Romano DAZZI

(Rome 1905 – La Lima 1976)

Four Leopards, 1919

Black pencil and grease pencil on paper
210 x 310 mm.
Signed and dated in pencil:  Ro. Dazzi 1919

Florence, Ugo Ojetti collection; Florence, private collection

Libero Andreotti, Antonio Maraini, Romano Dazzi. Gli anni di Dedalo, Galleria Francesca Antonacci, Rome, 2009

General bibliography:
Ugo Ojetti, I disegni di Romano Dazzi, Milan, Bassetti e Tumminelli, 1920, plate LI.
Disegni di Romano Dazzi, catalogue of the exhibition curated by Giovanna De Lorenzi (Florence, Uffizi, Gabinetto dei disegni e stampe), Florence, Olschki, 1987.
Giovanna De Lorenzi, Ugo Ojetti critico d'arte: dal Marzocco a Dedalo, Florence, Le Lettere, 2004.
Romano Dazzi, disegni, catalogue of the exhibition curated by Galleria Lapiccirella, (Rome, Palazzo Venezia) Florence, Lapiccirella, 2004.
Libero Andreotti, Antonio Maraini, Romano Dazzi, gli anni di Dedalo, catalogue of the exhibition curated by Francesca Antonacci and Giovanna Caterina de Feo (Rome, Galleria Francesca Antonacci, 14 May – 26 June 2009) Rome 2009.


Romano Dazzi, the son of well-known sculptor Arturo Dazzi, was born in Rome in 1905.  He displayed considerable artistic talent from a very early age, and indeed the Galleria d'Arte Bragaglia held an exhibition of his work, showing fully one hundred and forty of his drawings, in 1919 when he was still aged only fourteen.  The introduction to the catalogue was penned by Ugo Ojetti, one of many illustrious friends of the family.  The exhibition, astonishingly, was a huge success both with the public and with the critics, many leading lights in the art world at the time considering young Dazzi to symbolise the new generation that came to maturity after the Great War.  The artist's favourite themes included chiefly combat scenes and superlative portraits of wild animals (which he had actually seen at the zoo in his home town, where he would spend the entire day drawing).  Ojetti immediately noticed the boy's prodigious talent and decided to follow his art career very closely.  In those years Dazzi's drawings were still marked by an immature style characterised by rapid, almost "Expressionist" draughtsmanship which failed to coincide with Ojetti's calmer and more meditated taste.  The critic thus endeavoured to prompt the lad to adopt a new form of expression, teaching him to govern the exuberance of his own creativity with the disciplining strength of style.  The daily control that Ojetti exercised over the boy appeared to have a beneficial effect almost at once, yet Dazzi felt that Ojetti's stylistic placidity was a far cry from his own temperament.  The excuse to shake off this burdensome tutelage arrived in 1923, in the shape of an invitation from the Italian Government to join Marshal Graziani's entourage in order to record his military expedition to Libya in a drawing campaign.  The months that Dazzi spent in the desert were to have a lasting impact.  The quality of the work spawned by that experience is simply astonishing, but it was not always in line with Ojetti's precepts and so the two men's relationship began to deteriorate.  It was a bitter moment, and the critic was to build up a certain resentment towards his erstwhile protégé.
From then on, Dazzi began to focus on what were to become the hallmarks of his style:  the depiction of movement, the unfinished feel and the idealisation of form.  In Italy, however, such an approach was inevitably bound to fail, while the style prescribed by Ojetti was to remain a beacon of aesthetic taste for many decades to come.
Dazzi inaugurated an exhibition of his work at the Galleria Bragaglia in Rome in 1919, primarily showing pictures of war and combat, of animals, and portraits.  This occasion offered the artist a major opportunity to familiarise a broader audience with his graphic work.  The subjects shown by Bragaglia were those to which the artist had enthusiastically devoted his energies from the outset:  butteri (Tuscan "cowboys" from the Maremma region), horses, animals, portraits and figure drawings.
This drawing of Four Leopards is part of the hard core of youthful works by the artist, as we can tell from the extremely instinctive and impetuous style with which the composition is imbued.  Ojetti, who took charge of the young Dazzi's artistic training, did not appreciate the style's almost "Expressionist" force, and after the exhibition at the Galleria Bragaglia he wrote to the artist's father:  "[...] (Romano Dazzi) must move beyond the sketch phase and rise to level of the finished, meditated drawing constructed like a painting and properly set in the centre of a sheet of clean and respectable paper" (Giovanna De Lorenzi, 1987, p. 19).
The leopard here is captured and studied in four different positions, heralding the interest that Dazzi was to develop in the depiction of movement in his later work.