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Italy's Renato Guttuso; Painter and Politician

January 24, 1987|From Times Wire Services

ROME — Renato Guttuso, a respected Italian painter and a longstanding member of the Communist Party, died at his home in Rome on Jan. 17. He was 75 and reportedly had liver cancer.

Guttuso, who entered politics after World War II, was a Communist senator from 1976 to 1983.

"His death is an extraordinary loss for the world of art and for our country," said Amintore Fanfani, the Christian Democratic president of the Senate.

After the late Giorgio de Chirico, a founder of Surrealism, Guttuso was considered Italy's most important modern painter.

Much of his work dealt with political themes, from the execution of Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca in 1936 to the student uprisings of 1968. But his most recent paintings were of the female form.

Guttuso developed a Cubist style in the 1930s under the influence of Picasso but returned to a more realistic style with the onset of World War II.

A key work from this latter period, "Crucifixion," shows some of Guttuso's trademark stylistic elements: an angular composition, a palette of violent colors and assembling diverse perspectives within the frame.

Writing about the painting in his diary, he said, "This is wartime: Abyssinia, gallows, decapitations, Spain. I want to paint the agony of Christ as a scene of today."

In the late 1950s, his style changed again, becoming increasingly Expressionistic. "I always preferred to dream than to live," Guttuso once was quoted as saying to a friend.

Two noted paintings from this period are "The Discussion," owned by London's Tate Gallery, and "The Street" at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

Guttuso joined the Communist Party in 1940 and was actively involved in politics after World War II. He was on the party's Central Committee from 1951 until his death.

The artist was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1972 and received a telegram of congratulations Jan. 2 for his 75th birthday from Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

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