Friday, October 7, 2011

Tullio Crali: a painter with his head in the clouds

Since I started drawing back when I was just a wee lad, I've always wanted to capture the idea of speedy motion in an effective and interesting manner, which is no easy feat on a 2-D piece of paper. As it turns out, there was an art movement that focused on movement back in the early 20th century in Italy. This movement movement was called Futurism, and it also included focuses on glorifying technology, efficiency, and violence, not surprising for a time period right after the discovery of aeronautics and in the midst of world wars. For me, the plane is the ultimate symbol of speed and mobility, allowing man to reach places that could never be reached in less time than they could ever be reached before. Conveniently for me, there is one legendary awe-inspiring aeronautical-inclined artist aviator armed with an arsenal of artwork from this futurist movement. His name was Tullio Crali, and he drew planes. He drew planes flying, soaring, and shooting things; all the while trying conveying how uniquely awesome and terrifying technology had become. He started out painting planes like this:

In Volo Agitado (Shaking Flight), 1938 you can see how Crali emphasizes the previously unheard of speeds that airplanes can travel and the dark mechanical violence that allows such speed to be a possibility. In fact, one of the defining aspects of futurism that Crali uses here are the "speed lines" extending behind the plane as well as the generalized form of the vehicle. This also seems to make it seem to go fast, as you can see that it is a plane, but is moving so quickly that true detailed visual description is impossible. Crali actually ended up getting pilot's training so he could get a taste of the action himself and to get a fresh perspective on things. This led him to create works like this:

Nose Dive on the City, 1939 is an excellent example of how actually flying himself allowed Crali to capture new aspects of flight, and how he probably shouldn't paint and fly a fighter plane over a city at the same time. Seriously, someone could get hurt here. Regardless of the folly of allowing the man to get a pilot's license and the undoubtedly countless innocent lives lost as a result, the government was a huge fan of his work and he was given free reign to do as much flying as he wanted for inspiration. Crali continued to support futurism and the merits of aeropainting long after the Italy that it grew out of had fallen and been replaced. He truly was a futurist to the end. He even made modern versions highly reminiscent of his old style, except with modern aircraft:

Here in Monoplano Jonathan, 1988, over 50 years (!) after his most famous works, we still see the telltale futurist movement lines and emphasis on the wonder of man's ability to ascend to the heavens with the simple purchase of a paltry multi-million dollar expertly designed vehicle. He continued doing whatever futurists do until he died in the year 2000 at the ripe old age of ninety, somehow avoiding and early death after basically flying planes at every point in the evolution of flight. All in all, Mr. Crali was a pretty special guy who knew what he liked in life - flying. If it's a just world, he's painting Nose Dive on the Pearly Gates, 2011 from his own personal heavenly f-22 fighter jet right now, with full approval from the Lord himself.

-Leo Gauthier


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