Lucio Fontana, (Rosario de Santa Fè, 1899 – Varese, 1968). His father Luigi was a sculptor, his mother Lucia Bottino a theatre actress. When he was only seven years old, Fontana left Argentina and was entrusted to an uncle to study in Italy. He enrolled at the Building School in Milan but interrupted in ’16 to enlist as a volunteer, became an infantry second lieutenant and returned from the front in ’19, with a silver medal, wounded on the Karst. He then resumed his studies, graduated and went on to enroll in the sculpture course at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in 1927. He was one of Adolfo Wildt’s favourite pupils. In 1930 Wildt was a member of the commission for the 17th Venice Biennale, the first in which Fontana participated.
During the 1930s, he studied and continued his research between two cities, Milan and Paris. During this period the artist began to separate his work from the school master Wildt. This shift is visible in the sculptural work Uomo Nero, exhibited at the Galleria il Milione in 1930. The statue is described as a ‘primitive thinker’ covered in a black, scratched tar casting. It is an artefact of a profound break with the 20th century, almost “the artist’s first sign of liberation”, as Edoardo Persico defined it. Uomo Nero was followed by the series of golds: Signorina seduta 1934 – Il Fiocinatore 1933-34 – Ritratto di Teresita 1939, where Wildtian echoes return at times.
It will be in the subsequent tablets, with the use of chalk combined with scratching, abstraction of matter on the one hand, Surrealist automatism on the other, that Fontana demonstrates his own wholly personal way of reading both.