Tullio Crali

The Early Years

Tullio Crali (Igalo, 1910 – Milan, 2000) was one of few Futurist aero-painters who conveyed the cultural and political implications of Futurism’s second wave into the late 20th century.

Tullio Crali Incuneandosi nell'abitato, 1939








Until age 12, he lived with his family in Zadar, which was an Italian city at the time, but he later remembered little of it.

One thing he did remember was having been struck in 1919 by an abandoned seaplane in the water in front of his home, which may have sparked his passion for flight and his future as an aero-painter.

In 1922 his family moved to Gorizia, a city that was still marked by war.

This is how Crali described his adolescence in Gorizia:

When I came from Zadar to Gorizia, the city was still wounded – the barbed wire fences of war, the shell casings like confetti in the grass. I grew up among war cemeteries, bones, and memorabilia. But I was always looking toward the sky where airplanes circled to keep from rusting in their hangars. I couldn’t become an aviator, so I became a Futurist aero-painter.”

The Merna Airfield near Gorizia, unused in World War I, was one of several fields modernized and restored by the Italian Air Force, founded in 1923.

By 1931 the airport was fully operational. During this time, young Tullio Crali got to watch countless practice flights from the city.

Tullio Crauli Spazio Cosmico Aeropittura
Spazio Cosmico

Aero-Painting and Futurism

One of Tullio Crali‘s first documented works was a small tempera painting called Airplanes over the Metropolis made in 1926 at just 16.

He was drawn early to the beloved Futurist theme of the modern city, and the vertical thrust of skyscrapers interrupted by layers of fog crossing the sky recalls Antonio Sant’Elia’s utopian architecture. His work also reveals a surprisingly refined sensitivity to color for such a young painter.

Crali started painting in 1925 after reading about Futurism in the Neapolitan newspaper supplement Mattino Illustrato

His works were inspired by the compositions of Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, and other avant-garde Italian artists whose works he saw printed in newspapers.

The young Crali could not study Futurist works in person, so he learned about them from periodicals.

He found ideas and models in the articles of the magazine Noi, edited by Enrico Prampolini until 1925, which led to interesting works like Airplane Rumble of 1927.

This small watercolor was clearly inspired by real aircraft that he saw taking off from Merna Airfield.

His works even anticipated the Manifesto of Aero-Painting. 

He wrote about his first experience flying on a small seaplane in Istria in 1928:

“It satisfied my eagerness to see, to hear, to know: the surge of take-off, the engines’ powerful roar, the propeller’s intransigence, the surprise of being suspended a hundred, five hundred, a thousand meters above the sea. The obedience of the controls, the unruly bora, the space, the upsurges, it was all wonderful, and when I was back on the ground it felt like I had been robbed.”

Eliche tricolore by Tullio Crauli
Eliche tricolore

He was soon skilled at drawing as well, as shown by his two aero-drawings of 1929.

His 1930 aero-drawing with the initials of New York at the top refers to the Atlantic crossing and the route taken by the squadron that had flown to America.

1928 and 1929 were crucial years for Tullio Crali’s artistic career.

Tullio Crauli Aerodanzatrice
Aerodanzatrice 1930

In 1928 he met Sofronio Pocarini, a journalist from Gorizia who invited him to exhibit for the first time at the Second Exhibition of Fine Arts in Gorizia.

In 1929 he joined the Futurist movement and wrote a letter to Marinetti who replied, “pleased to have you with us in the Futurist struggle.”


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