Francesco Messina

Francesco Messina ( 1900 – 1995)

Francesco Messina was born in 1900 in Linguaglossa, a small town on the slopes of Mount Etna.

Like many poor families at the time, the Messina family considered emigrating to America in search of the American Dream, but they stopped in Genoa. 

Here, the young Francesco started working in marble workshops where his passion for sculpture was born. 

When he was still in his twenties, started to exhibit his works.

In 1922, he was accepted to the XII Venice Biennale, surpassing a strict selection process, and presented his bronze Dead Christ. At the event in Venice, he had the honor of meeting Carlo Carrà and Adolfo Wildt. He participated again in 1942, winning the first prize, and then in 1956.

He became friends with Eugenio Montale and Salvatore Quasimodo – and met Carlo Carrà and Arturo Martini.

In this period, through Eugenio Montale, he met the love of his life, Politeama Bianca Fochessati Clerici whom he married in 1944. 

In 1925, he took part in the 3rd Rome Biennale and the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels in Paris. 

Adolf Wildt, in 1926, invited him to participate in the “First Exhibition of the Italian Twentieth Century” in Milan.

In 1932, he moved to Milan and established relationships with key figures in the art world, including Giorgio Morandi and Lucio Fontana.

In just a few years, he became a nationally renowned artist and often a representative of Italian art abroad.

Sadly, none of Messina’s early works have survived. He destroyed everything as he admitted himself. He said that they seemed to him like poor imitations of Arturo Martini.

At the age of 34, he won a national competition to become the chair of sculpture at the Brera Academy, which had been held by Wildt, and he taught there for over thirty years.

In the same year, he won the competition for the monument to Christopher Columbus put on by the city of Chiavari.

The 1950s and 1960s were a period of intense activity for Messina, as an authoritative academic teacher and artist in high demand in Italy and abroad for public and private commissions. 

Famous works by Francesco Messina:

monument to Saint Catherine for one of the sides of Castel Sant’Angelo,

monument to Pius XII for St. Peter’s Basilica, 

the Dying Horse commissioned for the RAI headquarters in Rome in 1966.

The Via Crucis in bronze and the large Madonna with Child in Carrara marble for San Giovanni Rotondo.

In 1970, the City of Milan gave him use for life as a studio of the church of San Sisto, at Via San Sisto 4/A destroyed by the bombings in 1943, in exchange for the complete restoration of the church. The Francesco Messina Civic Museum-Studio opened in 1974.

At the Vatican Museums, the Borgia Room was dedicated to him. 

He died in Milan on September 13, 1995. Milan, which had been his home, welcoming him for much of his life, made him an honorary citizen. 

His works are found in many international cities, including Bern, Zurich, Gothenburg, Oslo, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Munich, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Venice, Vienna, Washington, and Tokyo.