- Dady Orsi
Born in Genoa in 1917, Dady Orsi spent his childhood in Venice. In 1934 he moved to Lombardy where he studied at the Brera Academy. A painter by vocation, after World War II he devoted himself to graphics and illustration. He applied his creativity to practically any artistic technique, also experimenting in the field of applied arts. He is an artist who explores the multiple possibilities of figuration in a context where such research is a minority, if not countercultural.
His productivity and vitality participate in the spirit that characterises Milan in the period from post-war reconstruction to the end of the 1990s. Involved in the Milanese artistic and literary milieu, he was a close friend of Federico Patellani and Piero Fornasetti, but his regular acquaintances also included Eugenio Montale, Alfonso Gatto, Raffaele Carrieri, Salvatore Quasimodo, Lucio Fontana, Ennio Morlotti and many others.
From the 1970s he has been associated with personalities such as Philippe Daverio, Jean Blanchaert and the poet Miro Silvera. Starting from that period he exhibited in prestigious Milanese art galleries. Linked to the Ligurian village of Bonassola, his buen retiro in his last years, he died after a brief illness in 2003.
Born in Genoa in 1917, Edoardo (Dady) Orsi was the son of Emilio (Milo) Orsi, a Lombard lawyer, and the French noblewoman Beatrice (Bice) Beuf, a well-known painter and miniaturist. This latter came from a family of French exiles who settled in Genoa at the beginning of the 19th century; her great-grandfather was Marc Antoine Beuf, founder of the oldest Italian bookshop (now Bozzi bookshop). Beatrice’s father was Count Tito Beuf who married Paola Boccardo, daughter of Gerolamo, a well-known economist and Senator of the Kingdom of Italy.
In 1922, the Orsi family moved to Venice, a magical place where the artist spent his childhood and early youth with his brothers. His love for art was born in the lagoon city. His mother was a regular visitor to the painter Guido Cadorin, who chose her as his model. The Venetian Master had no objection to the young Orsi frequenting his studio during the long work sessions with his mother, letting him familiarise with the colours and techniques he used. This habit helped to awaken in the boy’s mind the desire to become a painter himself.
- Dady Orsi (1966) Assonometric map of Genova, Particular the native home © cosma orsi
- 1924 Dady Orsi aged 7
- 1925 Emilio Orsi
- 1925 Beatrice Beuf
His family was close to D’Annunzio and his exclusive circle (Piacenti, 2014). Between August 1924 and February 1925 Cadorin sojourned at the Vittoriale decorating some of its rooms. Bice joined him in October: she was to pose for one of the portraits «that make up the great lacunar ceiling with the mystical circle of the five saints of poetic vision» (Piacenti, 2014). In the same period, also Pietro Chiesa, a figure who was to have a fundamental influence on the young Orsi’s artistic development, worked at the Vittoriale. The bond between the Orsis and the Cadorins is also marked by the frescoes in the Hotel Ambassador in Rome, where Beatrice is portrayed with her husband Milo, and a large painting on wood celebrating her charm.
The privileged environment in which Orsi grew up had a profound effect on the formation of his character. In the large house at the Lido of Venice he not only lived in comfort but, thanks to his parents’ liberality, was exposed to many influential personalities of the time. Access to the family’s rich library enabled him to satisfy literally all his intellectual curiosity. It was there that his love of literature and the passion for collecting (one of his parents’ passions), was born. In Venice, the future artist grew up with an open, jovial, curious and witty character.
- Guido Cadorin (1926) Bice and Milo Orsi, Hotel Ambassador, Roma
- Guido Cadorin (1926) Portrait of Bice Orsi
- Bice Beuf (1932) Dady Orsi reading a book
- 1932 Interior of the family house – Lido di Venezia
- 1929 Dady and his sister Vera
Following the premature death of his father in 1934, his golden childhood ended abruptly. The family’s finances were no longer so prosperous, and Bice decided to move with her children to Milan. For the seventeen-year-old Orsi, this choice is excruciating. In spite of the profound bond he established with the Lombard city he would always carry with him a nostalgia for the watery landscapes of his childhood, which would resurfaced periodically in his work.
His passion for glass was ignited in the Lombard capital. After working for a short time as a gardener at the Brera Botanical Gardens, thanks to the acquaintance between Chiesa (now appointed as art-director of FontanaArte) and his mother, in 1935 Orsi began working as an artisan for the most notable artisan of glass in Milano. There he met Giacomo Manzù, who was working on glass sculptures together with Erwin Walter Burger. Burger also made furnishings and objects decorated with paint and underglaze gold, a technique that Orsi learned and then revisited in a completely personal way from the mid-1960s onwards.
- 1935 c. Dady Orsi as a teenager
- Fulvio Bianconi (1937) Portrait with inscription
- Franco Francese (1938 c.) Portrait of Gabriella masino Bessi
- 1938 Dady Orsi in Salerno
His experience at FontanaArte finally convinced him to undertake artistic studies at the high school and the Accademia di Brera, under the guidance of Aldo Carpi. There he met Ennio Morlotti, Bruno Cassinari, Franco Francese, Francesco Messina and Fulvio Bianconi, with whom he would maintain an important bond for the rest of his life. Above all, it was in such a milieu that he met Piero Fornasetti. The two formed a strong friendship that over time would lead to a fertile artistic partnership. At Brera he also met a student of Messina’s, Gabriella Masino Bessi, whom he married in 1942 and who gave him his first two beloved children, Giovanni Battista (known as Titta) and Andrea.
In 1937, Carpi began to work on the David’s stained-glass window in Milan’s cathedral, with the technical support of Chiesa, for whom Orsi worked. Although no trace of Orsi’s work on this occasion, nor of his production for FontanaArte, has been lost, these experiences are fundamental. In his art, in fact, there will always remain that way of thinking about the image through closed and defined areas of colour that is typical of stained glass.
In 1938, Orsi went to Salerno for a few months to attend the Officer trainee school. That year was a difficult and painful one; the Fascist regime showed its rawest, most muscular, and totalitarian side, culminating in the Racial Laws. To cope with the sense of profound political unease, several hotbeds of organised dissent were created in the Lombard capital – including the Corrente group (1938-40) and the experimental Palcoscenico group (1941) – with which he would forge significant relationships.
In this period, his art distanced itself from Fascist rhetoric, turning instead to the poetic narrative of human experience: it eschews heroic narrative, monumental scale, and rhetorical tendencies. The artist depicts people, objects and environments that are familiar to him in a manner that can be compared to what Raffaele De Grada, a critic linked to Corrente, would call selective realism. Strongly influenced by Gauguin, the Picasso of the pink period, Matisse, and Bonnard, Orsi’s style has important similarities with that of the artists who gravitated around the movement founded by Ernesto Treccani.
The early 1940s were marked by the experience of war: Orsi was called to arms in 1940 and served in the Royal Army as an infantry second lieutenant. With difficulty, he continued to cultivate painting and drawing. In 1941, as a set designer he participated (together with Luigi Veronesi) in the experimental group Palcoscenico, founded by Paolo Grassi and Franco Parenti and financed by Ernesto Treccani.
His contacts with well-known anti-fascists, including Vando Aldrovandi and Raffaele De Grada did not fail to influence his political ideas (Orsi is a Turatian socialist, anti-communist and non-interventionist) and confirm the suspicions of the regime by which he had been under surveillance for some time. To break up these acquaintances, the authorities sent him back to Salerno to join the anti-shipment battalion.
After 8 September, Orsi refused to join the Salò Republic and took refuge in Switzerland. He spent several months in the Rapperswill internment camp (Canton St Gallen), where he devoted himself to painting with renewed intensity. It was here that he met Amintore Fanfani, who, as the camp’s cultural officer, secured for him the commission from the Favre family to decorate the Catholic chapel in Chexbres (Canton Vaud), where the Italian exiles had moved at the beginning of 1944, with a cycle dedicated to the Stories of the Gospel.
Orsi carefully planned the decoration but did not carry it out. Driven by a pressing desire to see his wife and new-born son Giovanni Battista, he rushed to Milan where he lived in hiding for almost a year under the disguise of Carlo Garlaschi, exposing himself to great danger to remain close to his loved ones.
- 1941 Dady Orsi in uniform
- 1944 F. Masino-Bessi, forged identity card used during Dady Orsi’s secrecy
- 1952 Andrea e Giovanni Battista (Titta) Orsi with Alessio Altichieri in the back of Sandro Orsi’s antique shop
Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani
Paintings made immediately after the war are rare, but to keep the fire of art alive Orsi made many small drawings. One of these is kept in the Bertarelli collection at Milan’s Castello Sforzesco. Family burdens and the hardships of the period prompted him to devote himself to the profession of graphic designer. In a short time, he established relationships with various publishing houses. He worked for over 15 years with Aldo Martello, creating book covers and illustrations; with DeAgostini he worked on a successful series of maps in continuity with the style of the Russian master Vsevolod Nikulin. His collaboration with publishing houses continued into the 1950s, especially with Schwarz, Mondadori and Vallecchi. In addition to publishing, Orsi was responsible for the coordinated graphic image of some important companies. As art-director of the Cotonificio Fossati-Bellani, he designed advertising posters, layouts catalogues and designs stand for national and international trade fairs. It was through this collaboration that he met the photographer Federico Patellani, who was to become his closest and most brotherly friend.
- Dady Orsi (1944) Female figure, Civiche raccolte del Castello Sforzeco
- 1949 Dady Orsi in his studio at Fossati-Bellani
Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani
- 1950 Presentation ceremony of The acrobats – Savini
- Dady Orsi (1950c) Decoration of cushions for Riva Motorboat © Lycam
- Gabriella Masino Bessi holding an Alluvional sculpture – Tempo
Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani
- (1955) Dady Orsi and Gina Lollobrigida
Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani
- 1960 C. Mariagrazia Bassi
- (1955) Dady Orsi with Bruno Cassinari and Alighi Sassu – Tempo
Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani
At the turn of the 1940s and 1950s, his involvement in the field of industrial graphics became increasingly intense. Together with his wife Gabriella, Franco Francese and the cartoonist Fernando Tacconi, in 1949 he founded the periodical Goal, in which the highlights of football matches were illustrated in cartoons. Above all, he began to collaborate with Farmitalia, Beretta Armi, Colmar and Riva Motoscafi (for the latter two he designed the trademark). For this last brand, Orsi and Patellani coordinate the company communication. This teamwork will end only in 1972 when Carlo Riva sells his company.
It is only in 1950 that he returned to painting in grand style, with a decoration for the most iconic restaurant in Milan at the time: Savini. The architect Ricci, one of the curators of the restoration of the northern section of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, introduced him to the owner of the restaurant Angelo Pozzi, who commissioned a large painting from him: The acrobats. The work, full of references to Picasso and 20th-century classicism, can still be seen at the restaurant.
During this period Orsi was fully immersed in the world of Milanese art and culture, both as an observer and as a creator. He frequented the Il Milione and Ettore Gianferrari art galleries. He is a regular at the Libreria Internazionale Einaudi and the Libreria San Babila run by Vando Aldrovandi and Bepi Battaglini respectively. In these Milanese crossroads of art and culture he forged old and new ties with artists and intellectuals of the time. He met Giuseppe Ajmone, Fulvio Bianconi and the sculptor Luciano Miori. He continued to meet friends from the Brera Francese and Treccani periods, as well as personalities from the world of literature such as Eugenio Montale, Salvatore Quasimodo, Alfonso Gatto and Giovanni Testori, with whom he shared cultural, theatrical and artistic affinities. One of the most exciting moments of this period was the visit to Picasso’s first exhibition in Italy, held in Palazzo Reale’s ball room still gutted from the bombings. Picasso is by far the painter to whom he feels most indebted. This fertile breeding ground gave rise to a veritable explosion of creativity in Orsi: between 1953 and 1956 he produced a considerable number of works in a whimsical and playful style. In many of these, a particular sensitivity to the female figure emerges, seen with tenderness and enchantment, of which he was to be a happy interpreter throughout his career.
It was at this time of great productivity that he entered the Milanese art world. His first exhibition was at the Galleria Montenapoleone in 1953. The exhibition was dedicated to the so-called Alluvial sculptures, wooden fragments collected on the shores of Lake Maggiore on whose forms Orsi intervened pictorially, giving them vitality and animal features. The exhibition was promoted by his friends Cadorin and Patellani, and was repeated in two Swiss galleries, as a solo show and alongside the works of the painter and architect Walter Jonas.
By this time, Orsi was already a well-known figure in art circles, not only in Milan, as can be seen in the exhibition A model and 27 painters, also held at the Galleria Montenapoleone and documented in a film by the Istituto Luce. The exceptional model, Gina Lollobrigida, was portrayed not only by Orsi but also by some of the most important painters on the national scene, including Bruno Cassinari, Gianni Dova, Emilio Vedova and Aligi Sassu.
Few years after the end of his first marriage, in 1956 he met Mariagrazia Bassi (Megy), who was to become his muse, life companion and close collaborator in many artistic projects. The circumstance in which they met is linked to the creation of a map of the city of Milan, commissioned in 1955 by the economist Pasquale Saraceno on behalf of the Banca Popolare di Milano. It is a meticulous and complex undertaking, and not only from an artistic point of view: it is necessary to obtain permits for the reproduction from above of urban areas subject to military secrecy. A job that proves to be extremely demanding. It was unthinkable to carry it out without the collaboration of a helper with outstanding graphic talent. The ideal profile was found in the young Bassi. The project was so successful that the couple spent the next 15 years preparing axonometric maps of Rome, Turin, Genoa, Florence and Venice, following the Stendahlian path in their choice.
The female figure is also central in the solo exhibition held at the Galleria Montenapoleone in 1957. Once again Patellani was at her side documenting the event with his photographs. The language of these apparently easy works is characterised by an elegant sprezzatura, a nobility and a profound humanity that shine through in works such as The woman in white. Together with a sense of measure and grace, these qualities led Giovanni Testori to identify female figures as the subject in which Orsi best expressed his sensitivity.
However, the artist does not like to concentrate on a single stylistic register. The two-year period 1957-58 was in fact marked by research into still-life and landscape, investigating their geometric components until reaching results that were close to abstraction. Here too, the works are permeated by an airy lightness that emanates from the void in which all the elements of the compositions seem to vibrate or float: the artist chooses the lightness of Fausto Melotti rather than the descriptive clarity of Renato Guttuso or the materiality of Morlotti.
This process of rarefaction led, in 1959, to the so-called Letters from the future, the only series of abstract works produced by an artist who, at the end of his career, would firmly assert his figurative choice, in opposition to any indulgence of what fashion or the market demanded. The Letters were exhibited in 1960 at the Battaglini bookshop. After this exhibition, the artist interrupted his involvement in the artistic debate. In fact, he did not recognise himself in the languages of radical abstraction or in the Pop tendencies that were then becoming established.
- Dady Orsi e and Annette Stabilini at Galleria Montenapoleone
Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani
In the first half of the 1960s, Orsi carried out his own solo exploration of the figurable. Between 1963 and 1964 he produced the imposing series of Meninas, inspired by Picasso’s reinterpretation of Velazquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas. Here Orsi interprets the female figure in a magical and symbolic way. The theme regained attention at the end of the 1950s following the appearance of Picasso’s variations on this theme, executed in 1957. The series well represents the late style of the painter from Malaga, unashamedly childish and spontaneous, full of distortions of perspective and proportion. From the leader of Cubism Orsi takes what he needs: the spontaneity and speed, the simplification of form and space, but not the brutal distortion of figures typical of many periods of Picasso. While Picasso works on form, Orsi kept introducing new variations (he takes one or more bridesmaids in a large stiff skirt, plays with backgrounds, hats, combinations and settings), moving as far away as possible from his noble and and cumbersome predecessors). This series, however, will never be exhibited.
He produces series of drawing inspired by antiquity and, above all, began his passion for reverse glass paintings. Between the mid-1960s and the mid-1960s and the early 1990s, Orsi was the only Italian artist to produce a significant body of work using this technique. In these paintings, the artist deepens a symbolic and metaphysical vein not found in his previous work and which he never abandoned. For the next twenty-five years, the favourite subjects painted using this technique are musical instruments, rays of light, keys and watches, female nudes (which, combined with the fragility of glass, can be interpreted as a reminder of the fragility of glass can be interpreted as a reference to the fragility of human life (Vanitas), still-lifes of domestic objects faces distorted by anamorphosis and, above all, rooms that the artist depicts as mental ‘spaces’.
- Dady Orsi (1964) Menina
- Pablo Picasso (1958) Las Meninas
- Dady Orsi (1968) Odalisca
Around this period, two important events took place in the artist’s private life: in 1966 his third son Cosma was born and two years later he marries Megy Bassi. It was a period of personal and artistic euphoria. In 1968, he moved into a new house and decorated it with his own handcrafted design objects, a practice that linked him to his friend Fornasetti. He had a large outbuilding at his disposal in which he placed a large antique press and a reel puller, tools that the couple used to make prints using a wide variety of techniques. The Owl Cabinet also dates from this period.
From this time onwards, Orsi’s purely artistic production would increasingly combine it with craftsmanship, fully embodying the figure of Homo Faber. In this capacity he produces a very limited number of unique artefacts, sometimes the result of random findings not intended to be reproduced in series. Immersed in the golden age of Milanese design besides Piero Fornasetti, Orsi was in contact with Bruno Munari, while in the field of glass he had significant relations with Fulvio Bianconi. In this period, he began to got along with increasing assiduity the engraver Italo Zetti and Fabio Massimo Solari, Massimo Campigli, Giuseppe Migneco and the publisher Vanni Scheiwiller.
- 1967 Dady Orsi’s son Cosma
- 1968 The new House
- 1971 The antique press
In 1969, the couple bought a house in Bonassola where they would spend most of their free time. It was a return to his Ligurian origins and to the sea, which from the early 1970s onwards played a fundamental role in Orsi’s artistic production. Here he meets Mauro Discovolo, Vittorio Magnani, Giuliano Menegon and Alberto Cavalieri.
A watershed in Orsi’s life is 1972. That was the year in which his collaboration with Carlo Riva came to an end. Together with Giovanni and Giovanna Trocano he opened Studio Blu, an art school for children and adolescents. It was a brief but intense teaching experience. The teaching method is based on enhancing the children’s natural creativity, instincts and manual skills. This approach would soon characterise the method used by Bruno Munari (his first workshop for children was in 1977). The two artists shared the love for children and a deep understanding of their way of expressing.
- 1974 Bonassola’s cliffs
- 1976 Dady Orsi Cliff
- 1977 Dady Orsi and Giovanni Trocano – Galleria Graphica Club
- 1979 The painting studio
Having abandoned graphic design, Orsi returned to being a full-time painter, regularly exhibiting his work. Nevertheless, his return to art was characterised by freedom: he did not adhere to currents or groups. His language was characterised by realism, symbolism and a return to craftsmanship that only a few artists practised at the time. His painting is cultured but not intellectual. It was Beppe Mainieri who provided him the opportunity to present his Feminine nudes. This is the moment when the artistic debate raises the question of whether female eroticism, no longer perceived by mass culture as taboo, is released from the sphere of pornography. Orsi’s female nudes heralded an utterly realistic eroticism in contrast to the hitherto predominant trends in the representation of the female body. Executed from the second half of the 1970s onwards, these paintings show what the public wants to see, but what culture does not consider innovative.
Throughout the 1970s, Orsi devoted himself frantically to printing. Using his own antique press and reel-sticker, he produced intaglio, etchings and drypoint, linocuts and lithographs. His knowledge of engraving and printing techniques led him to experiment with the creation of plastic matrices that allow him to combine lithography and monotype. The lines of the drawing are fixed in the matrix, while the inking is a real pictorial work carried out by his wife Megy. It is this methodology that allows each copy of the print run to become unique. Some of these particular lithographic series, especially those inspired by the world of Greek vase painting, naturalistic illustrations and the playful power of Eros, became the subject of the exhibition The Simultaneous held in 1976 at the Libreria Internazionale Einaudi.
In those same years he began his artistic association with Piero Fornasetti. He often hosted his friend and intellectual mate in his Galleria dei Bibliofili. In Fornasetti’s gallery Orsi mainly exhibited his female nudes. At the end of the 1970s, when the erotic art of Lautrec, Klimt and Schiele had not yet aroused the interest of the mainstream audience, Orsi executed a monumental series of large-scale Erotic pastels depicting women in explicit poses, immediately chosen by Fornasetti for an exhibition celebrating the sensual side of the modern woman. In an ironic twist, the two decided to hide the pastels behind screens decorated by the artist.
- Dady Orsi (1978) Marina – Galleria Barozzi
- Dady Orsi (1989) I Cieli Di Bonassola – Galleria Barozzi
The symbolic and metaphysical poetry of the reverse glass paintings, with their repertoire of magical wunderkammer, is also beloved by Fornasetti. The reverse glass paintings always find a place in the group exhibitions at Bibliofili. Among the many paintings, The Sun is the one that best expresses Orsi’s predilection for play, symbolism and irony. This celestial body with a human face holding a paintbrush is both a symbolic self-portrait and an allegory of painting that sheds light on things.
The renewed familiarity with the marine element stimulated the artist to produce several series of Seascapes, paintings in which waves and cliffs are transfigured with a dramatic sensitivity expressed through the liquid hardness of the pointed waves and the roughness of the rocks. Among the occasions on which he exhibited his Marinas, particularly significant were those of 1979 in the galleries of Paolo Barozzi (in Milan and Venice). The series dedicated to the sea was to be developed until mid-1980s: it included research into the twisted shapes of rocks, the powerful shapes of waves, and geological stratifications: through the stylisation and interpretation of natural forms, the artist told the story of a harsh sea, among whose waves dramas were played out, such as the tragic accident that occurred to his family in 1979.
The 1980s opened with the exhibition, again at Fornasetti’s, of the ‘lunar’ cycle Nuda in dodici quadri. This pictorial cycle is the result of the encounter between two apparently incompatible sources: Muybridge’s chrono photography and Holbein’s symbolic realism. In contrast with the languid erotic pastels in the twelve figures marble pallor that make up this monumental work, Raffaele Carrieri glimpses the paradoxical eroticism of chastity.
Throughout the decade, he followed the theme of space and landscape reduced to their simple forms, following Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian: after the Marines, it was the turn of the Natural Spaces: landscapes of the Ligurian countryside interpreted through pure areas of colour. This series of paintings was exhibited at the Schubert Gallery in 1985. The idea for the Natural Spaces came about thanks to a meeting with his friend Lodovico Meneghetti, an architect and designer linked to the Gregotti Studio, who dedicated some critical writings to him in which he acknowledged his friend’s “very high intentionality” expressed in a “defined procedure”, but above all a sincerity in the expression of his feelings about space and the soul of places. The watercolour notebooks dedicated to Bonassola’s Skyes, date from the end of the 1980s. Here the clouds mixed up in ever colours and effects over a small strip of sea, and in the vault of which one gets lost in vast meditations.
- 1981 Omage to Muybridge – Galleria Dei Bibliofili
- Dady Orsi (1980) Pierrot – Dalle
- Dady Orsi (1984) Garden – Galleria Schubert
In the 1980s, the habit of reverse glass painting continued, with a novelty: the Dalles – sheets of thick glass, shaped into curvilinear forms, in an almost sculptural manner, painted on the back to describe pebbles, animals or characters. These objects are a rekindling of the love for glassmaking techniques learned in his youth at FontanaArte. Together with several sculptures and furnishings, the Dalles testify to the artist’s undiminished attention to the craftsmanship side of art, as well as his taste for creating settings and atmospheres charged with personality. His preference for one-off pieces and his love of more traditional, human-centred art are a reaction to the radical avant-garde climate of the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, Orsi eschews Arte Povera and Conceptual Art, preferring a non-militant approach based on the inclusion of different methods. In line with this vision, he frequented non-systematic artists and intellectuals, who sought above all quality and refinement rather than belonging. Among them were his brother Sandro Orsi, a well-known antiques dealer, the poet Miro Silvera, the critics and gallery owners Philippe Daverio and Jean Blanchaert, and Rossana Bossaglia.
- 1985 c. Piero Fornasetti, Paolo Barozzi and Miro Silvera Maria Mulas ©
- 1985 c. Dady Orsi, Giuliano Menegon and Rossana Bossaglia
- Dady Orsi (1995) Still-life
- 1999 Dady Orsi in his studio
- 1997 Dady Orsi Rooms of a museum
- Dadi Orsi
In 1990, the artist produced the monumental cycle the Rooms of a Museum. It is rich in quotations from ancient art, in line with the trends of the period (Anachronism). The season of the “return to painting” also led to the critical reconsideration of outsider artists, often very similar to Orsi. In The Rooms, the artist chose twenty-four subjects taken from as many works of the past. What these subject do once the lights of the museum imagined by the artist have turned off and visitors have left. Starting from this question, Orsi makes them interact with each other in a playful way, once again revealing his ironic vein. Imagining the secret life of works of art, Orsi also exercises an irony on mystery like that of the De Chirico brothers.
Mystery and symbol are a constant in Orsi’s late production. They connote the never interrupted production of the reverse glass paintings and resurface in a new series of Still-Life. Orsi had not devoted himself to this genre since the late 1950s but, if he tended towards abstraction then, he now prefers a more classical figuration. In depicting the objects closest to him, Orsi opts for neutral and opaque tones. In their ‘suspended life’ these objects show balance and ‘noble simplicity’; the artist finds that refreshment so well described by the poet Miro Silvera: «Commonly referred to as still-life, the representations of a few meagre things of life brought together by Dady Orsi over the course of years of scrutinising glances spent brushing with infinite patience the patiently brushing the stretched canvas, have sedimented and congealed through the glass of the present to become through the glass of the present to become perennial, hangable representations of suspended life». Characterised by a marked metaphysical inspiration, the still-life were exhibited at Jean Blanchaert and Marco Arosio’s gallery in 1995. The last exhibition is dedicated to the views of Ca’ Mera, his brother’s house in the ancient village of Azzate. Since 1998 the artist’s production has thinned out.
Dady Orsi died in 2003, at the age of 86, after a serious, albeit brief, illness.