This work will be included in the forthcoming Campigli catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by the Galleria Tega, Milan.
Massimo Campigli's paintings are filled with an atmosphere of classical timelessness which is perfectly suited to both his origins in Italy and to his early years as a poet. In Figure, painted in 1957, Campigli has created a scene filled with the stylised characters who people his post-War pictures in particular, not least his celebrated Teatri. The architectural surroundings also recall the theatres of that group of paintings, yet are more closely linked to the Casa and Villagio pictures he created during the same period as Figure. In this work, then, while the focus is on one woman in the foreground, there is a hint of community in the figures in the background.
Campigli's earth-hued palette, with the plaster-like background colours, his stylised figures and the mysterious activities in which they are engaged all combine to invoke the past, linking Figure to Etruscan tomb paintings and Fayum portraits. In this way, Campigli has created an oneiric atmosphere, introducing a mysticism that reveals the artist's cousinship to his compatriots who embraced 'Pittura Metafisica,' especially Giorgio de Chirico. These figures are all engaged in some hieratic acts; there is a ritual-like formality to their poses, and their movements and motions are rendered all the more arcane by the deliberate equivalency that Campigli explores through the similarity between the people and the busts in the various compartments. In this way, Figure implies, as do all of Campigli's greatest paintings, some sense of the unreal that extends from the canvas to our own universe; the artist is begging us to look around, and reappraise the nature of our own world and reality.