Often referred to as a Symbolist artist, the sculptor Adolfo Wildt (1868–1931) occupies a singular position in the history of 20th-century Italian art. His style defies categorization, as does the work of his most famous students, Lucio Fontana and Fausto Melotti. Emily Braun looks at how Wildt exploited drawing as a medium of visionary experience, both for the artist and the viewer. In the emaciated line of his pencil drawings, as well as in his crepuscular charcoal compositions, Wildt relied on specific graphic qualities to represent bodies in ecstasy, suffering, and trance-like states. His exacting techniques of outline drawing and sfumatura are visibly obsessive in their rendering. Though Wildt’s drawings may also be seen in relationship to his carved figures and bas-reliefs, they exist as an autonomous and original corpus of work.
Braun’s keynote lecture opens a three-day online symposium on modern Italian drawings organized in conjunction with the exhibition, Silent Revolutions: Italian Drawings from the Twentieth Century, on view at the Menil Drawing Institute through April 11, 2021. This symposium is conceived by Edouard Kopp, John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Chief Curator, Menil Drawing Institute; Irina Zucca Alessandrelli, Curator, Collezione Ramo, Milan; and Saskia Verlaan, Menil Drawing Institute Pre-Doctoral Fellow.