The Bricklayer’s Art

by Arthur on Tuesday, March 2, 2010

in 20th-Century,Art,Color

[futurism] Trade Catalogue.-  Milan.   Società Anonima Giuseppe Verzocchi.  Veni. VD. Vici. Milan (Società Anon. G. Verzocchi) 1924.  [45934]

Illustration by Fortunato Depero.

Illustration by Fortunato Depero for Veni. VD. Vici.

“All I have,” explained Giuseppe Verzocchi in a 1950 interview with Life magazine, “I owe to work. I intend to build a monument to it through art.”  Verzocchi made good on the promise (and then some), commissioning hundreds of Italian painters and illustrators to create work incorporating themes of labor and industry over the course of his life.  

Illustration by Fortunato Depero

Illustration by Fortunato Depero for Veni. VD. Vici.

These two day-glo chromolithographs by noted Futurist Fortunato Depero feature in Veni. VD. Vici.,  a 1924 Verzocchi trade catalog.  With 35 illustrations by 10 artists in a variety of media, it offers an intriguing snapshot of interwar Italian graphic design and fine art. While the Depero plates are the most graphically forward contributions, other notables include works by Primo Sinòpico, Guido Marussig and Marcello Dudovich.

Illustration by Primo Sinòpico for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by Primo Sinòpico for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by Guido Marussig for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by Guido Marussig for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by Marcello Dudovich for Veni. VD. Vici.
Illustration by Marcello Dudovich for Veni. VD. Vici.

Born in 1887, Verzocchi began his career as a bricklayer while still a teenager in the Dolomites, dropping out of school to help support his family.  Demand for new construction in the region was strong and his business prospered.  In his early twenties he began importing bricks from eastern Europe and later started his own factory in Milan, selling heat-resistant refractory tiles to the city’s heavy manufacturing concerns.  By the 1920s, he was a wealthy industrialist in his own right.

It was at this point that Verzocchi began commissioning works of art by some of the most sought after Italian illustrators, graphic designers, print makers and fine artists of the era.  Generous in his patronage and open to avant-garde and traditional approaches alike, the only stipulation he placed upon the artists in his employ was that one of his “V & D” logo bricks should appear somewhere in the finished image.

Pleased with the emerging collection, he started a private-press publishing company to execute a catalog presenting the artists’ images alongside advertising slogans boasting of his bricks’ unique properties.  In addition to the aforementioned artists, Veni. VD. Vici. features illustrations by several lesser-known figures, including “A. Scolari” and “G. Greppi,” below.

Illustration by A. Scolari for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by A. Scolari for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by A.Scolari for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by A. Scolari for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by G. Greppi for Veni. VD. Vici.

Illustration by G. Greppi for Veni. VD. Vici.

The item also includes what appear to be two original prints, an intaglio by C. Parmeggiani on the cover as well as a bold wood cut by Marussig.

Cover illustration for Veni. VD. Vici. by C. Parmeggiani.

Cover illustration for Veni. VD. Vici. by C. Parmeggiani.

Original woodblock endpaper illustration by Guido Marussig for Veni. VD. Vici.

Original woodblock illustration by Guido Marussig for Veni. VD. Vici.

Verzocchi’s endeavors as an art collector and patron didn’t end with Veni. VD. Vici. In 1949 he once again commissioned 72  Italian artists to create new images of manual labor, again featuring his bricks in the resulting image.  In order to ensure that his own employees had a chance to view the exhibition, he chartered a train to carry 600 people from his brickworks in La Spezia to the opening in Forli.  It was said the majority of visitors turned the exhibition into a game of “find the brick,” somewhat presaging the later popularity of Where’s Waldo…

Giuseppe Verzocchi (photo courtesy and copyright Boston Harbor Museum.)

Giuseppe Verzocchi (photo courtesy and copyright Boston Harbor Museum.)

While he later donated many of the paintings and prints in his collection to labor unions and other factories to hang in workers’ canteens, several items from the 1950 exhibition form the basis of the Verzocchi Collection at the Pinacoteca Civica of Forli.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,812942,00.html (Time magazine archives)

Life magazine article, “Speaking of Pictures,” October 30, 1950. (via Google Books.)

FAB Item I.D. # 45934

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