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Lucio Fontana, Spatialism

Lucio Fontana

Lucio Fontana is a revered theorist, painter, and sculptor from the 1960s who is best remembered for founding spatialism, an art movement that made its mark in the art industry.

Early Life

Lucia Fontana came into this world on February 19, 1899, born in Rosario Santa Fé, Argentina. His mother was Argentinian and his father an Italian sculptor. He spent his early life in Milan, Italy before returning to Argentina, to work in his father’s workshop as a sculptor. He later opened his own and took part in his maiden exhibition of Nexus in 1926, a group composed of youthful Argentinian artists plowing their trade in Rosario.


Fontana moved back to Italy in 1927, enrolling at Accademia di Brera in 1928 where he was taught by Adolfo Wildt, the sculptor. It was here in 1930 that he got to present his first exhibition which was put together by the Milano art gallery II Milione. The following decade saw him touring across Italy and France and working with expressionist and abstract painters. In Paris, he joined the Abstraction-Creation association and created sculptures in bronze and ceramic between 1936 and 1949. He joined a group of expressionist artists from Milan in 1939.

In 1940, Lucio again relocated to Buenos Aires, Argentina and founded Altamire academy in 1946, teaming up with some of his pupils to make public the white manifesto. This proclaimed that matter, sound, and color in motion are phenomena whose simultaneous development form the new kind of art. Fontana began to come up with theories which he expanded to Spatialism from 1947 to 1952 in five manifestos. In 1947, he returned to Milan and his studio and works suffered destructions after being hit during the Allied bombings. Afterward, he joined notable architects from Milan to decorate new buildings, hoping to resurrect the city from the war.


Spatialism is an art movement which aims to synthesize color, space, sound, movement and time into a fresh kind of art. Its main principles were expected in its founder, Lucio Fontana’s White Manifesto which was published in 1946, Buenos Aires. He mentioned the new spatial art, keeping the spirit in the times succeeding the war.

In 1948, Fontana returned to Italy and exhibited his first Ambiente spaziale a luce nera in the city of Milan. He started the Spatial Concept from 1949, which comprised slashes or holes the painting surfaces, drawing a symbol of what he called ‘art for the space age’. He came up with the generic title Concetto spaziale for the works and applied it in almost all his paintings to follow. These included broad categories of the Buchi(holes) and the Tagli(slashes).

In many cases, Fontana used a black gauze to line the reverse side of his canvases to allowdarkness glare behind these cuts, bringing about a sense of depth and illusion. He went on to create neon ceilings, Luce spaziale in Milan 1951 for the Triennale. In his first series called, he uses the shape of an egg. His Pietre series entailed Fontana fusing the sculpture with the painting, which he did by encrusting the canvas surface with colored glass and heavy impasto. In 1961, Fontana visited New York where a show of his work was happening at the Martha Jackson Gallery. He designed costumes and opera sets in 1966 for La Scala, Milan.


Lucio Fontana
One of Fontana’s final works was a series of little theatres where he went back to a flat idiom, using blackloths enclosed in wings that resembled a frame. Another work, Trinity from 1966 consisted of three huge white canvases punctuated by holes and lines, embraced in a setting created from plastic sheets that resembled wings. One of Lucio’s most iconic works is the Concetto spaziale, Attese from 1965. A mesmerizing red canvas that had 24 incisions, the most in all his creations. He got the inspiration to create it from Michaelangelo’s haunting and Red Desert.

Later Years and Death

In the sunset years of his career, Lucio Fontana got increasingly interested in the idea of staging his work in the numerous exhibitions that paid him homage throughout the world, and the idea of purity which was captured in his final white canvases. These concerns stood out at the 1966 Venice Biennale, where he designed the surroundings of his work. The same was true at the Documenta Kassel in West Germany, 1968. Lucio Fontana died on 7th September 1968, in his family’s mother town Comabbio, Italy.