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Vincenzo
Bruzzese

Italia 
1880−1953
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Born in Naples in 1880, the fourth of nine children, Vincenzo Bruzzese enrolled in the Liceo Domenico Cirillo in his city, scoring poorly in his main subjects. At the age of eighteen, his family allowed him to enrol in the preparatory school of the Royal Institute of Fine Arts in Naples. He was admitted to the two-year courses in painting, sculpture and architecture after passing the preparatory school. Several works from that period are still kept by Bruzzese's family, including some plaster casts and a few paintings and drawings. The peculiarity of these works is that none are signed, in accordance with a practice of devotion to the great masters, used by the students of the Art Academies.

In 1902, Vincenzo Bruzzese passed the exam to qualify to teach drawing in technical and normal schools, as required by the Ministry, while the following year he completed the courses in the First Painting Section. From this period there are three works bearing the VB signature, rolls of nude drawings from the school period, owned by the Santucci-Bruzzese family, which have recently been lost.

Beginning in 1902, and in conjunction with his final year of Painting at the Institute, Vincenzo Bruzzese took a private course in Topographical Drawing with a professor from the University of Naples, until mid-1904. The works of this period were strongly influenced by his teachers at the Institute, including Michele Tedesco, Alceste Campriani, Paolo Vetri, Michele Cammarano, Ignazio Perricci and Giuseppe Laezza. This was an important period in the artist's life. In fact, he began to frequent the Neapolitan artistic environment, collaborating with several publishers for whom he produced illustrations for novels or newspaper stories. According to some reconstructions carried out by his family, he probably taught drawing in the evening schools at the Istituto Casanova. He met the sculptor Gioacchino Varlese, owner of two foundries in Naples, with whom he frequently collaborated. His friendship with the sculptor Varlese was an important event in Bruzzese's professional and private life. He met Anna Tesone, Varlese's sister-in-law, who was to become his wife around 1910. The couple moved to Milan before their wedding; Ezio, the first of the couple's four children, was born in that period. The decision to move to Milan was dictated by the desire to live in an industrial city projected into the future. In the Lombard city, Bruzzese taught drawing in night schools, worked in advertising and drew for the magazine Varietas, coming into contact with Milan's cultural and artistic environment. In spite of his many artistic commissions, Bruzzese began working occasionally at the Post Office, covering night shifts. This need was dictated by the desire to ensure that the family had a fair amount of money. Some of the works from the Milanese period are kept by the family, but there is still no real traceability of all of Vincenzo Bruzzese's works. It is certain that during his time in Milan (1905-1910) he sold several paintings, but he did not keep records of them.

In 1911 he returned to Naples at the insistence of his elderly parents. But this decision would bring latent frustration into the artist's life, due to the difficulty of being able to express himself artistically in an environment that he felt was not stimulating. During this period, he devoted himself to teaching drawing in industrial and vocational schools, and to painting. The period was not one of the best, especially because of some criticism levelled against Bruzzese's art by Califano Mundo. The accusations are not light-hearted: Bruzzese is defined as a "painter of earthquake marinas". In reality, those marinas, now owned by the family, were far too modern for a certain criticism to understand. The amalgamation of the Neapolitan and Milanese worlds and the desire to refute the heavy criticism of his works led to further evolutions in the artist's style. He still remained a figurative realist, but his brushstroke was now linear and essential. 

1921 was an important year for Bruzzese. In Rome, he took part in the Esposizione Artistica Postelegrafonica. His work entitled Fiori (Flowers) was a great success, so much so that there is a correspondence in which the artist is informed that the Ministry of the Post Office wants to buy the painting. Newspapers began to take an interest in his works and Bruzzese continued to participate successfully in other exhibitions, such as those organised by the Promotrice Delle Belle Arti in Naples. The successes, also confirmed by the specialist press, continued until 1926. In the meantime, in the midst of the Fascist regime, Bruzzese's career suffered a setback due to the fact that he never took out a Fascist membership card, and in his own small way led his cultural and political battle.

In 1932 he resumed his exhibition activities, which were abruptly interrupted the following year with the death of his beloved wife Anna. This marked the beginning of a period of travel in which he often portrayed Ligurian and Tuscan landscapes. The lack of his wife and the loneliness were not easy to cope with, however. The only joys now are his grandchildren. In the year of his retirement, 1945, he was among the protagonists of an exhibition organised again by the Promotrice Delle Belle Arti. Once his commitments with the Post Office were over, Bruzzese was able to devote himself full-time to his artistic activity.

In Bruzzese's pictorial poetics, one can recognise his passion for flowers and still lifes. A regular visitor to the Botanical Gardens in Naples, he used to buy different types of flowers at the market every day, from which he drew inspiration for his works. His passion for painting allowed him to experiment. He painted monochrome oil paintings on glass, as well as numerous women's faces on small boards (15×10 cm) on a whim. He returned to painting landscapes, this time without travelling, simply looking out from his home in Via dei Miracoli. Terraces, gardens, glimpses of buildings were imprinted on canvas or cardboard.

The last years of Vincenzo Bruzzese's life, between 1950 and 1952, were characterised by long stays in Barano d'Ischia and frequent meetings with old friends, German painters. It was a flourishing period for the artist, who seemed to have returned to his former glory. In all likelihood, the state employment at the Post Office had somehow erected a wall between the artist and the man. The years following his retirement were characterised by a resumption of painting.

On the night of 16th March 1953, Vincenzino, as his friends called him, died.

The family is left with the memory of this shy, cultured man who loved pictorial research and who made art his reason for living. Today, there are only a few traces of him left, but they allow us to fully appreciate his genius.




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