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Bice Lazzari: Modernist Pioneer

Updated: May 5, 2022



14 JANUARY – 24 APRIL 2022


Bice Lazzari is surprisingly unfamiliar to many art followers, despite her standing as a post-WWII abstract artist in Italy, the country of her birth. The Estorick in Islington which houses a comprehensive collection of modern Italian art is redressing this oversight with their first exhibition in 2022 devoted to her work: Bice Lazzari | Modernist Pioneer.

White and Black Bianco e nero 1954 Oil on canvas by Bice Lazzari
White and Black Bianco e nero 1954 Oil on canvas by Bice Lazzari

A Venetian by birth, Lazzari moved to Rome in the 1930s. After the second world war, with the Italian Fascists removed, she was able to establish herself as an abstract artist. “I arrived at abstract art without any teachers or models. I knew nothing about abstract painting abroad because of the provincial climate of cultural isolation that held sway at that time.”

She honed her techniques on Art Informel a French movement favoured by the likes of the French poet Andre Breton and artists including Willem de Kooning and Hans Hartung . Art Informel embraced many of the styles of European abstract art in the 1940s and 1950s as well as American abstract expressionism. The improvisory, gestural annotations of Art Informel can be seen in Lazarri’s work during the 1950s (White and Black

Bianco e nero 1954 and Blue Architecture/Architettura Azzurra, 1955)

Untitled/Senza Titolo 1966; Blue Architecture/Architettura Azzurra, 1955; Acrylic No. 5/Acrilico n.5, 1975

Lazzari has been referenced to Agnes Martin an American abstract artist known for her square canvasses, meticulously rendered grids and repeat stripes, who shot to fame in the 1950s and 60s (the Tate acquired Agnes Martin’s Morning 1965 in 1974, and since then, a further five works have been added to the collection).

Lazzari preferred oil painting as a medium for many decades until it affected her sight. She turned to acrylics in the 60s and realised some of her most compelling works such as Untitled/Senza Titolo 1966 and Acrylic No. 5/Acrilico n.5, 1975. It is perhaps in these works that the reference to Agnes Martin is most likely.

Although not a reclusive like Agnes Martin, Lazzari was a shy woman, which might go some way to explain her absence outside Italy as a widely-known artist (not forgetting the disregard of many female artists simply for their gender during Lazzari’s time). Fortunately, Bice Lazzari is becoming more renowned internationally with her work presented in major museums in Venice and Washington. Sotheby’s held a solo exhibition of her work in 2020 and Frieze New York announced a sell-out stand of Lazzari’s work a couple of years ago. With the Estorick bringing forty of her remarkable abstract paintings to the public, it looks like Bice Lazzari is a name that will soon trip off art lovers’ lips.


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