By Martina Bollini

Sculptor Leonardo Bistolfi was born on 14 March 1859 in Casale Monferrato (Piedmont). He studied at the Brera art Academy in Milan, under Giosuè Argenti, and at the Accademia Albertina in Turin, under Odoardo Tabacchi.

With the sculpture The angel of death for the Brayda tomb in the Turin cemetery (1882), Bistolfi took a turn towards Symbolism that he would never abandon. Throughout his life, Bistolfi designed funerary monuments of great emotional intensity, which earned him the nickname “sculptor of grief”.

As Bistolfi became a leader figure in the Italian artistic world, he developed a growing interest for international movements such as Preraphaelitism and Art Nouveau. A key event for the diffusion of the Art Nouveau style (known in Italy as Liberty) was the Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna, a major exhibition of decorative arts held in Turin in 1902. Its poster was designed by Bistolfi, who was also one of the founders of “L’Arte Decorativa Moderna”, a magazine supporting the ideas of the Liberty movement.

Bistolfi executed numerous public monuments, as well as the marble group Sacrifice for the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome. After World War I, Bistolfi’s fame faded and the artist retired in his villa in La Loggia (Turin). Here, he died in 1933. In his hometown of Casale Monferrato, the Gipsoteca Leonardo Bistolfi displays more than 170 artworks by Bistolfi, including drawings, bozzetti, plaster cast models, and sculptures.

Reference: G. Di Genova, BISTOLFI, Leonardo, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani.

The angel of death, 1882, Turin cemetery.

Le spose della morte (Death’s Wives), 1895.

Poster of the Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna, 1902, Turin.

Monument to Segantini, 1906, Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna, Rome.

Giuseppe Garibaldi Memorial, 1883, Caprera.

Sacrifice, marble group, Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome.

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