Fortunato Depero was born on March 30th 1892 in Fondo (Trentino) and died in Rovereto on November 28th 1960. He attended the Scuola Reale Elisabettina in Rovereto where his family moved a few years after his birth. This was a school that aimed to the development of technical specialisation and applied arts, like many other Austrian schools of the age (Trentino until 1918 was an Austrian region).
While Depero followed his courses, there attended the same school artists such as Luciano Baldessari, Fausto Melotti, Umberto Maganzini (with the futurist nick-name of "Trillucci ), Lionello Fiumi, Tullio Garbari and Carlo Belli (the father of Italian abstractism).
Depero's first artistic works can be dated 1907:
these were paintings,drawings, water-colours and sculptures. The following year he was refused the admission to the Academy of Fine Arts in Wien.
Then, in 1910, after a quick stay in Turin (where he worked as a decorator's help at the International Exhibition) he returned to Rovereto to work as an apprentice with a marble worker named Scanagatta.
In 1911 he exhibited twice in Rovereto, drawings of social realism and symbolism, at Giovanni Giovannini's bookshop, a local maecenas, and once again he exhibited there in 1913. Still in 1913 he travelled to Florence, together with his friend Tullio Garbari: there he found a copy of the paper "Lacerba" and began his approach to Futurism. In June, the same year, he published a small book entitled Spezzature: Impressioni - Segni - Ritmi, a collection of prose, poetry, grotesque and symbolist drawings.
Then, after another exhibition in Rovereto, early in December we find him in Rome where he visited the exhibition of Boccioni at Sprovieri's Gallery, being deeply impressed. In February 1914 he was again in Rome at Sprovieri's and came into contact with Balla, Cangiullo and Marinetti, and on March 28th he participated to the first dynamic and synoptic declaiming of the poem "Piedigrotta" by Marinetti and Cangiullo, the author. From April 13th until May 25th he took part to the "Esposizione Libera Futurista Internazionale" at Sprovieri's gallery and he was the only one who sold some paintings. During the following month he held a one-man exhibition at the Circolo Sociale in Rovereto. Then, in July, he was in Trento and as he was inaugurating another exhibition the World War I broke out.
So he hurried back to Italy and settled down in Rome, far from Austrian Authorities. In winter 1914-1915 should be mentioned the visit of Boccioni to Depero's studio, to see his ''motion-noisy-plastic-complexes", and shortly after Depero's official admission to the first circle of Futurist Painters and Sculptors. Meanwhile he began to work together with Giacomo Balla and on March 11th 1915 they signed the manifesto Ricostruzione Futurista dell'Universo (Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe).
On April 15th he took part, together with a Futurist group (of which Balla, Marinetti and Cangiullo formed part) in the interventionist demonstration in Piazza Venezia, in Rome. The following May he enlisted as a voluntary soldier under the Italian Army (82nd Infantry Regiment) and went to the front although he was declared unfit for military service.
Soon after he returned to Rome where he continued to work intensively despite his poor conditions of health and money during all the winter 1915-1916
In late January 1916 Boccioni reported his impressions about the visit to Depero's studio on the magazine ''Gli Avvenimenti'', of Milan.
During the March of the same year Depero composed "noise-songs" and "onomalinguistic poems".
Then, from April 25th to May 15th he exhibited in his first one-man exhibition in Rome, in Corso Umberto. Later he met Diaghilev, the manager of ther Russian Ballets, who visited him in his studio together with Massine and Larionov then in Rome for their show. Diaghilev commissioned him with the construction of the stage scenes and with the plastic-mobile costumes for "Le Chant du Rossignol'' by Stravinskij (which was not realised, probably because of Picasso's pressure on Diaghilev).
Also of these days were several projects of costume-designs ("changeable" and "luminous") for a planned ballet entitled ''Mimismagia" (Magic-mimic dance).
In 1917 the painter Amedeo Modigliani visited his studio. Then, in the spring of the same year Diaghilev asked him to design also the costumes for Francesco Cangiullo's "Giardino Zoologico" (Zoological Garden), a ballet which should have had music written by Ravel (but even this project wasn't accomplished) . Soon after he met Gilbert Clavel, a Swiss poet, who invited him in Capri in order to work together to his book ''Un Istituto per Suicidi'' (Suicides' Institute),
a decadent novel which Depero illustrated with many drawings, then published in Rome by Tavolato.
In Capri they had also the first ideas for the Plastic Theatre, a set of choreographies where they planned to use puppets instead that real dancers.
On September 8th Depero inaugurated an exhibition at the "Sala Morgano" in Anacapri, where he showed his first attempts of tapestry decorations and wall-hangings. Back in Rome he maintained a written relationship with Clavel with whom he then realised the ideas for the Plastic Theatre in the show ''Balli Plastici'' (Plastic Ballets), staged at the "Teatro dei Piccoli" in Rome on April 15th 1918 (and after run eleven times). Musics were written by Casella, Tyrwhitt, Malipiero and Bartok (under the name of Chermenow).
The show featured puppets instead of alive actors:
a mechanical but joyful vision of the world.
In February 1919 he held a one-man exhibition at the ''Casa d'Arte Bragaglia'', in Rome, guest of the famous photographer and inventor of the Futurist photodynamism. He then moved to Viareggio where he took part to an important exhibition at the Kursaal Palace, and shortly after to Milan for the National Futurist Exhibition at Palazzo Cova. On May 27th for the National Futurist Exhibition at the Galleria Moretti, in Genoa, he declaimed ''abstract-words-in- freedom'' and held a lecture. In June 1919 he returned to Rovereto in order to work at the realisation of his own "Casa d'Arte Futurista" (Futurist Art House) in within his wife Rosetta collaborated as supervisor of tapestries-workroom .
In 1920 there were commissioned the first consistent orders of big-size tapestries by Umberto Notari, director of the paper "L'Ambrosiano" and of the advertising agency "Le Tre I'' of Milan.
In this period he also accomplished his first advertising placards. From December 1920 to January 1921 he participated with Balla, Prampolini, Russolo and Sironi in the "Exposition d'Art Moderne" of Geneva. Then, from January 20th to February 20th 1921 he showed his works in a large one-man exhibition at the ''Galleria Centrale d'Arte'' of Palazzo Cova in Milan. The exhibition was later moved to Rome, once again at the "Casa d'Arte Bragaglia".
In September of the same year he began the decoration and furnishing of the "Cabaret del Diavolo" (Devil's Cabaret) upon request of Gino Gori, the dramatist.
The Cabaret was a sort of Dantesque bolgia attended by futurists, actors, anarchists, metaphysicians and dadaists. It was opened on April 19th 1922 following a backward route that symbolised a descending "Heaven-Purgatory-Hell" course. For the inauguration soirée with the invitation-card "ladies were asked to turn themselves into red, green or blue (their costumes, of course) in order to be in tune with the Cabaret's decorations". During May and June 1922 Depero moved to Turin for an exhibition at the "Galleria Subalpina" of Winter Club. Perhaps, to support this exhibition, Depero invented the first aerial-advertising in the history of Art. In fact, two biplanes of SIAC of Turin covered the sky of the town with hundreds of leaflets with the colours of the Italian flag and the invitation to visit the exhibition.
In January and February 1923 Depero organised his famous two "Veglie Futuriste" (Futurist Parries) in connection with the beginning and the end of the Carnival. For this purpose he redecorated his Futurist- House, with the help of Carlo Belli, Gino Pollini, Luciano Baldessari and Fausto Melotti.In Parma, Piero Illari, the director of "Rovente", a weekly futurist magazine, devoted n. 7-8 of May 1923 to the ''glorification of the Maison Magique of Depero''and to his role in the ''1st International Exhibition of Decorative Art" of Monza, where Depero had a personal room.
In October of the same year he showed his tapestries and cushions in a one-man exhibition at La Mendola, near Trento.
On the January 10th 1924 the Company of the Nuovo Teatro Futurista at the Trianon Theatre of Milan presented his mechanical ballet "Anihccam of 3000" which was staged successively in other twenty Italian towns, with the usual riots, fightings and vegetable throws. During this tour Depero realised his famous gilets later worn by Marinetti, Jannelli and himself. From April to October 1925 he took part with a personal room (together with Balla and Prampolini)
in the "International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts" held in Paris, France.
In the following December Depero showed his tapestries and paintings in a one-man exhibition at the Théatre des Champs Elysées. In February 1926 he took part in the first “Novecento” Exhibition at the Palazzo della Permanente in Milan. During the following June he was present at the Theatre Exhibition in New York and at the "Italian Art Exhibition", held in New York, Washington and Boston. Then he took part in the XV Venice Biennial with the Futurist group, exhibiting wall-hangings and paintings.
In January 1927 he participated in the Exhibition of Futurist Painting at the Casa del Fascio in Bologna and in May, with the Futurist group, in the Quadriennale in Turin. During the same year he took part also in the 3rd International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Monza where he accomplished the famous "Book Pavilion" upon request of the publishers Bestetti- Tumminelli-Treves.
This was an exhibit-structure formed by several printing types of various size used as bricks, to symbolise the typographic process.
Still in 1927 it was published by the Dinamo-Azari editions of Milan, the mythical "Depero Futurista'' better known as ''libro bullonato" (bolted book), a real revolution in typography layout and first sample of an object-book; a masterpiece in the history of printing of this century.
During these years He is deeply involved in advertising work, expecially for the Campari firm,
for which he ralised a hundred and more projects for newspaper ads as well for big poster printing.
In September 1928 he went to New York where in January 1929 he held a one-man exhibition at the "Guarino Gallery of Italian Contemporary Art", showing his tapestries and paintings, and then exhibiting in other galleries such as the "Advertising Club" in Madison Avenue.
In New York Depero was mostly engaged with advertising and stage settings. He designed covers for some New York magazines such as Vanity Fair, Sparks, The News Auto Atlas, and others.
Then he designed ballet-costumes for the Roxy Theatre and realised also some interior designing,
in particular for the Zucca's and Enrico & Paglieri's Restaurants. Unfortunately, few time later both sites were destroyed because of the building of the Rockefeller Center.
While in New York Depero was asked to sign the manifesto "L'Aeropittura Futurista" (29th of September 1929), which inaugurated a new (curse) in Futurism. Actually, at the time, Depero's artistic point of view was quite far from that of Marinetti:
indeed he never painted something that could be related to the conceit of flying . He returned to Italy in October of 1930.
In 1931 Depero exhibited with the Futurist group at the First Quadriennale Nazionale d'Arte in Rome and then he published the book Numero Unico Futurista Campari 1931 a sort of advertising and artistic book at the same time, featuring a spiral binding.
During 1931-1932 he collaborated to various newspapers (such as "La Sera" of Milan, "Illustrazione Italiana" and "Secolo Illustrato''), writing some articles recalling his New York experience.
For the visit of Marinetti to Trentino in 1932 he edited a unique Futurist number which featured many writings and illustrations by other Futurists.
Along the same year he published on the weekly Futurist magazine "Futurismo" (directed by Mino Somenzi) the Manifesto dell'Arte Pubblicitaria Futurista (Futurist Advertising Art, Manifesto) that previously appeared also in the Numero Unico Futurista Campari 1931.
In 1932-1933 he also edited five numbers of the futurist magazine "Dinamo Futurista" that featured
a special number on Boccioni life and works. He took part in the XVIII Venice Biennial of 1932 with a personal room within the exhibition of aeropainting and Futurist painting, and then with the Futurist group in the V Triennial of Milan. In 1934 the publisher Morreale of Milan edited his Liriche Radiofoniche (Radio-Lyrics) ideated deliberately for radio broadcasting.
In 1936 he presented some works at the XX Venice Biennial and, in 1938, he published a book with the illustrations of the paintings realised for the "Dopolavoro" (Workers' free time clubs) of the 98 provinces of Italy. The last years the decade he engaged with the promotion of a new autarchic material, the buxus, used to realised furniture and object sof design.
In 1940 he published his fundamental autobiography, with writings, drawings, catalogue of exhibitions and account of the Syndacate of the artists: F. Depero nelle opere e nella vita (F. Depero in his life and works). In 1941-42 he worked hard for the Italian Tourist Board, realising many plastics to suit the windows of the foreign sites.
In 1943 he published A passo romano (With the roman march), a bunch of fascist lyrics. Then he retired with his wife in the alpine village of Serrada, to escape to cities bombings and spent all 1944 and part of 1945 realising hundreds of drawings and thinking to his project of a museum of his oeuvre
When the Second World War was over Depero had to face the (accuse) of fascism. Actually, "his fascism" was one of a kind. He really believed that Fascism could realise a sort of Artecracy, a Society ruled by and with the artists cooperations.
And above all, after Marinetti introduced the Aeropainting he retired in his Trentino mountains,
far from any Futurist exhibitions and activities.
Thus, the only way to suirvive was to work for the "Regime" Organizations, with project designs and furnitures. Then, in order to clear his position, in 1946 he had to write all this reasons and more to the new authorities of the region.
But the climate was still bad for him so late in 1947 he decided to try once again the chance of a New York period. There he held two one-man exhibitions and published So I think so I paint, the translation of his monumental autobiography published in 1940. But this time he found New York "iced" and hostile. War was still in memory, and there were few chances for Futurist artists, that were considered still as fascists. After few months of that very cold winter 1947, Depero moved to New Milford, Connecticut, were Mr. Hillman, President Truman Secretary, hosted in his cottage together with his wife until Fall 1949. That was indeed a period of relax, great work and also a chance to think to his future and to the idea of his own Museum.
In late october 1949 he returned to Rovereto and right soon he began to rearrange all his stuffs: paintings, drawings, books and papers.
Late in 1950 he launched the Manifesto della Pittura e plastica nucleare (Nuclear Plastic and Painting, manifesto). In 1951 he took part in the IX Triennial of Milan with a personal room.
In 1952 he participated in the XXVI Venice Biennial and, in 1955, in the VII Quadriennial in Rome.
In 1951 and 1953 he held two great exhibitions in Trento e Rovereto with hundreds of works.
Between 1953 and 1956 he was engaged in the decorations of the "Sala del Consiglio della Provincia Autonoma of Trento'' (the Council Room) that today is the only complete evidence of all his furniture works.
In 1957 the Municipality of Rovereto deliberated the opening of the "Galleria Museo Depero" that was officially opened August 11th 1959.
In the same year Depero participated in the exhibition for the fiftith anniversary celebration of the first Futurist Manifesto publication, at Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The artist since mid 1958 was deeply sicked because of diabetes disease and also suffering the impossibility of painting after a heartstroke that gave him a hemiparesis.
After his death (November 29th 1960) were held conspicuous retrospective one-man exhibitions of his works (see the list of exhibitions) that highlighetd his important role in the Futurist Movement.
The first one was in 1962 at the Galleria Toninelli in Milan, curated by Guido Ballo; then at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Villa Reale, in Milan with curatorial work by Agnoldomenico Pica, in 1966; at the Galleria Martano/Due in Turin, in 1969, with curatorial work by Luigi Lambertini; at the Museo Civico, Palazzo Sturm, in Bassano del Grappa in 1970, by Bruno Passamani; at Castel Mareccio, in Bolzano in 1983, with curatorial work by Enrico Crispolti; at Depero's Museum in 1986 and 1989 by Maurizio Scudiero. Frequent bibliographical essays, first by Bruno Passamani and later by Maurizio Scudiero, have completed then the revaluation of Depero's work.
Recently, the Museum of Modern Art of Trento and Rovereto held some exibitions on particular aspects of his oeuvre, showing his works also abroad.