This work is registered in the Archivio Mario Schifano, Rome, under number 01533090620.
In this large and important work, Mario Schifano presents a brilliant red silhouette-like image of a tree as a powerful, singular and iconic form, cut-out and isolated against the bare expanse of a double-panelled canvas. Standing like a symbol or advertising logo, this tree, painted in two shades of red enamel paint on paper laid down on the canvas support, is one of Schifano's most enduring and repeated motifs.
It belongs to one of Schifano's most highly regarded series of works begun in 1963 in which, building on the developments of his earlier monochrome paintings and Pop-like studies of Esso and Coca-Cola logos, he began to produce a sequence of works reinvestigating themes from art history. Among these were his Paesaggi anemici (anemic landscapes) and the En plein air paintings, in which Schifano both invoked and explored the concept and tradition of landscape painting from the vantage point of a modern technological age of mass-media and Pop culture. Senza Titolo, with its dynamic and singular image of a tree painted in modern metallic enamel set on raw canvas, is a work that seems to encapsulate and symbolise, in one potent image, both the collision of Nature with the fast-paced artifice of modernity and the fundamental divide that also exists between them.
Following his participation in the famous 'New Realists' exhibition held at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in 1962, Schifano spent much of 1963 and 1964 living in the city. There he lived for a time with a cousin of his then girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, known as 'Mr Beebe'. At his first solo exhibition in New York held at the 'Galleria Odyssia' in 1964 Schifano exhibited a series of recent works based on the theme of landscape, illustration and artifice. Several of these new paintings made use of a graphic image of a lone tree set against an empty painted background and one of which was entitled 'Beebe's Tree'. This tree, essentially the same that appears in this work, subsequently became an important and repetead motif in Schifano's art throughout the 1960s, in particular the series known as 'Vero amore' (True Love).
Like the present work, the very first of these 'tree' paintings was an untitled work in which Schifano had actually stencilled the words 'senza titolo' onto the canvas, transforming the title too into an image. Another version made in 1965 was similarly inscribed and entitled Grande Oggetto Paesaggio (Large Object Landscape). In the 'tree' and 'landscape' paintings, the differences between painting, object and image are deliberately thrown open to question. Untitled belongs to this series in the way that it deliberately asserts its own artifice. Painted in a deft and highly tactile style, it is one of the simplest and boldest examples, presenting the solitary image of its iconic tree as simultaneously both image, idea and material presence. In this, it seems to establish itself as both a powerful symbol of the intrinsic relationship between art and Nature while, at the same time, also asserting the inherent artifice of both.