Giuseppe Novello

Giuseppe NovelloGiuseppe Novello was born in Codogno on 7th July 1897. He attended il Regio liceo Berchet in Milan, the city where he had moved in 1912 and where he often visited the studio of the painter uncle, who encouraged his early inclination for art. Called up to the army in 1917, he fought in the Alps as part of 46th company of the Tirano battalion, being involved in the defeat of Caporetto. After the war, in 1920, he graduated in law at Pavia with a thesis on copyright in the visual arts. Meanwhile, in 1919 he had enrolled at ‘Accademia di belle arti’ of Brera, where he studied painting with Ambrose Alciati, graduating in 1924. The following year he took part in the exhibition of Brera, winning the Fumagalli prize. At the same time he continued his work as an illustrator, producing 46 boards on the theme of war for ‘La canzone dei verdi’, presented by Renzo Boccardi (Monza 1927). Since the early years, and even more so now, both the appearance and path of Novello’s work showed a duplicity that would accompany him throughout his career. On the one hand the painter showed elements of the serene natural language of post-impressionist derivation, and on the other the subtle irony that was the signature of the cartoonist . In Milan he frequented ‘la Trattoria toscana Pepori’, which was a meeting place for artists and intellectuals such as Ottavio Steffenini, Bernardino Palazzi, Adolfo Franci, Ugo Ojetti, Mario Vellani Marchi, Anselmo Bucci, Arturo Martini and Paolo Monelli. Starting from 1927 he took part in almost all exhibitions held at the ‘Permanente’ in Milan, and also exhibited at the Quadriennale in Rome in 1931 and at the Venice Biennale in 1934, 1936 and 1940 (at which he won the competition for portrait). In the thirties he achieved national and international acclaim as an illustrator thanks to the publishing house ‘Mondadori’, who produced two volumes that collected the cartoons he had made for ‘Fuori sacco’: ‘The gentleman of good family’, 1934; ‘What will people say?’, 1937 (reprinted several times) . Showing the gentle humour of Anglo-Saxon ancestry along with effective graphic imitation, he was also appreciated abroad, so much so that his works were published in newspapers such as ‘Libertad’ (1933), ‘Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung’ (1934) and ‘Je suis partout’ (1934). At the outbreak of World War II he was called up to the 5th Alpine Regiment and survived the tragic experience of the Russian campaign, evidenced by letters sent to his sister Lotti, also the protagonist of many of his paintings. After returning to Italy in March 1943 and the armistice, he was imprisoned on 9th September in Fortezza and a day later was deported to the concentration camp for Italian officers in Częstochowa; from there he was transferred to Benjaminovo, Sandbostel and finally Wietzendorf camp, where he refused to join the ‘Repubblica di Salò’. In the cell where he remained locked up with his companions for two years, he made many drawings, maintaining the morale of his fellow inmates with his vis comica. Assumed dead by many news reports, in 1945 he returned to Italy and began to divide his life between Milan and Codogno, alternating between humorous illustration and painting. In the 1950s he renewed his relationship with ‘Mondadori’, who published his drawings of war in the volume ‘Steppa e gabbia’ (1957) as well as several of his illustrations. In 1965 he ended his relationship with ‘La Stampa’, wishing to devote himself mainly to painting, in which he continued to remain true to its relaxed and pleasant language whilst deliberately steering clear of the contemporary avant-garde vocabularies. His last works included an illustrated volume about theatre as well as a melodrama published by Ponte Rosso in 1978 for the 200th anniversary celebration of La Scala. Also the collection published by Archinto for his ninetieth birthday called ‘delle spiritose Cartoline-lametta’ (1987). In 1984 he was awarded the merit of Ambrogino d’oro by the City of Milan. He died on 2nd February, 1988 in Codogno.