Emilio Pettoruti (1892–1971) was an Argentine painter, who caused a scandal with his avant-garde cubist exhibition in 1924 in Buenos Aires. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Buenos Aires was a city full of artistic development. Pettoruti's career was thriving during the 1920s when "Argentina witnessed a decade of dynamic artistic activity; it was an era of euphoria, a time when the definition of modernity was developed." While Pettoruti was influenced by Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Abstraction, he did not claim to paint in any of those styles in particular. Exhibiting all over Europe and Argentina, Emilio Pettoruti is remembered as one of the most influential artists in Argentina in the 20th century for his unique style and vision.
Biography: Emilio Pettoruti was born in La Plata, on October 1, 1892, to a prosperous middle-class Italian family. Pettoruti's art would be influenced by the modern, geometric layout of the city, with the "silver color of changing tonalities." When Pettoruti was only fourteen years old, he enrolled in the local Academy of Fine Arts, only to drop out shortly after because he felt he could learn more on his own. He then studied with Emilio Coutaret, an architect, and teacher at the Drawing School in the Museum of Natural History, where he developed a style in favor of caricature portraits. It was one of these caricatures, specifically of Rodolfo Sarrat, that provided him with the means to study abroad. In 1913, he was awarded a travel scholarship to Italy, where he studied Renaissance painters in Florence, including Fra Angelico, Masaccio, and Giotto. He was strongly influenced by fourteenth-century art in Florence: "the inevitable influence of Greco-Roman art and architecture, his interest in the geometric proportion of the anonymous medieval mosaic artists, and the equilibrium of the Early Renaissance paintings he copied inevitably found their way into his own work."
While in Europe, he interacted with several European avant-garde artists and discovered the growing style of futurism. He also developed a strong friendship with the Peruvian writer Jose Carlos Mariategui which extended into a long-standing relationship. He began reading Lacerba, a Florentine futurist magazine including literature and artwork inspired by the movement. He met Futurist artists, and also exhibited at Herwarth Walden's Der Sturm Gallery in Berlin. In Paris, he met Juan Gris, who influenced him to paint in a cubist style. Of all the interests Pettoruti could have chosen to pursue, he selected art after his maternal grandfather, Josè Casaburi discovered his potential artistic talent. In 1913, after a commission from Congressman Rodolfo Sarrat, Pettoruti traveled to Europe to study art. The theme of vertical city streets recurs in his art in 1917, in Mi Ventana en Florencia.
In Italy, Pettoruti developed a growing sense of European Modernism and studied Italian Renaissance art of the fourteenth century. In 1924, Pettoruti returned to Argentina, hoping to popularize the genre in his own country. Exhibiting both in his native country and abroad, Pettoruti was a huge success. In 1930, he was named the director of Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes in La Plata. His fame spread even to North America, and in 1942, Pettoruti visited San Francisco for his first major United States show. This show expanded Pettoruti's name, causing more museums to demand his exhibitions. Pettoruti married Maria Rosa González, who later became a subject in many of his paintings.
Pettoruti decided to step down as director of the museum, which was limited to a more conservative direction during the administration of President Juan Perón. Amid ongoing harassment and dismissals of university staff, Pettoruti returned to Europe in 1952 and continued to paint. He wrote his autobiography, Un Pintor Ante el Espejo (A Painter Before the Mirror) in Paris in 1968, and Pettoruti remained there until his death on October 16, 1971.
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