The Metamorphosis of Things

Dive into "Fruits et orange" by Alberto Savinio (1891-1952)

Fruits et orange (1930-1931) by Alberto SAVINIOCollezione Barilla di Arte Moderna

Dramatic tension

A vital and powerful spirit crosses the painting, which conventionally we call still life, but indeed is animated by an irrepressible dramatic tension. Alberto Savinio (1891-1952) creates this scene for his characters, these turgid and colored fruits, close to the subjects of the most traditional 17th century compositions, placed here at the center of a theater of monochromatic and monumental wings.

Immobile violence

Proposes again a compositional scheme already tried out in the previous decade by Giorgio De Chirico (his older brother), but the results are extremely distant: here a violent manifestation of nature emerges - the flash that rips the livid sky - which contrasts with the apparent immobility of things. Only the drape looks upset by it.

Surrealist contrasts

In this canvas we can read the main elements of his poetics: here we find the surrealist symbolism, the persistent refer to the architectural details, the fascination for the contrast between monochrome elements and explosion of color, which make the hand of this original artistic personality recognizable. Here Savinio measures himself for the first time with “still life”, isolating and proposing a particular, which looks almost cropped, by his 1930 painting “Le goûter”, and that he will resume again, though sporadically, during the decade.

The author

“Fruits et orange” sees the light in Paris, the city where Savinio began to paint only in 1926. In the “Ville Lumière”, during the first years of 1900, he meets Apollinaire and his company of artists and intellectuals where figures such as Picasso, Max Jacob, Francis Picabia stand out. A lively and multifaceted creativity artistic period begins that goes from music to literature and poetry. Savinio therefore was not born a painter; he arrives at painting for an expressive need and he defines himself a “great amateur” of this art. He considers each technique autonomous and irreplaceable because each has the capacity of peculiar expressions.


As painter he moves in the groove of Surrealism like his brother Giorgio. The two painters share a large part of their artistic course and their work manifest points of both contact and distance. His surrealism is ironic, made of parodies (which he also extends to the ancient myths) and quotes. At the base of his works there’s the classical world, made of mythological characters and architectures compared with an always resized nature.

Beyond the painted surface

For Savinio, art is not aesthetic research, but representation of an intimate expressive urgency. “My paintings shouldn’t be looked at, you can’t judge by how you look, how you judge paintings born directly from the eyes, the brushstrokes, the color, the tone relationship and other nonsense... my paintings don’t end where the painting ends. They continue. And you understand. They were already born before they were painted. It’s right that they live beyond the painted surface.”

Credits: All media
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