Toti Scialoja

Toti Scialoja Painter, poet, art critic, set designer, stagecraft teacher

Scialoja (Rome 1914-1998) gave up his classical studies to focus on his two great loves: painting and poetry.

In 1935 he befriended Corrado Cagli, Mirko, and the poet Libero de Libero, director of the Galleria della Cometa, and started frequenting Roman artistic circles.

In 1940 he debuted his drawings with a solo show at the Galleria Genova in Genoa.

His first painting show was held at Turin’s Società Amici dell’Arte in 1942.

That same year, he showed with artists Leoncillo, Giulio Turcato, and Emilio Vedova at the Galleria dello Zodiaco in Rome. 

The next year he started working as a set and costume designer for the Teatro Argentina and the Teatro delle Arti in Rome and exhibited at the fourth Quadriennale.

The four off-road painters

He joined the Resistance and after the war was linked to painters Ciarrocchi, Stradone, and Sadun, with whom he showed at the Galleria del Secolo in Rome.

In his presentation, Brandi called them ‘the four off-road painters’ for their original, expressionistic investigations that veered away from the neo-Cubist language popular in Italy then.

The 1950s marked a turning point in Scialoja’s research as he left his expressionist origins to pursue informal art.

His group and solo shows brought him international prominence and he befriended major American Abstract Expressionists like De Kooning, Klein, Motherwell, and Rothko. 

In 1955, Pasolini presented his recent work at Parma’s Galleria del Teatro and he won fifth prize at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh.

Scialoja went to New York for the first time for a solo show at the Catherine Viviano Gallery (1956)

In the 1960s and 1970s, he started experimenting with poetry as well, eventually publishing ironic fairy tales, tongue twisters for children, and nonsense poetic texts accompanied by illustrations.

In 1964 he successfully returned to the art scene with his own room at the Venice Biennale presented by Dorfles.

The works he created in this phase of his life are considered his best. In 1982, he was appointed Director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, where he had been teaching stagecraft since 1953. Over his long career as a teacher and director he inspired students like Mario Ceroli, Jannis Kounellis, and Pino Pascali.

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