An artist for an artist? Marino Marini is not my master—I was not that fortunate—but he is for me an exemplary artist. His lifetime (1901 – 1980) neatly spanned the twentieth century, but he was frequently named an heir to the classical world by birth (in Pistoia, which had been Etruria, and now modern Tuscany). The cliché leans on a matter of fact, but to us, after the nightmare of the twentieth centry, what is a “classical” artist?
Marini’s work nearly always assumes a well-turned volume. He seems to have made the envelope right, then attended to the details. In his portraits—which are the kernel of his work, the envelope curls into the features as well, and just a few freely scratched lines and deft perforations are enough to complete the likeness. The whole head seems the work of a single supple hour, just long enough for an individual to be written over something deeper, harder, unitary, and common, like a pebble, a shell, or the skull itself.
The artists I aspire to join share a rapt passivity. They see and do not insist. They hear where there is no sound, see things that are not visible, and feel things that are not present. Marini was a strong poet on easy terms with forms stronger than himself. He gave them as they asked. They gave him the liberty to see things as they are and to make something of things as he found them.