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Giancarlo Vitali. Visiting the artist

Portait of an painter: "I take a brush, I have a suggestive subject and paint. I don’t set myself anything as a goal, nor least of all do I start from a visualized thought or an inspiration, precisely, arriving from the kingdom of Arts”

Giancarlo Vitali, 1982

Bellano, on lake Como. The artist glances at that familiar landscape, with which he has an absolute but aloof bond, as if for his whole life he felt it as a reassuring boundary, from the window of his studio-home that is a large 19th-century house on the lake front.

They say he is a man of sombre and not very conciliatory character, as solitary as to avoid the walks along the narrow streets of his old Bellano because disturbed by the arrival of a new world he does not want to know. He is supported by a sound family: his wife, daughters, the son Velasco, who is also a painter like his father, entranced since the age of puberty by the
disease of painting and now already an appreciated international up-and-coming artist. In short the first impression is that “the old Vitali’s studio” in Bellano is a sort of outpost or better still almost anachronistic example of how becoming a painter through a daily practice of meditation, exchange and finally artistic creation.

Pervaded with a sense of life that cannot have the same time and
wait of the rest of the world.
Giancarlo Vitali is a man ‘without biography’ because he is as jealous of his own private life as not caring about a biography, contrarily to the choice made by many painters that succeeded in creating around them a solid and sometimes fictionalised biography, always very useful when one can use it for commercial purposes. That is to say it is almost easier ‘to sell’ a character that
can use a brush than an artist who thinks is ethical to speak only through his own work.

The encounter does not confirm our worries and gives us further confirmation of how false projections often originate around each of us from a generic whispering on everybody’s lips, and that it is a very common practice among many Sciascian windbags.

Projections that, like in Vitali’s case, have nothing to do with our emotional truth.
We are here to shoot a filmed record on his artistic work, welcome, a bit boorish or maybe simply awkward guests of a man that has been living for ages in an interior retreat made more of silence than words, certainly not very prone to such a deceptive limelight as that one of a camera, of a young film director that shoots helped by a cameraman, an interviewer that interviews him, some noisy bustle around him, too many breaks and new ‘takes’ that certainly do not improve his mood. But Vitali adapts himself
quickly, even if he gives a certain limit to his acting experience.

Receptive but severe, he tells us about his beginnings, his hard youthful years, about his uncertainties as an artist and even about his surprise of being “splashed across the front page” (actually the literary one of the Corriere della Sera) when he was over fifty - and maybe resigned to his respectable obscurity- by that great man and friend Testori was. And Vitali’s surprise became an inner wonder when, as a result of that event, the interest about his work increased so much that he was invited to important
group exhibitions and prestigious solo exhibitions that confirmed his height and popularity since that now far 1985. He will not hear anymore about inspiration: ”Look, I have ever worked with restlessness and with a certain spontaneity but don’t talk about this kind of things. I take a brush, I have a suggestive subject and paint. I don’t set myself anything as a goal, nor least of all do I start from a visualized thought or an inspiration, precisely, arriving
from the kingdom of Arts”. It is not easy, or rather, it is impossible to let him talk about his own painting. “There are critics for this.

It’s not my job, and I could seem boastful or, worse, I would risk to say commonplaces. When I hear they compare my name to that one of great artists of a recent past I feel uneasy. Perhaps because I was a self-taught man in everything but still now when I have to be present at an exhibition of mine or I have to say few words in front of an audience, I feel a certain confusion or, to be more precise, a sense of inadequacy”. In short, it is hard to let him talk about his painting. He mocks himself, smoothes over, smiles, his face darkens for a moment, looks away and sighs.

It is his way to repeat us his absolute faith in painting, art of visual and direct expression that does not need mediation of words.

Giancarlo Vitali, 1947


Giancarlo Vitali was born on the 29th of November 1929 in Bellano on the Lake Como from a family of fishermen. He began painting when he was fifteen, after having worked for the Institute of graphic arts (Bergamo).

* 1947, he exposed his first work at the Angelicum in Milan, on the occasion of the biennial exhibition of sacred art.

* 1949, he came to perform in the biennial exhibition two of his works: "Visitazione" and "Cena in Emmaus” receiving enthusiastic appreciation from Carlo Carrà. He awarded a fellowship from the Brera Academy but because his family couldn't afford to maintain him in Milan he renounced it. Thus his concerned decisive moment will result in a long period of silence in his striving to fulfillment.

* 1981, his son Velasco, painter as well as his father, supported and encouraged him to begin the activity of engraver.

* 1983, Giovanni Testori after having seen a quartered rabbit wanted to meet the artist. A profound and solid relationship, founded on mutual esteem and admiration, stems from this encounter, which later became a prolonged deep-rooted friendship. The year after Testori dedicated to the artist an article in the third page of the Corriere della Sera and afterwards organized the first solo exhibition of the artist. Thus from that moment on he got to perform in several public and private locations and released a copious series of catalogues and engravings portfolios.

At the end of 80's he realized lots of public works. Among which the remarkable “The portrays of benefactors” of the Ospedale Maggiore in Milan appointed by the framework Foundation Ca' Granda.


* 2008 - Giancarlo Vitali, Set up by Mario Botta, curated by Carlo Bertelli in the new A.N.C.E. building, Lecco.

* 2007 - Giancarlo Vitali works, IIC Madrid

* 2005 - Cartella Clinica, chronicle of an unsought sojourn. Drawings and paintings in the Aula Magna of the Ospedale di Lecco.

* 2003 - L’Oltranza della pittura, in memory of Giovanni Testori. Spazio Cinquesensi, Milan.

* 2002 - La musica dipinta, drawings and oils. Spazio Cinquesensi , Milan.

* 2001 - D’après, Arsmedia – Bergamo; in 2002 the exhibition is presented, adding further drawings and oils, at Compagnia del disegno in Milan.

* 2000 - Il Paese del Pittore, homage by the city of Bellano for his 70th birthday. Spazi industriali dell'ex Cotonificio Cantoni.

* 2000 - Lunario Minimo, organized by the Comune di Cento in collaboration with Promoart, Ferrara. Chiesa sconsacrata di San Lorenzo.

* 1999 - The public library of Milan held an exhibition at Palazzo Sormani presented by Giancarlo Consonni with more than 100 works on paper. The Cantico gallery in the monastery of San Damiano (Assisi) hosted the exhibition Le stagioni della Vita, presented by Domenico Montalto.

* 1997 - La Memoria Sottile, at the Scuderie of Villa Manzoni, Lecco. Over 100 drawings.

* 1996 - A huge anthology curated by Marco Goldin and set up at Palazzo Sarcinelli in Conegliano.

* 1994 – Giancarlo Vitali, Anthology of the engravings organized by Civica Raccolta Bertarelli at Sala Castellana of Castello Sforzesco in Milan.

* 1991 - Le forme del tempo, a tribute to the notable figure of the paleontologist abbot Antonio Stoppani. Musei Civici of Lecco, Villa Manzoni and Galleria Bellinzona.

* 1987 - La famiglia dei ritratti, still curated by Testori and set up at Musei Civici of Lecco.

* 1985 - Giancarlo Vitali, curated by Giovanni Testori. La Compagnia del Disegno, Milan. It may be considered his first solo exhibition. During these years several exhibitions will succeed in various locations.


* Giancarlo Vitali, paintings, engravings and drawings. Texts by L. Castellucci. Florence packaging. 2007.

* Cartella Clinica. Preface by Marco Vallora. Texts by Giancarlo Vitali and Andrea Vitali (writer and award winner in 2007 of the Bancarella prize. He is also Giancarlo Vitali's doctor) Wanted by the Ospedale Manzoni of Lecco. Cattaneo publishing, 2005.

* Dono di luoghi. Poems by Giancarlo Consonni. Wanted by the Lecco Province Builders Association . Itaca publishing, 2004.

* L’Oltranza della pittura. A collection of texts by Giancarlo Testori concerning Giancarlo Vitali artworks. Itaca publishing, 2003.

* D’Après. Preface by Giuliano Collina , review by Giovanni Testori. Itaca publishing, 2001.

* Il paese del pittore. Review by Marco Fragonara, a poem by Tonino Guerra along with a text by Andrea Vitali. DeAgostini Rizzoli, 2000.

* Lunario Minimo. Preface by Ludovico Pratesi, DeAgostini Rizzoli publishing, 2000.

* Le stagioni della vita. Review by Domenico Montalto. Itaca publishing, 1999.

* La Memoria Sottile. Texts by Tiziana Rota and Marco Carminati and poems by Valerio Magrelli. Itaca publishing, 1997.

* Giancarlo Vitali. Reviews by Marco Goldin and Marco Vallora. Electa, 1996.

* Catalogo generale dell’opera incisa. Curated by Paolo Bellini (The onliest Italian who contributed to the Illustrated Bartsch). Bellinzona publishing – Linati – Stefanoni, 1994.

* Le forme del tempo. Introduction by Alberto Longatti. Bellinzona publishing, 1991.

* La famiglia dei ritratti. Review by Giovanni Testori. Electa, 1987.

* Giancarlo Vitali. Curated by Giovanni Testori. La Compagnia del Disegno publishing - Milan, 1985.


Engravings Portfolios

Suovetaurilia, counting 6 engravings. Text by Carlo Bertelli, Itaca publishing – Milan 2008.

Abitare, edited by the Lecco Province Builders Association, counting 6 engravings. Text by Mario Botta, 2006.

Omaggio al cantiere, edited by the Lecco Province Builders Association, counting 5 engravings. Text By Mario Sangiorgio, 2004.

Concerto, 8 engravings along with 8 poems by Giancarlo Consonni, preface by Marco Vallora, 2002.

Bestiario, 8 poems by Giancarlo Consonni and 8 engravings by Giancarlo Vitali, introduction by Gina Lagorio, Itaca publishing – Milan, 1999.

Le forme del tempo, preface by Alberto Longatti. Bellinzona publishing, 1991.
Tommaso Grossi, 2 engravings along with 2 poems. Preface by Gianfranco Scotti. Lions Club, 1991.

Il mio museo quotidiano, presented by Testori and printed by Bandini. Bellinzona publishing, 1985.

Poesie per il Trittico del toro, 3 poems by Testori accompanied with an engraving by Giancarlo Vitali. La Compagnia del Disegno publishing, 1985.
Il mio paese del lago, presented by Gianni Brera and printed by Giorgio Upiglio. Bellinzona publishing, 1982.

Artist’s Books

Maschere, by Henri de Régnier counting 2 original etchings.
Attorno al tavolo, 11 engravings and 9 poems by Franco Loi. Tavolo Rosso – Stamperia Albicocco publishing – Udine, 2003.

Guardare i Tramonti, a poem by Tonino Guerra along with 9 engravings by Vitali. Gibralfaro publishing, Verona 2000.


by Leonardo Castellucci
03 august 2009, Food Notes > Miscellanea