By Martina Tanga

Aroldo Bonzagni, born on this day in 1887, was a spirited painter of the Italian Belle Epoque. He began his art training in Cento, near Ferrara, but at the impressionable age of 19, Bonzagni moved with his family to Milan where he immediately enrolled at the prestigious Accademia di Brera. There, he took painting lessons from Cesare Tallone, perspective drawing from Giuseppe Mentessi, and decorative design from Lodovico Pogliaghi. At Brera, Bonzagni was classmates with none other than Carlo Carrà, and that’s how he became involved with the Futurists. Bonzagni even signed the first edition of the “Manifesto of Futurist Painters” in 1910. But despite his friendship with many of the futurist artist, Bonzagni left the group rather abruptly as he never adhered to their fragmented dynamic style, or shared their fascination with the automobile and industrial technology. Rather, Bonzagni remained an observer of contemporary life and he preferred a more expressive approach, similar to that of French painter Henri Toulouse Lautrec. As can be seen in the 1916 painting entitled The Monza Tram, he portrayed scenes of urban life with an immediacy and liveliness. Bonzagni’s political views and proclaimed disdain for the aristocracy is evident from his caricatures and vignettes representing social subjects. In 1914, driven by economic necessity and the impending war, Bonzagni left Italy for Argentina, where he was commissioned to execute frescoes in the hippodrome of Buenos Aires, now unfortunately destroyed. He returned to Italy within a year and he focused his attention more intently on popular themes, candidly depicting the lives of the poor in his drawings and paintings. Bonzagni died – prematurely as he was only 31- of Spanish Influenza December 30, 1918 in Milan. In Cento, his birthplace, there is now a Gallery of Modern Art named after him. Opened in 1959 and expanded in 1964 through the efforts of Bonzagni’s sister Elva, the museum today houses many of Bonzagni’s paintings and archive.

Exit from La Scala, 1910, Oil on canvas

“You are unbearable!” 1912, Oil on canvas

Dancer, 1912, Oil on canvas 

The Monza Tram, 1916, Oil on canvas

Dregs of Society, 1917-18, Oil on canvas

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