Volpi, Alfredo (1896–1988) By Maroja, Camila
One of Brazil’s greatest colorists, Alfredo Volpi (b. 1896, Lucca, Italy; d. 1988, São Paulo, Brazil), immigrated with his parents to Brazil in 1897 and was trained as a painter-decorator by the age of fifteen. This training instilled in him a passion for artistic processes, as evidenced in the painter’s lifelong habit of stretching his own canvases and preparing tempera paint, a technique he embraced after discovering Giotto in an influential visit to Italy in 1950. His initial production is mostly figurative. Noteworthy from this early period are his 1939–1941 marine landscapes made in Itanhaém, following his encounter with the painter Ernesto De Fiori. From the 1950s onwards his artworks became more abstract. He painted the characteristic colonial façades and decorative little flag pennants (literally, bandeirinhas or “little flags”), which poetically evoke popular taste and local tradition. Although his oeuvre cannot be easily inserted into artistic movements, Volpi participated in the unofficial Santa Helena Group in the 1930s, with painters like Mário Zanini and Francisco Rebolo. Additionally, Brazilian Concrete artists identified him as their precursor. Indeed, despite never embracing the theoretical program of the group, Volpi exhibited in the famous National Concrete Art Exhibitions [Exposições Nacionais de Arte Concreta] in 1956 and 1957. Other important shows include the May Salon [Salão de Maio] (1939) and the II São Paulo Biennal [II Bienal de São Paulo] (1953), which bestowed on him the national prize for painting together with Emiliano Di Cavalcanti.