Luigi Cillo (1920‒2011)Biography Luigi Cillo and his work are significant in Veneto painting art not only because of the artist’s diverse choice of techniques, but also his expressiveness and poetic nature. Luigi Cillo was born on 21 October 1920 in Cappella Maggiore (Treviso Province). In 1946, he graduated with a degree in decoration from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia as Bruno Saetti’s student. His first important appearance as an artist took place at an exhibition called Prima mostra degli artisti e artigiani in armi (The First Exhibition of Artists and Craftsmen in Arms), which took place in Trieste in 1943. Cillo was awarded first place and lauded by the famous art critic, Silvio Benco. This was followed in January of 1946 by an exhibition in Venice at the Galleria San Marcos, where he exhibited a substantial number of works that were praised by the renown and successful artist Felice Carena. The following year, Cillo successfully participated in an ecclesiastical art competition based on the character of St Catherine. 1948 is a breakthrough year for the artist: he discovers the antique frescos in the small Mattarella Church in Cappella Maggiore (which were restored in 1952), and during the summer of the same year, creates a large 45-square-metre fresco on the subject of Easter on the back wall of a county church. This work is probably one of the artist’s most important works of sacred art. During the same year of 1948, he is pleased to received an invitation to participate in the 24th Venice Biennale with a painting called White House (La casa bianca), which depicts a house belonging to a family of artists near the house where he was born. In 1950, he is again invited to participate in the Biennale, this time with a painting depicting the Carron stream, which was placed next to five canvases by Ottone Rosai. Luigi Cillo has now achieved the peak of his fame, which also spreads across the ocean. In 1951, he receives a letter from the secretariat of the 1st biennial at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo) in Brazil, telling him that the jury has chosen his work depicting a Vittorio Veneto landscape titled Paesaggio Vittoriese to represent Italy in the painting category. In 1954, the committee at the São Paulo Museum of Art (Museu de Arte de São Paulo) decides to award him first place at the second national sculpture competition in São Caetano do Suli. This is a prestigious recognition that is followed by an offer to decorate the Cinema Vittoria atrium. Thereafter, there is the series of frescoes in the Cathedral of Matriz Velha, one of the most famous churches in the city, which was built by the first Venetian emigrants.In the spring of 1958, Cillo returns to his homeland and dedicates himself to ceramics, glass compositions and glass plates. In 1966, and again in 1970, he participates in the Venice Biennale, as well as in many other prestigious exhibitions in Italy and abroad related to artistic craftsmanship: 1968 in Melbourne, 1969 in Bordeaux, 1970 and 1972 in Monaco, 1974 in Cologne, and 1975 in Düsseldorf. Of the exhibitions that took place in Italy between 1967 and 1973, the four exhibitions in Florence should be mentioned, with Cillo winning first prize at the last one. Also deserving of mention are the exhibition in Padua in 1972 where he also won a prize; the first prize (Primo Premio Preci) he won in Spoleto in 1973; as well as many lesser prizes and the Ferrara exhibition in 1965; the Premio Mogliano Veneto as well as the Premio Suzzara and Premio Feltre in 1966. His searches in the fields of sculpture and fine art during the 1950s, which got their start with ceramics from Brazil, lead him to terra cotta and majolica. The latter material gives birth to such extraordinary works as Birth of the Virgin (La Nascita della Vergine) for the Fontanellette church in 1968; Lesson (La Lezione) in 1969 for the Luzzati Institute in Vittorio Veneto; Tabernacle (Il Tabernacolo in 1972 for Collegio Dante also in Vittorio Veneto; The Resurrection (La Resurrezione) in 1973 in Nervesa della Battaglia. Also worth recalling are the Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) from 1967 ‒ a large, 1.5 × 3 metre fresco for the chapel of the nursing home in Costa di Vittorio Veneto, which, since 1973, has been on display on the apse wall of the modern parish church in Colle Umberto under the name Our Lady of Peace (Madonna della Pace). In 1988, Cillo paints a large monumental work called Crucifixion (Crocefissione), which covers the entire apse wall of the church dedicated to St Peter and St Paul in Vittorio Veneto.Terracotta is the material to which Cillo chooses to entrust much of his creative flair and inner searching. This is clearly demonstrated by the story depicted on the work called The Way of the Cross in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Conegliano (Via Crucis), which meanders like a long ribbon along the wall leading to the baptismal bath. Finally, returning to painting, he provides us with a moving surprise: a large mural in the San Giuseppe church in Costa di Vittorio Veneto from 1997. The work is called The Way of Humanity (Il Cammino della Umanita) ‒ a gouache painting on plaster, where colour becomes light and transparency, an ineffable mystery of the artist's religious spirit.Terracotta, ceramics, bronze sculpture, concrete, fresco, tempera, watercolour ‒ various techniques and materials that represent the many ways to express something universal and eternal.This is the summary of Luigi Cillo and his work. And even if there have been some pauses in his artistic endeavor – be they intentional or not – the Master has always known how to find the strength to react, drawing on his spiritual energy in order to continue, based on the intimate conviction that art combines creativity and knowledge, the craft and profound, authentic passion.
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