Renato Guttuso (1912-1987)
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Renato Guttuso (1912-1987)

Forchetta, bicchiere e tenaglia

Renato Guttuso (1912-1987)
Forchetta, bicchiere e tenaglia
signed and dated 'Guttuso 46' (lower right); signed again 'Guttuso' (on the reverse)
21l on canvas
21¾ x 25¾in. (55 x 65.2cm.)
Painted in 1946
Mariella Lotti Zanardo, Rome.
Galleria La Margherita, Rome.
Acquired at the above by the present owner.
G. Marchiori, Renato Guttuso, Milan 1952 (illustrated, p. 59).
E. Crispolti, Catalogo ragionato generale dei dipinti di Renato Guttuso, vol. I, Milan 1983, no. 46/56 (illustrated, p. 153).
Tokyo, Seiji Togo Memorial Yasuda Kasai Museum of Art, Italian Still Life Painting, April-May 2001, no. 70 (illustrated, p. 108). This exhibition later travelled to Niigata City, Art Museum, June-July 2001; Hokkaido, Hakodate Museum of Art, July-September 2001; Toyama, Toyama Shimin Plaza Art Gallery, October 2001; Ashikaga, Museum of Art, November-December 2001; Yamagata, Museum of Art, April-May 2002.
Ravensburg, Schloss Achberg, Natura morta italiana: Italienische Stilleben aus vier Jahrhunderten, April-October 2003, no. 95.
Francavilla al Mare (Chieti), Museo Michetti, Oltre l'oggetto. Morandi e la natura morta oggi in Italia, June-September 2007 (illustrated, p. 89).
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Lot Essay

Painted in 1946, Renato Guttuso's Forchetta, bicchiere e tenaglia presents the viewer with a still life representing a corner of the artist's own realm. On the table are a glass, a fork and a napkin, while in the background the reverse of a painting can be glimpsed. The vivid colours and frenetic sense of line, with the outlines and details painted in framing black strokes, add a sense of vigour and vitality to this expressionistic scene. At the same time, the pincers in the foreground add a strange, deliberately discordant note. While these are clearly a useful implement, they appear at odds with the more culinary pleasures implied by the fork, napkin and glass. Indeed, they appear to be the displaced attribute of a martyred saint (Agatha and Apollonia, for instance, are sometimes represented with them) from an Old Master or the religious paintings of the artist's native Sicily-- his career had begun, after all, by painting scenes on carts. By including this strange device, Guttuso has managed to introduce a telling backwards glance towards the Italian artistic tradition into a still life that is clearly forward-looking, with a jagged modernity that owes something to the pictures of Pablo Picasso-- whom he met during the same year and with whom he began a friendship that would last for decades.

Guttuso was a larger-than-life figure in both twentieth-century Italian art and politics. Before and during the Second World War, he had been an outspoken critic of the powers in Italy and had even joined the Resistance, later becoming a member of the Communist party. In Forchetta, bicchiere e tenaglia, one wonders if this still life, with items of comfort and of potential torture, in some way embodies some of Guttuso's concerns about the complexities of the historical and political situation of the previous decade, looking both forwards to a time of pleasures and domesticity and back to a time of hardship and pain. Violence, which he had seen so vividly wreaking chaos in his beloved nation for decades, beginning with a peasant revolt in Sicily just after the end of First World War, was a recurring theme in his work, not least in his controversial Crocefissione shown to such outcry in 1942; and that violence lingers in Forchetta, bicchiere e tenaglia as a form of moralistic memento mori; however, the overall feeling of the painting is one of energy, of life, as captured in both the vivid colours and the angularity of the depicted objects.

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