Alberto Savinio was born in Athens the 25th august 1891, with the name of Andrea de Chirico, brother of Giorgio de Chirico, born in Volos in 1888. He will choose to be called Alberto Savinio in the years of the first stay in Paris, begun in 1910.
The father of the de Chiricos’ brother, the engineer Evaristo, belonged to a noble Italian family of diplomatics, that had stayed in Saint Petersburg and then in Constantinople.
Evaristo de Chirico was the owner of an enterprise of ferry constructions, and he had, also, installed in Greece the line Athens-Larissa, in Tessaglia.
While Giorgio de Chirico was directed towards the studies of paintings in the of Athens, Savinio was studying music, getting the degree very young, at 12, in piano.
At the father’s death, in 1905, the two brothers, with the mother Gemma, leave Greece and, after a first stay in Italy, with stops in Venice and Milan, to get to know their country of birth, they move to Monaco di Baviera. There de Chirico attends the Academy of Belle Arti and the fifteenth-year old boy Savinio takes lessons of harmony and counterpoint by the famous composer Max Reger.
The suggestions that both the de Chirico’s brothers receive from the dutch culture are essentially those of the thought of Shopenhauer, of Nietzche and Otto Weininger, beyond those of the music by Wagner and the paintings by Arnold Bocklin.
During this period, while Giorgio de Chirico stays in Munich, Savinio with the mother spends some time in Milan with the intention of finding a job, through Casa Ricordi, for his activity of composer. An opera, Carmela, composed at 16 years old, had interested Mascagni. The project does not get realized, but Andrea de Chirico, who will be later on Alberto Savinio, continues his activity of composer, and at the same time a dense activity of creative writing.
In 1910 he decides to go to Paris, where he is growing, around the figure of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and the artists and literats next to him -Picasso, Max Jacob, Francis Picabia, ecc- the modern avan-guard.
Savinio gets immediately in touch with Apolinnaire, and they become friends. He publishes in Apolinnaire’s magazine “Les soirées de Paris”, his first poetic writing in French, Le chants de la mi-mort, and also theorical papers and programmatic on music.
Le chants de la mi-mort were equipped by pieces composed for a complete show that never got done. The suite for piano of Chants, together with other pieces for voice and piano, are the programm of a concert, that had place in may 1914, by “Les soirées de Paris”, a concert that impressed a lot the auditory, among which the leading exponents of the culture of Parisien avanguard, Picasso, Archipenko, Paul Guillaume and Italians Soffici and Canudo who were in Paris, for the passion and real impetuosity of the young composer and pianist.
In a note of many years later Savinio stated that the characters of Chants de la mi-mort are a the origin of the metaphysical painting of his brother Giorgio de Chirico. Savinio also said that his pieces of those years are the equivalent in music of Apollinaire’s poetry and of his brother’s painting.
On the magazine Les soirées de Paris it is written that the scenes and stage costumes of Chants are made by the author. It seems then that the activity of painter for Savinio has started well before the official beginning in 1925.
In 1914 the war breaks out. In 1915 Italy gets into the war and the two brothers Giorgio and Andrea de Chirico are mobili(z/s)ed and they reach, in Italy, the district of Ferrara.
The two brothers take a house in Ferrara, together with their mother Gemma, in Via Montebello, in front of Tibertelli’s Palace, di Filippo De Pisis.
While Savinio dedicates to Ferrara his paper Frara, city of Worbas, De Pisis writes on Ferrara Città of 100 meraviglie, dedicated to Savinio.
In Ferrara Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà get recovered to the Hospital of Villa del Seminario, until the end of the war.
The meeting in Ferrara between Carrà and de Chirico, Savinio, De Pisis, will determine the diffusion of the metaphysical painting, that de Chirico had already elaborated by himself.
In june 1917 Savinio is sent to the eastern front in Salonicco as an interpreter of neogreco. From there he sends literary papers to many Italian and international avant-garde magazines like “Dada” by Tristan Tzara, in the first issue of which, in 1917, Un vomissement musical is published, in the third issue Seconde origine de la Voie lactée.
At the end of 1918 it gets demobilised, he goes back to Italy and he reaches his mother and his brother in Rome. He continues a dense collaboration with the avant-guarde magazines. In 1918 his first Italian book Hermaphrodito gets published for the Editions de la Voce. In 1920 on “Il convegno” he publishes La casa ispirata. In the meantime he works with esthetical essays with the magazine “Plastic values” by Mario Broglio. This magazine intends to represent a call to order in the fields of arts, like at the same time “La Ronda” by Cardarelli in the literary field.
In 1924 he gets in touch with the group of young authors and actors that give birth to the Theatre of Art: Bontempelli, Prezzolini, Orio Vergani, Stafano Landi and his father Luigi Pirandello, who will assume the direction of it. For the Theater of Art he writes Capitano Ulisse, programmed for the 1925, which will be represented only in 1938. At the Theater of Art La morte di Niobe is played, a mimic tragedy, whose musical part had been written in 1913, with scenes and costumes made by Giorgio de Chirico. The literary paper is published in 1925 on “la rivista di Firenze”, directed by Giorgio Castelfranco.
In april 1926 Savinio sends to the brother de Chirico in Paris a group of pictorial operas on paper; de Chirico answers back immediately defining these drawings “very beautiful and all impressive”. In July 1926 he moves to Paris with his wife, the actress Maria Morino known by the Theatre of Art, and he starts an activity as a painter.
According to De Pisis ” Savinio already knew how to paint. I remember some drawings with the pen, almost preraffaellite and bockliniani, with Greek temples and figures with black peplos on the bench of the sea.
And Giorgio Castelfranco from his part says: “It is interesting this phenomenon for us historians of art; the key belongs almost to the atelier of Renaissance. To see working, being next to someone who paints, gives evidently the opportunity of learning without sensibility through eye and memory”.
He develops relationships with merchants of art from Paris, like Jeanne Castel, ex segretaria and socia of Paul Guillaume.
In October 1827 he has his first exhibition by the Gallery Bernheim jeune, presented by a calligram made by Jean Cocteau.
The years in Paris has been for Savinio of great pictorial activity.
In 1928 the daughter Angelica was given to birth in Paris.
In Turin in 1932 he has a great personal exhibition by the “Society Friends of Art” at Valentino and at the same time he has an exhibition in Florence in places of the newspaper “La Nazione”.
In 1933 he gets back to Italy for the last time, because of the economical crisis and he lives for a certain period in Turin, in Milan, and from 1937 finally in Rome.
In 1934 the son Ruggero was born in Turin.
He continues the literary activity and the collaboration with newspapers and magazines.
Tragedy of childhood, for the initiative of Libero De Libero, is published in the Editions of Cometa, in Rome, in 1937.
In that time period Carlo Belli was writing: “Savinio was unreachable like some wise Asian persons who (hanno fatto il pieno della sapienza). He had understood everything before everyone, and this privilege, instead of making him proud, was making him sad”.
These years see an intense literary activity. He works for newspapers, for example in 1934 “La Stampa” in Turin; in 1935 he directs together with Carlo Peroni, “Broletto”, a magazine that gets published in Como. From 1937 he works with the magazine “Omnibus” by Leo Longanesi, closed in 1939 for an article written by Savinio on the death of Leopardi in Naples, considered irreverent.
In 1938 he publishes by Vallecchi Achille innamorato, that comprehends novels partly written in the years in Paris; in 1939 he publishes Dico a te, Clio, the report of a trip in the secret Italy between Abruzzo and Etruria.
In this period Savinio has many exhibitions: in 1940 at the Gallery del Milione in Milan, with a self-presentation in catalogue and a writing by de Chirico.
In that period of war the books which give him the most of the glory get published: Childhood of Nivasio Dolcemare (1941), Casa “la Vita” (1943), Narrate, uomini, your story (1943), Our soul (1944), with two lithographies, Maupassant and the Other (1944), Sorte of Europe (1945). From 1941 he writes the items published on Domus merged into the New Encyclopedia, published posthumous.
In 1945 he has an exhibition in Rome at the Gallery La Margherita by Irene Brin and Gaspero Del Corso. In the same year accomplishes the lithography My parents by Concilium Lithographicum by Velso Mucci, where appear the figures of “poltromamma” and “poltrobabbo”, metamorphosis of the parents incorporated in their armchairs.
At the end of the years Quaranta he intensifies the activity of drawing publishing in 1944 the illustrations for Luciano di Samosata, Dialogues and essays, and A real story, equipped with a preface and notes written by Savinio.
In the post-war he continues the collaboration with newspapers and magazines, like “Il corriere della sera” and “Il corriere dell’informazione”. Still in the post-war he gets back to music, composing the…
In that period he makes also many scenic installations of lyric operas for the theatre alla Scala: Oedipus rex made by Stravinskij in 1948, in 1949 i racconti di Hoffmann, in 1950 L’uccello di fuoco by Stravinskij, in 1951 the ballet, or tragi-comedy mimed and danced, Vita dell’uomo, with his scenes and costumes.
As a musician he composes also the “small opera” in an act Orfeo Vedovo, represented in autumn 1950 in Rome for the “spettacoli dell’Anfiparnaso”. He also composes, still in 1950, the radiophonic opera Agenzia Fix, and the year after another radiophonic opera: Cristoforo Colombo.
He also writes theatrical papers La famiglia Mastinu (1948), Emma B. vedova Giocasta (1949), Alcesti di Samuele, played by Giorgio Strehler at the Small Theatre in Milan 1950.
As a painter he has an exhibition at the Gallery La Bussola in Turin in 1950 and in the same year at the Gallery Lo Zodiaco in Roma.
In 1952 he is sent with a personal sala to the festival “Artisti d’Italia” by the Royal Palace in Milan.
In the same year he sets up scenes and costumes for Armida, by Gioacchino Rossino, in the Musical Florentine May.
The 5th of May 1952 he suddenly dies.
Writings of complement by Alberto Savinio and testimonies
“(avrà) at least cubism had the power of sending to (diavolo) once for ever the already dominant opinion: that art be research and representation of beauty”. (1919)
“We live in a ghostly world with which we get gradually in touch” (1919)
“Man, after having suffered the tragedy, reaches the ironic sense” (1919)
“Fullness of representation of spiritual necessity in its plastic limits” – expressive potentiality of spectralness of aspects-irony” (1919)
“Every memory, and the shadow of a representation of what was childhood, is the confirm brutally cruel that life, by law, is a defeat”.
“We, the character of our painting, is this hard, rigorous constructiveness, not made sweet by romantic aura because the romantic feeling comes from the desire of what we have lost, from this continuous and sad game between us and the time) but only veiled from a poetic feeling beyond time, so metaphysical” (1942)
” I would love to live in paintings made by Poussin, Bocklin, of my brother Giorgio de Chirico”. (1945)
“Surrealism, for what I see and know, is the representation of shapeless, which is what has not taken a shape yet, is the expression of the unconscious which is what consciousness has not organized yet. For what concerns my surrealism, if we can talk about surrealism, that is exactly the opposite…because it does not only represent the shapeless and express the unconscious, but it also wants to give shape to the unconscious and consciousness to the unconscious (1945)
“My painting should not be seen, can’t be judged as you look at, as you judge painting born directly from the eye, from the paint brush, from the colour, from the relationship between tone and other cinches… my paintings do not finish where painting ends. They continue. And it’s clear. They were born before they had been painted. It is fair that they live also beyond the painted surface”. (1949).
“I have clearly felt, clearly understood that when reason of art of an artist is deeper and so it precedes the single reason of each art, when artist, in other words, is a creative centre, it is stupid, dishonest and immoral to be closed in a single art, be subjugated by its specific reasons, to its special reasons. And I have been brave enough to go beyond arts, above them”.
It is a spirit eminently dramatic, and it has the hope and the will of bringing on scene the powerful blow of a real poetry. He thinks that he can present in the theatre and let emerge with his music everything that, in our time period, emerges through a weird and enigmatic shape” (1914)
That day of our first meeting the painter Alberto Savinio was taking inspiration from an old print of marine monsters, but we do not remember what he had started to obtain from them. It was the time of his certain madreporic landscapes, then become famous and it is natural that he was keeping next to himself some stimulating documents as a base for those inventions with a naturalistic background conducted with a very personal writing”.
“He appears ironic in the most modern sense of the word. But with a spirit intensively humanistic, where for humanism we intend a position of exquisite and refined culture ( Hellenic position) in front of the immense Hellas of the whole past, from the Egyptians to De Chirico” (1933)
The whole modern mythology still in formation has her sources in the two operas, almost inseparable in the spirit, of Alberto Savinio and his brother Giorgio de Chirico” (1937)
” Savinio is not a painter as we intend in terms of pure “critique of art”: first of all, he is a brain, a factory of ideas (1945)