(Rome; New York; Washington D.C.): (1915-72).
A collection of 61 sketchbooks belonging to the Italian born artist Pietro Lazzari, a World War I soldier and leading figure in the Italian Futurist movement. After several trips to New York during the 1920s, Lazzari emigrated permanently to the United States in 1929 because, as he put it, “the fascists began mingling with the futurists.” During the 1930s he painted murals for the WPA and soon won fame as a sculptor, painter, and teacher at American University and the Corcoran School of Art.
The collection is comprised of 34 working sketchbooks spanning Lazzari’s early years in Italy and the United States (circa 1915 – early 1930s), and an additional 27 sketchbooks from when Lazzari was based in Washington, DC (circa 1950-72). Together they comprise an astounding gallery of various portraits and caricatures, with related figures and studies, including early images of Italian army officers and soldiers, and of friends and fellow artists.
The sketchbooks are of varying sizes, ranging from pocket notepads to octavo and small quarto books in wrappers, flexible card covers, etc. Most show signs of heavy use, especially the earlier books: most contain numerous pen and ink and pencil sketches and studies, together with individual artworks, both signed or unsigned. Included among the pencil sketches are numerous works in textured graphite, and among the pen and ink sketches are several wash drawings. Color drawings are also included. Most of the sketchbooks from both periods were also used by Lazzari as journals to record artistic ideas, designs (especially for murals), and related technical matters such as perspective, color, etc., together with stream-of-consciousness thoughts and observations, drafts for letters, names and addresses; also present throughout many of the later books are astrological charts with accompanying notes.
Several books in the collection have leaves that have been removed or re-ordered and laid-in by Lazzari. Intermittent toning, scattered stains, and intermittent damp staining to some of the earlier books, most of the earlier books have detached wraps, or are lacking one or both wraps; overall about very good or better.
Born in Rome in 1898, Pietro Lazzari studied art in Paris and at the Ornamental School of Rome. He served in an artillery unit (grenadiers) during World War I, and joined the Italian Futurist movement soon after the war. He described the movement in a 1964 oral history interview: “My contact with the Futurists was good … I was in Rome in 1917 … and when I was there I used to go down to *Teatro de’Independents* … I met extraordinary people, there was Picasso, Depiero, and Balla, Boccioni, and Marinetti … It was an interesting period. There were poets, writers, and then from Russia there was a continual stream of arrivals … dancers … like Laroscalya, and … Stravinsky, and they all were friends, and I was there, I used to make sketches there to pick up a few dollars.”
With the rise of fascism in Italy Lazzari made frequent trips to New York City, where, in 1926 he was one of only nine other European artists who contributed to an important exhibition at the New Gallery that included Picasso, Pascin, and Modigliani. After becoming an American citizen in the early 1930s Lazzari was commissioned by the WPA for murals and sculptures. He married in 1934 (to Evelyn Cohen) and moved permanently to Washington, DC in 1942, where he established his studio. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 1950, and received various commissions and teaching appointments. He was represented by the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York (there are several references to Betty Parsons in the sketchbooks), and Lazzari’s sculpture, paintings, and drawings have become part of several major collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and at the National Collection of Fine Arts and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC.
As indicated in several of the sketchbooks, Lazzari made many trips abroad and throughout the United States. Included among the bulk of the sketches and drawings made in Italy and the United States, are drawings made in Mexico, Germany, and Israel. Although not explicitly dated, most of the sketchbooks contain dated artworks and notes; Lazzari often names specific artworks, mural designs, etc., currently in process, and among his notes are the names of the various places where he is working or visiting.
An historically important and remarkable collection of over 2000 sketches and drawings by Lazzari, together with numerous accompanying journal notes and related studies and writings.
A detailed list of all 61 sketchbooks and related ephemera is available.