Austria, where, despite being jailed, he was allowed to get back to painting, eventually winning his captors’ appreciation. As a result he was invited to hold an exhibition of his paintings in Vienna.
He returned to Florence in 1918, back to the lively Red Coats’ literary café art circle and joined the group of his old friends Giovanni Papini, Ardengo Soffici, Bruno Fallaci and Primo Conti.
Those were the years of his engagement as a journalist, illustrator and poster designer, both in Italy and abroad.
Hired as a designer and scale modeler at the Military Geographic Institute in Florence, he also collaborated with the newspaper “La Nazione”, for which he mostly wrote art reviews. He also worked as set designer for the city’s municipal theatre, for the “Teatro della Pergola” and for the “Veglionissimi della Stampa”.
He also started a fruitful collaboration with the Florentine art magazines “Gran Bazar” and “Arte Mediterranea” edited by Vallecchi and when “Gran Bazar” changed name to become “Eclettica”, Lotti was appointed as co-director and finally as director, for a period of time.
Given the great cultural upheaval of those years, Lotti engaged in a wide range of activities with prestigious assignments such as with the famous French billboard company Etablissements Vercasson in Paris. He designed a number of posters, among these the famous “Lotti Clown”, seldom found in Italy nowadays yet much sought-after by art collectors around the world.
In 1936 he earned a professorship and was assigned as an art teacher in Como, where he moved with his wife Angiola Faravelli and where their two daughters Maria Novella and Ilaria were born.
From now on and until 1964, the year of his retirement for reasons of age, he devoted himself to his career as a teacher, training various generations of students in the techniques of design and etching.
He also never stopped cultivating his activity as a painter, watercolourist and skilled designer. Founding partner of the Fine Arts Association in Como, he also became a member of the milanese cultural institute La Permanente, of the Tiberina Academy in Rome and finally a member of the Latinitati Excolendae Academy, also in Rome.
He participated in many collective exhibitions throughout Italy and with great success and held many solo exhibitions in various cities nationwide.
In the nearly 40 years spent in Como, he got acquainted with the artists of the renowned “Gruppo Como”, becoming a good friend of abstract painters Mario Radice, Manlio Rho, Aldo Galli, Carla Badiali. Whilst not adhering to their theories he was surely influenced by them, his painting turning harsh and more detailed.
He died suddenly on April 13, 1977 in Como.

BETTO LOTTI Stories of women

Female figures, as well as landscapes and still life are among the main subjects of Betto Lotti’s art; an artist of Ligurian origins and active in Como as of 1936, he worked on these, with great dedication and sensibility, during the sixty-five plus years of his artistic career, as the works on paper, selected for this exhibition, so well represent.

His is a manifold recounting of women’s stories: there are sketch studies, typical of all artists but also images capturing specific instants of the existence (from maternity to abandonment), his attention though mostly focusing on the various aspects of women at work.

The candor of his approach to this representation is already manifest in his earliest sketch (1927), a blood red pencil crayon portrait of a fishmonger, in which his use of hatching and shading, through vigorous strokes, brilliantly pictures the woman’s stride, a fish for sale filled basket on her head.

In the following years, the use of watercolour ink became a characteristic of his work, by which he defined not just the figure but also its spatiality and the atmosphere surrounding it.
In relation to this, therefore particularly significant, “Abbandono” (1944), featuring a woman lying on the sand, in a manner that suggests discouragement, surrender or even death, thus inevitably evoking the upsetting sight of today’s female victims of violence or that of the many illegal immigrants from the northern coasts of Africa following yet another shipwreck.
From a pictorial point of view it is significant to highlight the great simplicity and the incisiveness of the perspective angle that Lotti used here, as if to stress the scene’s tragic implications, weighted down by the ridge that cuts through the image and by the shadows that engulf the whole scene. The blue ink marking the contours of the body blends in with the black, thus “smearing” the scene.

Variations in the design techniques in Lotti’s work are a constant and are always adapted to the subject of the representation, so much so that the usual lightness in the narrative, turns somber at times, as in “Studio di teste” (1949), where Lotti pictured three characters with anguished looks and a child with his arms stretched out as if searching for someone.
The colour here is applied directly on a newspaper through dense, thick strokes, so that the printed text emerges in patches off the paper sheet and the light gives substance to the faces of the various characters.

An artist gifted with such sure hand, would not have needed to use such a wide range of techniques but Lotti’s scope was to give a unique incisiveness to his designs, an emphasis going well beyond the first perception of them.
By observing “Studio” (1944), the flyer’s cover image or “Le Mondine” (1958), featuring the rice weeders whose hard work Lotti had already celebrated in one of his paintings, rightfully considered a masterpiece, the appeal of these designs, marked out by the artist’s powerful strokes, becomes clear, their contours so well defined, also in their spatiality, again through ink strokes only and nothing more.

Luigi Cavadini

Commemorative event dedicated to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Part of the sale proceeds will go to “Telefono Donna Como” and will support “Cambiare con la moda”, a social project promoting employment opportunities for women survivors of violence.