b. 1908 Bergamo, d. 1991 Rome
sculptor; draftsman; painter; printmaker; designer
Devoted to representing the human figure, Giacomo Manzù's emphasis on design and simplified form set his work apart from his more traditional contemporaries. He sought to create sculptures that were not simply representational, but also acted as symbols of universal meaning for all viewers. Manzù was the son of a shoemaker and at age thirteen, apprenticed as a craftsman. He learned to carve and worked with wood, stone, and plaster. Unexposed to contemporary art, Manzù was captivated by classical sculpture, the work of Michelangelo, and also Aristide Maillol's figures, which he discovered in books. After a short trip to Paris in 1929, Manzù moved to Milan and began creating his first sculptures--many of which he would ultimately destroy. In the 1930s, Manzù explored various materials from painted terra cotta and stucco to marble and bronze. He created three-dimensional figures as well as reliefs, focusing on genre scenes and figures from the Bible. By the end of the decade, Manzù had established several subjects to which he returned for many years. These included life-size nudes, scenes of the Crucifixion and Deposition, the Catholic cardinal, and the painter with his model. Manzù favored bronze, but he also made marble versions of some of his forms works. He gradually achieved recognition for his sculpture and accepted several teaching positions.During World War II, Manzù made a series of eight reliefs entitled Christ Of Our Humanity, expressing his opposition to Fascism. He created a number of commissions for bronze doors including the monumental Door of Death for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. In the 1950s, he explored a range of new subjects including ballerinas and skaters, mothers and children, and lovers.