By Martina Tanga

Female painter, collector, and gallery owner Lia Pasqualino Noto died on this day, February 25, in 1998. Born Lia Noto, in Palermo in 1909, she showed a propensity for the arts at an early age, and was already studying with painter baghereseOnofrio Tomaselli at the age of eleven. During the late 1920s, Lia Noto met the futurist painter Pippo Rizzo, who also happened to be in charge of the Fascist state sanctioned cultural program in Sicily, and he encouraged her painting. Lia Noto exhibited her work for the first time in 1929 at the “Mostra Sindacale Siciliana,” and had her first solo exhibition at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo in 1932.

Lia Noto started to gain notoriety for her work during the 1930s, and as a result she met the young painter Renato Guttuso, and the sculptors Giovanni Barbera and Nino Franchina. Together, the four artists formed a close friendship, bound by a desire to create work that disobeyed the style of art dictated by the regime. Forming the “Gruppo dei Quattro,” they met regularly throughout the 1930s to discuss art and search for an alternative to the classicized pure forms endorsed by il Duce.

Also at this time, Lia Noto married Guglielmo Pasqualino, a medical doctor. Taking her husband’s name, Lia Pasqualino Noto recalled that some critics who only saw the name “Pasqualino Noto” mistook her for a man. She capitalized on this and hid her true gender identity from critics that attributed her work to be her husband’s. By camouflaging her true identity, Lia Noto managed to navigate and succeed in a misogynist, fascist art world.   

After the war, Lia Pasqualino Noto turned to dealing in art by collecting and having her own gallery in Palermo. It was not until the end of the 1960s that Lia Pasqualino Noto returned to the attention of national critics, this time without having to disguise her gender. An important retrospective of her work was held in 1970 at the Gallery 32 in Milan, and the paintings of the “Gruppo dei Quattro” were the subject of a more recent exhibition in Palermo in 1999-2000 at the Galleria Arte Moderna in Palermo.

The Nurse, 1934, oil on canvas

Bathers, 1937, oil on canvas

Portrait with cat, ca. 1940s, oil on canvas

Two women, ca. 1940s, oil on canvas

Source: Dizionario Biografico Treccani degli Italiani – Volume 81_online (2014)

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