From Informal to Material Between Miró and Klee

Paola Ugolini, Io dico io – I say I curator, tells about Bice Lazzari

By La Galleria Nazionale

Superficie LSR4 (1959) by Lazzari BiceLa Galleria Nazionale


Isolated and solitary figure, Bice Lazzari was born in Venice on November 15, 1900, to a good middle-class family of traders and building contractors, second of three sisters; Ninni, the youngest, married the great architect Carlo Scarpa.

Like all girls from a good family of that time, she was enrolled in the Benedetto Marcello conservatory to learn how to play the violin, with little conviction of her own, she gave up on it after just three years.

In the meantime, however, young Bice discovered en plein air painting and, thanks to an uncle architect, professor of ornamental design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, in 1916 she enrolled in the same institute and attended for a year


The artistic beginnings of this introverted, romantic and physically rather fragile painter were similar to those of many young Venetian artists who began their careers in the early 1920s.

Especially landscapes painted en plein air, immersed in that lagoon atmosphere split by the light so dear to French impressionists, or with a more solid, almost geometric composition, which nodded to the research carried out twenty years earlier by the innovative genius of Cézanne.

Essential to her training was her constant participation as an artist, since the second half of the 1920s, in the field of applied arts. «When my father died in 1928, I had to face life on more of a practical level and so rather than wandering with a painting under my arm I took a loom and began making applied art (fabrics, scarves, bags, belts, hand-knotted carpets) to survive in the climate that I loved so dearly, that is, freedom».

Freedom, which has long been barred to women, is a fundamental requirement to turn art into a job.


In the field of applied arts – rich with innovations and more open to stylistic experimentation than the more academic field of painting – the collaboration with major Venetian architects and decorators of the time allows her to interpret and study the tendencies and non-figurative developments of the modern decorative arts.


In 1935, Bice Lazzari left the foggy atmospheres of the Venetian lagoon behind to move to Rome’s blinding light where she remained until her death.

In the capital of a fascist Italy where the regime’s aesthetics prevented artists from looking beyond their own borders, Lazzari continued her fruitful collaboration with architects and decorators.

These were years of great frustration, her livelihood derived in fact from the work in producing drawings for the applied arts and not from the Idealised art of creation free from patrons.


That world of inorganic shapes, lines and rhythms suspended in the field of the canvas became the material for an art disconnected from patrons only during the first post-war period: in 1949, in fact, Lazzari took up the brushes to focus on pictorial practice once again.

The artistic debate of those years was vivacious and young artists, who generally gathered in Guttuso's studio in via Margutta, were fascinated by the “new” pictorial expression known as abstractionism.

Bice Lazzari was searching for her own form, to give substance to mental images that reverberate contemporary informal experiences, her critic and friend Guido Montana rightly noted that the works of these years are «in some respects one of the most valid examples of Italian “material” painting, even if not recognised by those who conceived informel as a mere rhetoric of that which is violent, sensational and shapeless».


«In 1959 I put an end to the period of traditional painting, that is oil, due to an extremely serious organic poisoning […] I had to start over with new materials, that is glues, sands, tempera, mixed tempera, pencil etc. Perhaps it was not a bad thing because from informal oil painting to this textured form I discovered new ideas and another discipline […]».

The works of these years are refined twines of elementary signs that assuredly reflect the lesson of Mirò or, even more, of Klee who, in his infinite repetition of signs, becomes the essential point of reference to be able to define that future compositional grammar that will, despite its bare essentiality, represent the most interesting stage of the pictorial production of this refined interpreter of a style that is only apparently simple.

Credits: Story

Voice over by Paola Ugolini, Io dico io – I say I curator.

Credits: All media
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