Alberto Burri Italian, 1915-1995


Alberto Burri was born in Umbria, Italy and is internationally renowned for his radical contributions and influences on numerous avant-garde movements such as Arte Provera, Neo-Dada and Post-Minimalism. He is known for multi-media paintings and sculptures, as well large public installations, all made with unconventional materials.


Burri studied medicine at the University of Perugia and in 1940 was called to military service as a combat medic. In 1943, his unit was captured and he was sent to a prisoner of war camp in Texas where he remained for three years. During that period, Burri experimented with painting. When he arrived home after the war, he decided to abandon his medical career and focus solely on art. He set up a studio in Rome and by 1947 he had his first solo exhibition in Galeria La Margherita.


Burri experimented and pushed the boundaries of his art to great lengths. His use of mass produced industrial materials such as zink, tar, aluminium dust and polyvinyl chloride glue was completely unorthodox. Burri even radically used fire as medium in his works, to burn parts of the canvas which later led to his renown Legni (wood) series.


At first Burri’s unconventional body of work was not well received, however a turning point was in the early 1950’s when he created his Sacchi (sacks) series, which were made from multiple sections of traditional industrial sacks. With these pieces Burri changed the concept of painting. Revered critic and director of the Guggenheim, James Johnson Sweeney discovered Burri on a trip to Rome, he subsequently introduced his work to the US. In 1953, he included him in the acclaimed exhibition Young European Painters: A Selection, at the Guggenheim.


Burri died at the age of 79 in 1992 in Nice, France.