Antonio Possenti was born in Lucca on 11 January 1933.
The first years of life Possenti spends them in Livorno, and it is from here that he draws one of the most frequent subjects in his painting: the sea.
During the Second World War the paternal house was bombed and completely destroyed, so Possenti moved permanently to Lucca, the city that over the years will see him working in the field of Italian Fantastic Painting.
Childhood and adolescence pass by voraciously reading everything that happened to him, a habit that will be reflected in his way of painting: his painting is a “painted tale”, each of his works is a mixture of pictorial art and literature, in to which each canvas becomes a story from which each of us can draw multiple emotions, suggestions and reflections; even if Possenti, to be honest, eschews this definition of his paintings, because for him the painting does not want to be told or to have a symbolic meaning, for him painting is to satisfy a childish thirst made of assonances, memories and emotions.
The other educational opportunities were ideal and elective, the result of intellectual curiosity and of the literary and artistic culture that he had breathed since he was a child in the family (his father was headmaster of Liceo, the mother teacher; the great Greek scholar Augusto Mancini was his grandfather, the which was professor and then Rector of the University of Pisa and later deputy in Parliament, before the advent of Mussolini in power) ranging from Greek-Roman classicism to modern and contemporary times, and with a particular predilection for more experiences lively and engaging fantastic cut.
Possenti graduates in Law and practices in a law firm, but does not undertake the profession of lawyer at all, devoting herself for many years to the teaching of law in Upper Secondary Schools in the province of Lucca.
Simultaneously with his teaching, he began his career as an illustrator and satirical draftsman and was a prolific draftsman: he illustrated various volumes of the “Il Ponte” series of Mondadori, designed splendid posters and posters for the Lucca Cinema Club of which he is a member and, above all, he happens to Mino Maccari as cartoonist of the famous weekly magazine of politics and literature “Il Mondo”, directed by Pannunzio.
The meeting with the great Chagall in Vence, on the Côte d’Azur, in 1957, which the young Possenti sees as a vate, a master from whom to take infinite cues, certainly more fundamental for the decision to dedicate himself to “pictorial professionalism”. for the way of understanding life that for the way of painting.
From the mid-sixties onwards he devoted himself exclusively to painting, also because there are now numerous awards, prizes won and personal exhibitions in the most important galleries, in Italy and abroad. Since then, many literary critics and writers have written about him and his work, making it virtually impossible for them to name them all (Dino Buzzati, Marcello Venturoli, Mario Tobino, Carrieri, Betocchi, Gatto, Giorgio Soavi, Aldo Busi, Vittorio Sgarbi , Piercarlo Santini, just to mention the most illustrious); equally difficult to cite is the myriad of exhibitions organized by the Maestro.
The common thread of Possenti’s pictorial production is sometimes writers, painters and poets who, for various reasons, have aroused their soul and curiosity during his cultural training. His innate curiosity, in fact, takes him everywhere, pushes him into the mechanics, the laws that regulate the object of his attention, be it a person or a thing.
Mirko Clemente writes about him: the secret of Possenti’s painting is inherent in the simplicity, in the fantasy and in the joy that transpires from his own canvases, expertly summarized by a phrase taken from the book-interview “Yes, no, maybe”, published by Maria Pacini Fazzi is written by Mario Rocchi, journalist and friend of the Maestro: “The child does not see things, imagines them or elaborates them through his imagination”.
It is precisely the childhood, or rather the remaining infant, another central theme of the Possent work. There are graceful flying kites, in memory of the carefree days in Livorno where he ran happily in the fields near the center, imaginary whales that plunge into the sea of Livorno, which is a “frontier sea”, like all cities that have a port, sea that evokes journeys, departures and arrivals, a sea that divides and unites at the same time.
And then there is all the possentiano “bestiary”; and then here is a corollary of dogs, rhinos (totemic animal of the Master), butterflies, rabbits, monkeys, fishes …. Not to mention the various mythological figures, toys, sailors … All this demonstrates simplicity and the lightness of the spirit of Possenti, which has remained, in fact, eternal child, crystallized in those days of the forties in which its existence was more wretched but, surely, more genuine, more true.
This is what led Possenti to choose as its natural refuge, as a den, the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, a magical, alchemical and populous place that collects the testimonies of its excursions in the world like an immense suitcase; this obviously was worth before hordes of shouting tourists broke that charm and ruined that world that had remained rural and frank, despite being surrounded by the most luxurious palaces of Lucca: unfortunately progress and globalization managed to transform that paradise into a commercial center , in a Disneyland for the hurried modern day trippers.
During his career he has exhibited in major Italian and foreign galleries (Gianferrari, Il Milione, Appiani Arte 32 in Milan; Marescalchi and Forni in Bologna; Davico and Biasutti in Turin; Poggiali and Forconi in Florence; Aminta in Siena; L’Immagine in Arezzo, Philippe Gumiot in Brussels, Rutzmoser in Munich, East West Gallery in London, Art Diagonal in Barcelona, etc.), he participated in numerous international exhibitions, among others: Bologna Art Fair, the Fair of Cologne, Basel Basel Art, FIAC of Paris, Art Fair of Los Angeles, Art Miami of Miami Beach, N.Y. Art Fair in New York, Tuyap in Istanbul, Foire d’art in Gent, Arco in Madrid, Stockolm Art Fair in Stockholm, St’Art in Strasbourg, BArt in Barcelona. He has received numerous prizes and awards and his works are present in important private and public collections in Italy and abroad. Critics, art historians, writers and intellectuals have written about him: Fortunato Bellonzi, Massimo Bertozzi, Dino Buzzati, Luciano Caprile, Raffaele Carrieri, Ornella Casazza, Piero Chiara, Enrico Crispolti, Massimo Duranti, Alfonso Gatto, Paolo Levi, Nicola Micieli , Marilena Pasquali, Roberto Sanesi, Pier Carlo Santini, Giorgio Saviane, Vittorio Sgarbi, Giorgio Soavi, Franco Solmi, Marcello Venturoli.
Antonio Possenti dies in Lucca on 28 July 2016.
Slow in execution and extremely meditative and refined, and mobile in the exceptionally rich variation of the colors, often repassed by the liquid, sinuous, of a light color that spreads an embroidered veil on the dense underlying preparation; attentive to the values of closure and writing of the line, which is now discovered left and now unexpectedly revived with minute cursive scratches of mysterious meaning, almost ideograms; painter moved every time the soul is poured into the views of the countryside, of the gardens and of the compacted and compacted flowers as in the past were certain patients-paper shrines built by the cloistered nuns, but suddenly snatched from the idyllic brackets by the internal events that present him with the alarm of threats evaded in vain; characterizing ruthless in portraits, Possenti has an incredible ability as a narrator for images. His paintings would not finish scrutinizing them, for they always reveal new things and new flexions of sentiment organized by a highly effective layout suggestive, supported by a craft of rare wisdom. (from the presentation to the personal catalog, La Barcaccia gallery, Rome 1970)
It seems that Possenti remakes itself from its own larval and wriggling nihilism, from veils of chilling chiffons saved from the mythical garbage that plows the earth, in seeking and giving meaning to something, to the fetishes of credulity, to the wreckage of fears and charms. His ambitions are many, such that the means and the same clarity of the will or to undergo are not enough for him. But there is no protest, both reactionary and insurgent, which is of every protest today, which is inspired by high legacies of victimhood and defeat against the easy applauding victories, against the powers and persecutions of optimism, of which our time he lives, decorating himself his offenses. Mighty warns us that the springs of being-able-to-us, to get the shot back, have to consume at least all their rust, this indelible and vulgar heat, drenched in blood. Equally indelible, the chalky fixity of the larvae that from the Nabis to Bacon are plastered with the violet-pink of the crumbling powder from the walls. I would say in conclusion that Possenti, to identify with the whole painter that can be (and perhaps for more than that it is in the “less” of his “plus”) must bring the last games in the small cemeteries desecrated by the yards, engraving the marks on the doors of prisons, waiting for the rivers to sing and the sky to return to have name, meaning and hope from this land. Right now, we are all, us and him, between the teeth of the skeletons: our devout lights lit up before the “black” of Goya. (from the presentation to the personal catalog, Galleria Santacroce, Florence 1970)
Greenhouses and winter gardens have a special light; also for this reason in the greenhouses and partly also in the winter gardens, when there is no master, very strange things happen, very strange characters appear (such as gnometti, elfini and silfi). Good. Antonio Possenti has transferred these “happenings” from the closed to the open, mobilizing a heteroclite fauna of never seen birds and fish, besides spiridioni, gesirchi, lipidarisi and other monsters. Birds especially, are introduced everywhere, even in the bedroom, opening the window with its beak even though there is snow and a cold dog outside, and perching on the head of the stunned painter. The names of Kafka, Brueghel, Bosch, the Nabis, Chagall are mentioned in the catalog. If he got some from Possenti, he did it with great discretion, so that he doesn’t notice it. These tales and haunted tales are new, not at all annoying despite the bizarre nature of the situations, thanks to the precious and subtle, fluid, transparent, vegetable painting (here is the air of greenhouses); thanks also to a feeling of good fable that excludes treachery and cruelty. For a long time there was no such an original and aristocratic fantastic painter. (in “Corriere della Sera”, Milan, 6 December 1970)
It is not a question of going back and forth to trace the illustrious names that have influenced Possenti; and the multiple enticements suffered from childhood to maturity. I believe that the truest sources are the illustrated tables of natural history: ornithology botany, etc. The Japanese engravers of the eighteenth century painted wonderful bestiaries that served an incalculable number of illustrators of French, English and German manuals. Certainly Possenti has a knowledge of animals and plants – apart from insects, medicinal herbs, birds and fish! – quite skilful to feed the fauna of his paintings, also, in those parts that seem more extemporaneous and capricious. Mobility (her favorite repertoire is supported by an extremely lively hand. And with the times that run, even one that does not show the slightest hurry to conclude a legend has its meaning and does not seem to me little. (From The fairytale whims of painting Possenti, in “Epoca”, Milan, 20 December 1970)
It is certainly not difficult to name the masters of all time before the works of Antonio Possenti. All the possible ones have been made, except perhaps that of the Arcimboldi, in order to allude to the facts, to establish a relationship, to establish a kinship revealing the mystery that is always hidden behind the inventions of the painters of his species. Even the name of Giuseppe Viviani could be pronounced among others – from Bosch to Ensor to Chagall – that it is convenient to evoke to get rid of the problem that Possenti poses and almost to exorcise its images, to place them in a way of telling old and new but basically known, to make them up, that is, to close them in a formula and not leave them around, to disturb our sleep, to upset the steps of a vigil that is more and more drowsy, enchantment, flight and a vain attempt to escape that nothing or all that is life. (from the presentation to the personal catalog, Galleria Della Piazza, Varese 1974)
There is an Italian artist who intrigues, more than Antonio Possenti: “A fantastic and aristocratic painter” once called him Dino Buzzati. His enigmatic images, his imbroglio games, his petty bourgeois gnomes make this Lucchese artist an interesting case in the current panorama of Italian figuration. Possenti does not illustrate, recount and perform these “Rerum natura” with the most complex and traditional means: tempera. The colors are declined according to a degradation of tones, which bear the presentiment of the following ones. In every story he does not transmit scandals, but melancholy corrected with irony, miniatures elaborated with wisdom, sonnets to be enjoyed indoors. In these episodes it is not the subject that counts, but the pure representation of the natural passage characterized by a set of men, fruits and animals. Solitary annotator, Possenti gives his images words equivalent to ancient proverbs. (from the presentation to the catalog of the personal “De rerum natura”, Minotauro gallery, La Spezia 1977)
The fable of solitude, of the happiness of nature even without the man or that of the man who, in creation, is little more than a moschino with a beard and round glasses, an aquiline nose, a gufigna head, a sort of emblem of his identity; fable of prodigies, marine, family, woodland, of universes of proliferating things, between plants and animals between games and ordnance, between boxes, jars and cages, junk that seems to be born not from an inventory of ateliers even lied and transformed, but directly from his imagination, things he invents out of the pretext, to decipher – half wanting to give to the beholder the measure of the generous and teeming sfascio, half by cheating with the quantitative hyperbole of objects the mental space of the picture – the fable, therefore, fable ipsa, without the need for more precise literary supports, of obvious themes. (from “EsoPossenti”, Ferretti gallery, Viareggio 1979)
Everard From the Walnut
Interpretation is always a motivated subject, an insistent investigation which, presumably, embraces the lemma. Possenti’s lemma, this truth that needs no demonstration, is the extraordinary concept of life. That should be dug, burned in the ideal of correction. The crowding as a game slips by necessity over the symbol that moves within boundaries that are hard, but not collapsible. Just want it. Dismantling therefore the reality encased by Possenti is appreciated because he intervenes on what nature does not offer, so it is necessary to appropriate the unusual. (from the presentation to the personal catalog “Storie di Adamo”, Minotauro gallery, La Spezia 1984)
Pier Carlo Santini
Reality as an ordinary weave or fabric, considered in its external and objective existence, has never affected Possenti, at least when it was posed with a creative attitude in front of it. In this regard, I have repeatedly made precise, unequivocal statements, discussing for example the use of photography as a starting point or aid for the figurative image. The reality is usually insignificant, banal amorphous, if considered on the surface. Much of its charm is well hidden behind the facade beyond which one must find out. The most secret truths, the most suggestive aspects, the most magical charms are captured and understood by violating it, altering its features, deforming its figure, overturning its rules and order, subverting its relationships. (from the presentation to the personal catalog, Azienda del Turismo, Marina di Massa 1984)
Everything has been said about Antonio Possenti, because it is everything: a painter who does not raise words is like a magician who does not work miracles, while it is precisely this following the impossible, the supreme gift of Possenti, which does not stop at nothing to invent, and invention is always a miracle and a little madness. What is the artist who is not even crazy? Even Toulouse Lautrec was in spite of the accuracy of the sign. Possenti does not like to portray, it seems that the sign comes out of his soul and he is already composed to blurt out the irony, the tragedy, the amazement, the ridicule, the ecstasy. In her seas in one room the sea has penetrated, she has upset and gone away, leaving however her taste: the feeling in Mighty screams or it doesn’t exist, almost to disdain it because the color is not feeling, but communication, art , tone, call, light, sometimes grin, even tenderness, never feeling. (to Appear and Be, presentation to the personal catalog, Poggibonsi Arte 1994)
Among so many stories, of men, animals, gods of water and woods, the artist chose those closest to him and reinvented them according to a very personal script, even allowing himself the luxury of adding some new episodes, the result of his imagination or, to put it better, his love for playing, counterfeiting, stunning. The result of so much dreaming is quite high, so as to characterize the set of large tables now presented as one of the happiest results of Possenti’s art, for unity and depth of inspiration, for compositional commitment and pictorial quality. In the forest of images created by him it is possible to get lost, to go around in circles, to fall into the jaws of the toad that slumbers underground; and the only aid to not lose the path that goes away in the thick of shade or too much sun, comes from relying on the signs that the artist leaves us along the way, on those clues that seem to want to reveal something else , to those calls that refer to things hidden in the depths of the mind and heart. (from Antonio Possenti and the lands of Luna, presentation to the personal catalog, Palazzo Civico Sarzana 1995)
Homo l’udens is Possenti’s favorite subject because it allows him to investigate a boundless territory of fantasy in absolute freedom of description by hiding true and invented quotations (and here the extraordinary lesson of a Borges or a Calvin can be seen) in the corners of framework to be discovered with joy, with astonishment or with some apprehension, later, during a supplementary investigation. In fact the works of the artist from Lucca reveal themselves little by little, as the curiosity or the interest of the buyer manages to overcome the barriers of amazement and enchantment, or as soon as he makes his way from inside the work the “real” reason for the choice: a nostalgic splinter from the past or a premonition. It’s like opening the drawer of a piece of furniture, in the attic long forgotten. (from “What game do we play?” presentation to the personal catalog, Aminta gallery, Siena 1996)
Possenti is a man and a painter out of the ordinary: very sweet, full of ideas and incomparable inventor for himself and for others. Possenti is a delicate poet of a surrealism so far ignored. He lives in an incorrupt and unattainable world, in a daily and affectionate “metaphysical” dimension. One of the tasks of art – in particular the surrealist one is to represent not what is outside, but what is buried within us. Possenti has revealed it. In art there is a place for a ghost, for a desire, for a moment of happiness or terror, for a joy, for a torment. Goya and Fussli have provided the monsters and nightmares that derive from it, long before surrealism. Others to desires and joys. In Possenti, on the other hand, I see a festive Goya, if not happy, with the same impalpable and liquid touch, but without the drama and the anxieties, without the reasons of such an urgent and provided story instead of a more tranquil inclination to the fable, like a safe territory, of escape but without too many illusions. Not the dream, in Possenti, but the invention of the dream: what makes it secluded and naturally new with respect to the masters to whom he has most looked. An ideal son of Gauguin (but also of Matisse, Klee, Ensor, Ernst, of the great Arab miniature), Possenti is a very cultivated painter of the “Elsewhere”. (from Altrove and other orientators, presentation to the personal catalog, Galleria Il Milione, Milan 1998)
In the painting of the seventies up to the most recent works, stories, dreams, miracles, apparitions are chasing each other, an imaginary theater capable of incorporating infinite chords, secret harmonies, different colors and emotions within it. In numerous paintings, signs, colors, characters, spaces objects multiply, with absolute naturalness, echoes and suggestions, with the rare ability to evoke an orderly disorder, an illogical logic, a desire to represent, in a limited space, a variegated vision. Possenti is a painter out of time and fashions, meaning that in his works one breathes a magical climate in the balance between myth and history, between legend and invention. Surprises and pictorial spells become the usual register of a wise storyteller, a story that proceeds by fragments, by gashes, by sudden illuminations. (from Magical harmonies and cruel miracles of Antonio Possenti’s painting, presentation to the personal catalog, Comune di Montevarchi 1999)