Annibale Zucchini, Painter

Written by  Carlo Bassi

A great painting rediscovered: an image of the dreams and anxieties of the post-war generation.

Thinking back to the months which followed the bright days of April 1945 is to recall how difficult it was, after so many months of living precariously, to find a mental order which could be easily described. We created a newspaper, ‘Incontro’, which proudly sought to discuss politics, art and literature. We felt ourselves at last to be protagonists of change, we wanted to look at the world beyond the city walls. We wanted to leave behind the fog which had clouded our thoughts for so long, following the eager pressure of the new world which seemed to be spread out in front of us and yet, at the same time, we were reading books which narrated suffering and the strain of living. We read Cronache di poveri amanti by Vasco Pratolini, Bubu di Montparnasse by Charles Louis Philippe, and Pierrot by Raymond Queneau. Young protagonists of those times, we lived in an existential mix which upset our thoughts and our actions. The painter Annibale Zucchini, with an extraordinary ability to seize upon the tensions of the times, fully exemplified this suffering. And it was these times which led to the creation of the painting recently discovered on the walls of a house in via Ragno 15/A. In that period of his work, Zucchini was sculpting enormous statues, “I Giganti”: to move them he engaged the help of several porters who worked loading and unloading in the various city markets, and with whom he became friends.

These workers, pure hard-line communists, had a party cell in an attic on via Ragno. On one wall of this room Zucchini was supposed to celebrate the glories of the communist party, at the request of the militants of the cell, his friends the porters. The result however was an image of the atmosphere I have just described. The sculptor revealed his qualities as a painter, the result of experimentation in the distant past, and depicted workers in the act of building, a symbol of work and of the party. On one side a sad figure holds in his hand the book Cronache di poveri amanti, Pratolini’s novel. In this painting, recovered over half a century after its disappearance and now newly visible once more, is distilled the image of all our existential condition in those times: work, the joy and pride we felt for the city built through human toil and illuminated by the sunshine of the future, alongside the existential tedium exemplified in the ‘figure’ of an emblematic novel narrating sadness and irredeemable poverty.