SALVO (1947 - 2015)
SALVO (1947 - 2015)
SALVO (1947 - 2015)
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SALVO (1947 - 2015)

Il Mattino (The Morning)

SALVO (1947 - 2015)
Il Mattino (The Morning)
signed and titled '"Il Mattino" Salvo' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
205 x 327 cm. (80 3⁄4 x 128 3⁄4 in.)
Painted in 1994
Galerie Kaess-Weiss, Stoccarda
Sotheby's Milan, 20 May 2009, lot 48
Private collection, Italy
Acquired at the above by the present owner
Further details
This work is registered in the Archivio Salvo, Turin under the S.1994-47 and it is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Archivio Salvo, Turin.

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Lot Essay

In his masterpiece Il Mattino (1994), which translates to 'The Morning', Italian artist Salvo delivers a masterly rendition of a lush marine landscape awakening in the warm splendour of a Mediterranean sunrise. With its ample dimensions, intoxicating colours, and cinematic perspective, this painting immerses the observer in a sublime panorama, a poignant ode to the birth of a new day, brimming with a sense of timelessness and nostalgic intimacy.

Il Mattino is characterised by Salvo’s signature energetic colour palette and highly simplified forms, resulting in a dreamlike scene that feels both familiar and surreal. As the sun gracefully ascends on the left side of the panorama, it harmoniously envelops land, sea, and sky in a golden, dazzling radiance, while the right half of the scene retains the ethereal palette of dawn softly transitioning into daylight. An arboreal ensemble of trees stands as silent sentinels on an undulating terrain, overlooking the peaceful sea. The line of vision is punctuated by the rhythmical interplay between the cloud-like treetops of the maritime pines and the more sharp-edged palm fronds. The absence of any trace of human presence invites the viewer to connect with the idyllic beauty of this captivating scene.

Born in 1947 as Salvatore Mangione in Leonforte (Italy), Salvo began his artistic career with a focus on conceptual sculpture and photography. After moving to Turin, Salvo's artistic evolution was influenced by his exposure to Arte Povera and encounters with influential figures like Sol LeWitt, Robert Barry, and Joseph Kosuth. A turning point occurred in 1973, when Salvo transitioned to painting, brilliantly merging the avant-garde conceptualism of his early work with a vibrant and representational painterly style. This metamorphosis was ignited by a fateful encounter with the metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico in Rome, whose works’ dreamlike quality resonates in Salvo’s distilled forms and otherworldly panoramas.

'For years I travelled mostly in my imagination as there was a period in which I stayed mostly at home, but went on fantastic journeys, and then I really started to travel again… when people go on journeys they are seeking their own paradise, or hoping to make a dream come true, or chasing after the utopia of a memory that they think they might be able to rediscover in reality.'

A keen traveller and lover of literature, Salvo embarked in 1980 on a three-decades-long exploration of the landscape genre, during which he became renowned for his signature vivid, hyper-saturated depictions of nature, with Il Mattino standing as a paradigmatic example. His painterly style boldly defied prevailing artistic trends in the 1980s, positioning him as an outlier even amidst the era's resurgence of painting. Alongside De Chirico, Salvo’s landscapes drew inspiration from the visual language of the Italian Renaissance, with elements evoking Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel frescoes, as well as the visionary depictions of nature by artists such as Carlo Carrà and Ottone Rosai, and even the bold chromatic experiments of postmodern design and architecture. Significantly, Salvo was also indebted to Giorgio Morandi’s unwavering dedication to exploring a given motif through endless repetition, variation, and a quest for the essential.

Salvo’s landscapes artfully blend remembered and imagined spaces, offering meditations on the psychology of place and abstract concepts such as time. Many of his paintings find their names in the evocative vocabulary of seasons, months, and times of day (as in the case of Il Mattino): a testament to the artist’s profound interest in capturing the ever-shifting tapestry of time and memory.

‘Landscapes are one of his most recurring genres [...]. The plastic elements composing them (swollen and plastic little trees, radiant suns, sparkling mirrors, rounded hills) come from a typical "taste of the primitives", flooded with intense, joyful, super-natural illuminations that are inspired by the various phases of the day: sunrises, sunsets, noons. [...] Here the lights, as always in Salvo, are un-natural, or rather, metaphysical, surreal, they come from within rather than from outside, they belong to a forbidden planet, to a place of astral spaces, or perhaps to a rediscovered earthly paradise, which can be granted and granted to us, every possible gratification, daring to challenge the excesses: incredible pinks, deep yellows, violets of perfect contrast, according to the law of complementaries [...].’
——Renato Barilli

For its monumental scale, chromatic energy and awe-inspiring beauty, Il Mattino stands as a powerful icon of Salvo's lifelong devotion to the landscape genre, showcasing his mastery of light and colour. Crucially, it is also a prime example of the conceptual approach that guided every brushstroke of Salvo’s artistic journey. Indeed, while usually labelled a figurative artist, Salvo transcends the boundaries of reality in his landscapes, directing his gaze towards the very rules of representation itself: much like Morandi’s meticulous studies of bottles, each vista for Salvo becomes an investigation of the subtle nuances of colour, light, composition, perspective, even iconographical tropes. In a manner reminiscent of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, whom Salvo greatly admired, he affirmed that we have conventional language and behaviour, but also conventional images, representations, thoughts’. Paintings such as Il Mattino, therefore, are more concerned with a set of internal rules than pure visual storytelling: certain colours align with specific seasons, a different light corresponds to different times of the day, and nothing is left to chance or treated superficially. In this sense, as aptly described by Luca Beatrice, Salvo’s landscapes tend to ‘abstract purity’: 'it is what you call ‘rare excellence’, because Salvo’s painting has the capacity to seduce the eye, any and every eye, despite the fact that he keeps strictly within the bounds of total normality' (L. Beatrice et al. (eds.), Salvo, Italy, 1999, n.p.).

Light, in particular, stands out as the main protagonist of this masterpiece. Everything in Il Mattino stands still except the light, which permeates every inch of the canvas, casting a warm radiance from the rising sun and creating an atmosphere which compels us to engage with the essence of luminosity itself. It is a wonder to behold how light gracefully weaves its way through this Mediterranean idyll–either bathing the trees in mellow hues of candy pink, yellow, and green, or fiercely transfiguring them with incandescent purples and oranges when the direct sunrays strike. In this captivating display, Salvo's artistic vision guides us towards an appreciation of the luminous, inviting us to rise above the particular subject matter and immerse ourselves in a tranquil, meditative experience.

‘I paint my views with freedom, I listen attentively to the indescribable colour of a specific place and hour, eternal and ephemeral at the same time. The contemplated scene unfolds in an unknown place and time, and I do not know whether it's the break of a clear dawn or an incandescent twilight.’

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