Alberto Martini (1876-1954)
William Wilson, c.1909
Pen and black ink on paper
370 × 260 mm. (14 ⅝ × 10 ¼ in.)
ALBERTO MARTINI: Masks & Shadows
When they were first brought to the attention of the London art market in 1914 at the internationally renowned Goupil Gallery, as part of the solo exhibition Pen drawings by Alberto Martini, The Times wrote a long article highlighting the wonderful technique used by the artist in the creation of his illustrations, declaring, "there can be no question that these drawings are the most masterly that have been seen in public for years". Now, over a hundred years later, Laocoon Gallery reunites a part of this critically acclaimed collection – dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Horror and certain extraordinary works from the great William Shakespeare – placing with it other masterpieces inspired by the literary works of Mallarmé, as well as a mysterious set of drawings entitled "Poem of the shadows" and the exemplary oil painting "Le Flambeau du Pantin". It is a collection of 70 works comprising pen and pencil drawings, watercolours, engravings, lithographs and oil paintings which placed the artist simultaneously as the epigone of Italian decadentismo and symbolism as well as the absolute precursor of surrealism.
Alberto Martini was one of the most original and eccentric of the European illustrators from the early twentieth century, his greatness and inimitability consist above all in a virtuosic ability to use pen and Indian ink with such intricate and obsessional technique that his drawings seem like an engraving. This exhibition, alongside a book [Vittorio Pica e Alberto Martini. Il trentennale sodalizio tra un critico ed un artista, Ed. Tau, 2021] and catalogue [Ed. D'Arte], was inaugurated at Gallery W. Apolloni of Rome in June this year, and is the culmination of a substantial research project by Monica Cardarelli, founder and director of Galleria del Laocoonte in Rome and Laocoon Gallery of London, who has studied Martini since her specialization at the University of Florence.