Dispatches from the Jungle of Art

An Italian collector-turned-conceptualist who called himself the "emperor of presumption," G.A. Cavellini waged a determined and frequently outlandish campaign to win a place in the annals of art history.

The biography of an artist is frequently written after his death, imperfectly and incompletely. Since I don't want any such biography to be written about me, I've decided to write my own.
G.A. Cavellini (1914-1990)

The name Guglielmo Achille Cavellini is little known outside two autonomous and seemingly anomalous art-world circles.[1] To survivors and chroniclers of the postwar years in Italy, he is the merchant-collector of Brescia who gave sustained support to the new abstract art of the late 1940s and 1950s. The provenance "Brescia, Collezione Cavellini" has accompanied literally hundreds of paintings and drawings into public and private collections. But ask mail artists from Budapest to Vancouver whose letters, stamps and sketches fatten the fullest file in their home-grown archives, and the answer is likely to be: Cavellini's. His artist's books are well represented in the permanent holdings of New York's Franklin Furnace and in the archive on 20th-century art maintained by the Venice Biennale. In 1985 Cavellini even infiltrated the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities when it acquired Jean Brown's vast archive of artists' books, posters, correspondence and – that most oxymoronic of curatorial categories – collected ephemera.

In each of his roles, as a prosperous retailer, committed collector and late-blooming artist, Cavellini was entirely "self-made." Angered by the art establishment's indifference to his own creative activity, he responded by placing the subject of his life at the center of his work. This campaign of "self- historicization" (autostoricizzazione), launched in 1971, took the form of books, published diaries, self-portraits and portraits commissioned from other artists, posters and stamps bearing his image, photomontages, documentary photos and videos, and concrete poetry based on the story of his life. The text of that story came from an adulatory but poker-faced "encyclopedia article" which Cavellini himself authored from the retrospective vantage of a 21st-century writer. He planned international centennial exhibitions of his work for the year 2014, authorized their organizers and fashioned postmarks and stickers to announce and commemorate the shows. It was all a brazen and wickedly knowing manipulation of art history in the service of reputation. In the mountain of documentary material he left behind, Cavellini planted enough sly exaggerations and outright falsehoods to stymie the most intrepid historian.[2] The manic thrust of this burlesque, the full weight of its fabulous excess, was brought to bear on the equation of biography with fame, a pairing which has been art history's legacy since the age of Vasari. As for history, Cavellini simply decided to make it up as he went along. Never was revenge against the system so sustained, or so funny.

Cavellini's accomplishments are supremely unlikely given the narrow horizons of a merchant's life in provincial Brescia. There, with his brother, he transformed the family business from a small dry-goods shop into a thriving department store. All but alone in the years right after the Second World War, he endorsed the new abstract art and used his limited means to collect emerging painters such as Giuseppe Santomaso, Giulio Turcato, Emilio Vedova and the slightly more established Renato Birolli. He bought on impulse, without advisors and usually directly from the artists. At the start he had little visual preparation for what would become an uncontrollable urge to collect. ("A disease. An incurable illness," he later called it.) By his own account, his knowledge of modern art had been limited to reproductions of Cezanne and van Gogh until he paid an epiphanic visit to the home of the Brescian collector Pietro Feroldi, who owned works by Modigliani, de Chirico, Carrà, Matisse, Morandi, Rousseau, Derain, Sisley and Cézanne.[3] He first encountered Vedova and Santomaso in Venice in 1946. His growing friendship with Birolli led to a 1947 trip to Paris, where his art education truly began.

More trips followed to galleries and museums in Rome, Milan, Turin and London. Cavellini was drawn to works by younger Italians (Burri, Dova, Brunori, Aimone) and by artists outside Italy. In short order he assembled a panoramic sampling of European developments from new School of Paris figures (Bazaine, Estève, Gischia, Hartung, Pignon, Singier, Tal Coat, Vieira da Silva, Poliakoff) to Dubuffet, Brauner, Jorn, Baumeister, Matta, Dominguez and others. More than two dozen works from his holdings were lent to the first Documenta in 1955. By 1957 he possessed the finest comprehensive collection of postwar European art in public or private hands in Italy. Yet in his native Brescia there was little communal enthusiasm for Cavellini's activities. Neighbors looked with suspicion at his consorting with artists, many of whom were Communist. A long-term loan exhibition (1964–72) never matured into an outright gift of the collection to the city which seemed indifferent to its worth.

There was one moment of unequivocal artworld confirmation in 1957, when over 180 works from his collection were shown at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome.[4] Then as now, showcasing a private collection in a national museum was a controversial measure, and in her introduction to the catalogue museum director Palma Bucarelli advanced two justifications. Praising Cavellini's as the youngest and most up-to-date collection in Italy, she described the show as the first opportunity to see the full range of current European abstract art in a nation still recovering from Fascist cultural autarchy, a condition she characterized as 20 years of obscurantism and false ideals. Her second justification was no less didactic. Cavellini's was an exemplary collection, launched spontaneously and without marketwise circumspection, shaped by intuition and enthusiasm and expressing fully the contemporary taste for abstract painting. It might well inspire others to collect with equal passion. Into these comments Bucarelli inserted some judicious lobbying for the eventual donation of contemporary collections to Italy's financially strapped public galleries. Cavellini did make a gift of a Birolli painting to the Galleria Nazionale, but the body of his collection would be sacrificed to a very different end.

As his earliest acquisitions attained solid market status, Cavellini began to sell. A share of the money supported new acquisitions, so that the collection changed with the times. Postwar gestural abstractions yielded space to works by young Americans like Twombly, Rauschenberg and Johns; British Pop artists AlIen Jones, Joe Tilson, Eduardo Paolozzi and David Hockney; Italian Pop artists Mimmo Rotella and Valerio Adami; French Nouveau Réaliste figures Arman, Yves Klein and Daniel Spoerri; optical and light artists Vasarely, François Morellet and Julio Le Parc; and Arte Poverists Mario Merz, Jannis Kounellis, Pino Pascali and Alighiero Boetti. Later came works by Fluxus figures George Brecht, Ben Vautier and Wolf Vostell; by Austrian body artists and "actionists" Hermann Nitsch, Günter Brus and Rudolf Schwarzkogler; and photo works and Conceptual projects by Allan Kaprow, Jan Dibbets, Joseph Kosuth and Dennis Oppenheim. Cavellini never lost his eye for the new and promising: by 1975 Francesco Clemente and Christian Boltanski had caught his interest.

But as the collection evolved it also diminished. An ever-increasing portion of the sales revenue was being devoted to a rival passion, Cavellini's own career as an artist. For this role, too, his preparation was limited and serendipitous. At 15 he was dressing windows for the family shop and skillfully using brush and ink to letter price cards for the vitrines. This new-found graphic facility inspired some youthful experiments with sketching and caricature which continued during his army service and led to his being charged with lettering Mussolini's slogans on corridor walls. A chance encounter with a local painter, Domenico Mucci, resulted in some informal instruction in fundamentals. Right after the war Cavellini tried his hand at drawing landscapes, self-portraits and other figurative subjects. The wealth of art that he saw in the museums and ateliers of Paris during his 1947 trip persuaded him to abandon his paltry efforts, but about 12 years later he felt compelled to make art once again. He returned briefly to painting and drawing, soon turned to making objects of a Neo-Dada or Nouveau Realiste character, and in the course of the 1970s and '80s ventured further into Conceptual art, mail art, body art and performance.

As these artistic activities unfolded Cavellini formed two essential convictions. First, art-making is fundamentally a form of behavior. In this he embraced a 20th-century tradition stretching from Dada through Fluxus and Austrian Actionism. Second, and more distinctively Cavellinian, "art history" and all that accompanies it – biography, taste, market values, reputations – are malleable fictions and therefore suitable materials for the artist. On this latter point, his means and concerns had an edge which distinguished him from his contemporaries in the 1970s. But for its honest humor and retention of handwork, his art would seem a true anticipation of the appropriation fever of the 1980s. Cavellini's aggression toward the system of art, stoked by experiences of rejection both as a collector and as an artist, was expressed in acts of comically flagrant plagiarism accompanied by outrageous claims of authorship, in the seemingly endless reproduction and recycling of his own and others' imagery, and in unabashed gestures of self-promotion. Julian Schnabel may claim to be a latter-day peer of Giotto and Michelangelo, but Cavellini brazenly corresponded with them.

When Cavellini returned to making art at the very end of the 1950s, most of his work was abstract.[5] There were some gestural pieces in ink on absorbent paper and then a group of small, dense studies with marks incised in thick enamel on cardboard. These were accompanied by collages with ink-dipped leaves. Around 1962-63 he began to incorporate more assertive objects. First there were collages with torn pieces of his earlier blotting-paper paintings and fragments of moldings, mirrors, screening and razors. Then came assemblages with toys from the store (soldiers, trains, targets, even a chicken), pieces of sheet metal and photos of Pop divas Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale. In 1966 he began a series of painted inlaid-wood "homages." Collaborating with the woodworker Giovanni Fiorini, he re-created works by Picasso, Leger, Morandi, Braque, Miró, de Chirico and Matisse in the format of gigantic postage stamps ranging up to 95 by 185 cm. Framed by prominent saw-toothed edges, each boxy relief stamp was about 10 centimeters thick and bore the name and currency value of an issuing nation. The pieces effected a paradoxical union of high art, the reproduced commercial image and a traditional, laborious medium. These first stamps, or francobolli, opened the door to endless play with reproductions, and were a strange presage of his later engagement with mail art. Toward the close of the decade he began another series, the "Carboni," a group of burned wood silhouettes of famous artists' heads and other recognizable images ranging from works by Leonardo, Morandi and Picasso to the well-known documentary photograph of the Futurists in their overcoats and bowlers.

By the end of the 1960s material from the history of art was firmly at the center of Cavellini's production, as was a decided flair for the destructive gesture. Having torn up most of his works on absorbent paper, Cavellini continued to destroy or recycle his own earlier pieces. Works in wood from the mid-'60s were smashed and enclosed in crates or casse so that the recomposed fragments were visible through the slats. The jumbled pieces resembled a collapsed Nevelson assemblage. Works by other artists entered the process. The stenciled information on Cassa N. 283 of 1970 announces that it contains a work "to be destroyed." Inside, like a deathrow inmate, sits a painting by Giuseppe Capogrossi. The letters on the struts of Cassa N. 294 proclaim that it contains a destroyed Burri. Soon after this, Cavellini issued several "proposals" for cutting up or sectioning works by Miró, Leger, Campigli, Mondrian and Lichtenstein. Familiar paintings, ostensibly originals, were cut into squares like so many bathroom tiles and the pieces were mounted and numbered as if for reassembly. Cavellini later acknowledged that for one of these he had cut up a "false, though not uninteresting" Herbin, but for the most notorious - Proposta 5, Opera di Rosai Sezionata da Cavellini - he refused to clarify whether an original by Ottone Rosai or a painted reproduction had been cut up. As with the equally ambiguous instances of the condemned Capogrossi and the supposedly destroyed Burri, Cavellini was using his real power as a collector to buttress the menace of his artistic action. He seemed capable of literally enacting the avant-garde's central image of destroying the art of the past to create the new (just as he was "dismembering" his collection to make way for the next generation of acquisitions). Cavellini had begun to. vandalize art history. The twin fetishes of originality and possession were being put to the test, just as surely as they would be 10 years later when Sherrie Levine, in a far more nimble action, photographed a Walker Evans and claimed the resulting work as her "original."

Cavellini's impudence toward modernism's fetish of originality took another form as well: he was openly and blissfully derivative of the artists whose works he admired or collected. His "Carboni" recall Burri's scorched "Combustioni" (Combustions) of the late '50s and early '60s. In the later 1960s he produced some Larry Rivers-like responses to old and modern masters, including a version of Manet's Déjeuner sur l'Herbe hastily sketched on wood, with fluorescent Plexiglas cutout heads bearing the likenesses of Burri, Fontana and Palma Bucarelli for the three principal figures. During the '70s and '80s, Cavellini took to writing on the bodies of models, as had Manzoni. In an action staged to coincide with the 1974 Venice Biennale, Cavellini left stickers throughout the city's Dorsoduro district and recorded their positions on a series of framed maps, a strategy recalling the documented walks of Richard Long.

In his last book of memoirs, Cavellini recalled that the period 1962–70 ended with six failures. A sequence of exhibitions at galleries in Milan, Como, Turin, Trieste, Florence and Rome yielded just two sales and total critical silence. As he describes it, from this disaster was born autostoricizzazione. He resolved to survive "in the jungle of art," to "enter Olympus without asking anyone's permission."[6] In 1971 he created 16 posters announcing his centennial exhibition some five decades hence at museums around the world from Chicago to Düsseldorf to Tokyo. Photomontages of Cavellini banners draped across museum facades "documented" the shows' venues. It was Cavellini's turn to be honored by a suite of postage stamps. Old photos of the artist – dressed in morning clothes on the occasion of his daughter's 1967 wedding and mugging for the camera in front of objects in his collection – were transferred to photosensitized canvas and reformatted as French stamps. In the guise of preserving his life's documents for posteriy, Cavellini manufactured a professional history in which facts unexpectedly yield to fabrications. Published diaries and memoirs recall his day-by-day encounters with artists and dealers and cite fictitious tributes from real persons. Whole passages are recycled from one book to the next.

The constant reiteration of earlier images in new formats also became part of this retentive/cumulative process of self-aggrandizement. Some of the centennial posters were transferred via black-and-white photo emulsion to canvas and then hand-painted by Cavellini with colors corresponding to those of the original art work. He likewise began replicating his earlier works as commemorative stamps. Beginning around 1972 the Pagina dell'Enciclopedia, his self-authored "encyclopedia entry," became the basis for works of concrete poetry. The whole text or passages from it appear scrawled or printed on dozens of canvases, one being in the form of an English translation with marks indicating editorial corrections to the text. He went on to write this biography on Plexiglas, clothing, furniture, globes, freestanding columns, nude models and the Vatican flag. Cavellini churned out hundreds of painted and photographic selfportraits, one even showing him as the Shah of Iran on the Peacock Throne. He took to traveling with a "court photographer," Ken Damy. He commissioned portraits and tributes from Andy Warhol, Mario Ceroli, James Collins, Vostell and others, and these in turn were transformed into stamps. Like Beuys, Cavellini developed a trademark uniform. A suit or trenchcoat and fedora covered with his handwritten biography became his "signature" costume.

At this stage the book became a major vehicle for Cavellini's ideas. Three in particular, 25 Books for Cavellini (1972), 25 Letters by Cavellini (1974) and 25 Paintings from the Cavellini Collection (1976) evidence his growing absorption with the written word and his determination to arrogate the best of cultural history for his own purposes. 25 Books for Cavellini presents photographs of a suite of painted frontispieces tidily lettered in black tempera on canvas. Each displays the author's name, the title and the publisher, "Johannes Gutenberg." A sampling of the titles: St. Augustine's Confessions of Cavellini, Dante's Divine Cavellini, Leonardo's Treatise on the Painting of Cavellini, Darwin's The Evolution of Cavellini, Nietzche's Thus Spake Cavellini, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cavellini and, of course, Vasari's Life and Works of Cavellini.

The year following the book's publication, Cavellini penned 25 letters to the authors who had so honored him. The letters were transferred to canvases via photosensitive emulsion. In 1974 the handwritten correspondence was reproduced in book form along with the texts printed in Italian, English, French and German. Here Cavellini shared his anger at provincialism with St. Augustine and Molière, discussed a commission for the Peking assembly hall with Mao, praised artistic ego to a sympathetic Miller and scorned the scheming politicians of the art world with Machiavelli. Ever the collector, he appends a postscript to Leonardo which reads, "Concerning the price of the Virgin ofthe Rocks, I am hoping for the usual favourable terms."

Beyond the obvious absurdity of Cavellini's angling for a well-known masterpiece the joke was an informed one, for the paucity of Leonardo's painted output hardly would have allowed any patron to negotiate "usual terms." This knowledgeable toying with the art world and its politics and the Zelig-like insertion of Cavellini into history were fleshed out in 1976 in 25 Paintings from the Cavellini Collection. In a "museum without walls" which would have confounded Malraux, Cavellini reproduced and blithely claimed possession of 25 works from the art-historical canon, including Cimabue's San Domenico Crucifixion, Giorgione's ' Tempesta, Rembrandt's The Night Watch, Manet's Olympia and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Each is reproduced facing an appropriately dated letter to the artist from Cavellini, now writing as a fellow painter, now as a patron or intermediary, alternatingly sympathetic, deferential, impatient, cajoling or admiring. The chatty letters are woven of carefully researched historical detail and the invented commonplaces of fictitious friendship. Cavellini writes of returning Cimabue's Crucifixion because it is too big to hang over the bed, and later reassures Michelangelo that the Doni Tondo "looks very good" over the bed. In another letter El Greco is informed that his Laocoön has replaced the tondo in the living room. Thus circulate the paintings in the busy patron's collection. Cavellini reminisces with Caravaggio about their escape from prison, thanks Goya for his hospitality in Bordeaux, catches Cezanne's first solo show at Vollard and shops for African art in Venice on Picasso's behalf. He urges Giotto to complete the frescoes he left unfinished in the Cavellini country chapel, entreats van Gogh to do his portrait in a single sitting ("something our friend Cézanne, for example, wouldn't be able to do") and castigates Mondrian for not giving him due credit for the development of Neoplasticism. The effect is all the more daffy for the many double violations of temporal logic. Cavellini sends color reproductions to Cimabue and Giotto, promises to join Piero in Urbino with a camera to help with portraits and perspective, and tells Manet in a letter of September 11, 1874, that his Olympia is hanging next to Modigliani's Red Nude. History does intrude, and grimly, when Cavellini informs Kandinsky in 1935 that a German dealer has offered him several paintings at the "truly bargain prices" being attached to so-called degenerate art.

Galleries friendly to Conceptual art continued to exhibit Cavellini's work, and in 1973 the Centro Attivita Visive in Ferrara staged a survey of some 100 of his works at the Palazzo dei Diamanti. Goaded by the persistent lack of "official" critical response, Cavellini mailed copies of the book of 25 letters to museum directors, galleries, critics and artists around the world. Thus began the "living-room exhibitions" (mostre a domicilio, less frequently translated by Cavellini as "home-delivery exhibitions"). The name had a private pungency beyond the standard Conceptual gambit of having the book be the objectless exhibition, for the debut of Cavellini the patron had taken place in his home, where he showed the works of Santomaso and Vedova in 1946.[7] When artists responded to his 1974 living-room exhibition Cimelli (Relics), an album of family photos, by sending him their works in return, it was only a short leap to total engagement in international correspondence art. The following year he sent out the next living-room show, Analogie (Analogies), a suite of 20 face-to-face photographic pairings of arthistorical documents and Cavelliniana: Picasso leaning on a canvas and Cavellini aping the pose, an encyclopedia page with examples of the classical orders opposite three freestanding columns covered with Cavellini's handwritten texts, Kandinsky and his wife facing Cavellini and his wife, and last and least expected, Nixon meeting Mao opposite Cavellini meeting Warhol.

Cavellini's mailing list became legendary for its heft, not its exclusivity. He began by using entries in the Art Diary and continued from there, poring through foreign art magazines for names and addresses and filling notebooks with information about new mail-art partners. By 1978 he was able to send another photo book, Nemo propheta in patria (No Man Is a Prophet in His Own Country) to 15,000 recipients. Anyone who contacted Cavellini was showered with stickers, books and sketches. Select friends received what Cavellini dubbed "Return-trips" (Andata-ritorno) Their original envelopes sent to Brescia had been sliced, splayed, covered with stamps, stickers, sketches, labels and other collaged tidbits, and then duly dated and signed by "GAC."[8] Like an army 'of graffitists tagging subway cars, his cohorts left thousands of red, green and white stickers announcing his centennial shows on walls from Venice and New York to Shanghai, Moscow and Tibet.

As Cavellini's reputation spread, his works found their way into group shows of mail art, and he increased his production of books, posters and postage stamps, large and small.[9] Invitations from abroad led to travels in Holland, Yugoslavia, Brazil and France. If the length of his published reminiscence is any indication, Cavellini held most dear his first trip to the West Coast.[10] His mail-art cohort Buster Cleveland invited him to participate in "Inter-Dada 80," a four-day festival of body art, performances, ceremonial feasts and general Dada impertinence, staged in Ukiah, California. Thus began a two-week romp through California during the spring of 1980, with actions, video sessions and gallery prowls in San Francisco, Ukiah, Los Angeles, La Jolla and, naturally, Disneyland. Chaperones and collaborators in his shifting entourage included artists Carl Loeffler, Judith Hoffberg, William Gaglione, Anna Banana, Dick Higgins and Joyce Cutler Shaw. The young participants regarded their generous though imperious middle-aged Italian guest as pope and guru, and assumed him to be an independently wealthy eccentric. In fact, more and more of Cavellini's collection was being sold to finance his publications, mailings and travels, a fact he first confessed before a Venetian court in the early 1980s when he appeared to face charges of defacing the city with his stickers.

Two more trips to the U.S. followed in 1982 and '84, and one to Japan in '86. Now nearing 70, the ailing artist continued his serial enterprises. The Autoritratti impertinenti (Impertinent Self-Portraits) of 1981 were a group of leering and occasionally vulgar photo self-portraits with collaged clothing, leaves and stickers. In 1986 he completed an album of 20 crucifixions loosely based on medieval prototypes, with his own mocking face atop the body of Christ. The title – ll sistema mi ha messo in croce (I Have Been Crucified by the System) – says it all. The last living-room exhibition, in 1987, consisted of seven postcards and stamps pairing rainbow-hued Arcimboldesque heads with the head of Cavellini executed in concentric chromatic bands. This little album was another amendatory gesture as Cavellini responded to his "exclusion" from Pontus Hulten's show of that year entitled "The Arcimboldo Effect: Transformations of the Face from the 16th to the 20th Century." The decade closed with more reproductions of works by Fontana, Mondrian, Appel, Miró and others each transferred to canvas, painted over by Cavellini and recycled as stamps.

The near-monomaniacal focus of Cavellini's work offers fertile ground for postmodernist ruminations on appropriation, mechanical reproduction and the late capitalist marketplace, but it would be a mistake to make too much the prophet of him. For all his savage gnawing at the institutions of the art world, Cavellini was no deconstructionist. Unlike, say, Mike Bidlo's forgeries of 20th-century masterpieces, Cavellini's parodies left intact the autonomy and uniqueness of the artist, if not the art work. His cannibalizing of art history was not intended to kill the victim; on the contrary, it was his exclusion from the history of art by its official guardians, and not art history's preoccupation with the myth of the individual genius, which galled him. Tellingly, there is nothing to suggest that Cavellini ever made any critical distinction between art history and biography. His own efforts at writing "straight" art history, a survey of abstract art published in 1958 and a 1960 tribute to the painter Birolli, consist largely of reminiscences, diary entries and letters.[11] He reserved his purest scorn for Italian critics like Germano Celant, Achille Bonito Oliva and Tommaso Trini when he found them to be concerned with movements rather than individuals. Even the Brescian collector Feroldi was dismissed for never having shared the lives of the artists whose works he acquired. For Cavellini, art was nothing if not personal.

Before his death in November 1990 Cavellini created a final album of self-portraits. Confined to a hospital room, he sketched his ravaged face on over 50 collages pieced together from the glossy pages of popular monographs on the masters of art history. He carved out segments from the color reproductions along with snatches of the printed biographies. All the Maestri di Colori - Goya, Picasso, Mantegna, Kandinsky, Klee - submitted to his scissors. Each collage is annotated, as faithfully as a Constable cloud study, with the name of the Ospedale S. Orsola, the date, the time and the patient's room, camera 61. In one collage, he has drawn his gaunt head within the circular balustrade frescoed by Mantegna on the ceiling of the Camera degli Sposi. A slender upright fragment cut from an illustrated abstract painting is glued to the balustrade's rim to convert Mantegna's encircled sky into a hand mirror for the artist. Here was no bed-ridden Papa Matisse resorting to collage to celebrate the undying vitality of form. The effect is far more angry and harrowing, closer to the obsessive skull-like heads painted by the aging Picasso. At the very end, then, the self-portrait became both letter and diary, communication and remembrance. In a private Götterdämmerung engineered by the man who once called himself "the emperor of presumption," the whole of art history as image and text collapsed beneath the consumed and consuming face of Cavellini.

[1] For their prompt and generous help in the preparation of this article the author would like to thank Piero Cavellini, Judith Hoffberg, Joyce Cutler Shaw, William Gaglione, Carl Loeffler, Edith Strauss Kodmur, Tom Marioni, Kenneth Baker, Marcia Reed and Rebecca Ardell of the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, and Harley Spiller of the Franklin Furnace Archive.
[2] Biographical information for this article has been gleaned from conversations with the artist's son, Piero Cavellini, and from the following books by Cavellini: Arte Astratta (Milan, 1958), Diario di G.A. Cavellini 1975 (Brescia, 1975), Incontri/Scontri nella Giungla dell'Arte 1946-1976 (Brescia, 1976), Cavellini in California e a Budapest (Brescia, 1980) and Vita di un Genio (Brescia, 1989). Some of these are available in English translation by Henry Martin.
[3] In 1949 Feroldi sold his holdings to Gianni Mattioli of Milan, whose enhanced collection acquired international stature. See Franco Russoli's catalogue to the exhibition Masters of Modern Italian Art (Washington, D.C., 1967).
[4] "Pittori Moderni della Collezione Cavellini," Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, 1957, with a catalogue by Giovanni Carandente. The show subsequently traveled to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, La Chaux de Fonds.
[5] In conversation with the author Piero Cavellini dated his father's return to art-making to the end of the 1950s. In his writings (see above, note 2) the artist claims he resumed his creative work in 1962.
[6] Vita di un Genio, op. cit., p. 34. The image of the "jungle of art" had been used earlier by Cavellini in the title of his 1976 book (see above, note 2).
[7] Cavellini later established an exhibition gallery in his basement, which he inaugurated in 1953 with a show of the eight abstract painters called Gli Otto. The photograph recording the occasion, featuring seven artists plus Cavellini, has a position in the documentary history of postwar Italian painting akin to that of the 1951 Life magazine photograph of the Abstract Expressionists as the "Irascibles."
[8] Cavellini may have been inspired by the elaborately painted and lettered envelopes which Estève had created for his correspondence with his Brescian patron beginning in 1953. See Arte Astratta, op. cit., pp. 86 and 90.
[9] Cavellini's work is noted by Henry Martin in "The Italian Art Scene," Art News, Mar. 1981, pp. 70-77; by Ronny Cohen in "Art and Letters," Art News, Dec. 1981, pp. 68-73; and in articles by WilIiam Gaglione and Peter Frank in the anthology Correspondence Art, eds. Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet (San Francisco, 1984).
[10] Cavellini in California e a Budapest, op. cit.
[11] Arte Astratta, op. cit., and Uomo-Pittore (Milan, 1960).

Author: Marcia E. Vetrocq is associate professor of art history at the University of New Orleans. She writes frequently on Italian art.