Fausto Pirandello (1899 – 1975) was one of the most important and influential painters working in Italy between the 1930s and the 1950s. This, the first exhibition to be devoted to his work in the UK, presents the work of a figure who was central to Italian culture during the mid-twentieth century but who is perhaps less familiar outside his native country than his famous father, the dramatist and writer Luigi Pirandello. The exhibition runs from 8 July – 6 September 2015 at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in London.

Comprising some 50 works, the show includes many of Pirandello’s masterpieces in this complete overview spanning his entire career. Like Lucian Freud, Fausto Pirandello’s vision of reality was raw, carnal and unflinchingly objective. Among the key works on display are Women with Salamander (1928-30), Gymnasium (c. 1934), The Staircase (1934), Drought (1936-37), Women Combing their Hair (c. 1937), The Models (1945), Through the Spectacles (1953-54) and Bathers on the Beach (c. 1961).

Fausto Pirandello was born in Rome in 1899 and began to devote himself to painting immediately after the First World War. His attention to unsettling details, use of diagonal compositions and uncompromising realism meant that his style was at odds with the prevailing spirit of the ‘return to order’. He became one of the leading figures associated with the important Scuola Romana during the early 1930s, rejecting the classicism typical of the Novecento group which had dominated the art of the preceding decade.

Between 1928 and 1930 Pirandello lived in Paris, where his work underwent a decisive change following his contact with the ‘Italiens de Paris’, and his imagery began to acquire an almost surreal character, despite its focus on harsh reality and use of a technique informed by the heavy textures of Cubist painting.

Returning to Rome in early 1931 Pirandello adopted a resolutely personal artistic approach, creating enigmatic compositions which are remarkable for their spatial ambiguity, lack of readily identifiable meanings and sense of existential drama, free from any narrative elements.

During the post-war years Pirandello continued along his independent course, keeping his distance from the main trends and groups that emerged in Italy at the time. Between the late 1940s and the early 1950s he developed a new style grounded in the use of broken, agitated planes and elliptic, expressionistic geometry.

From the 1920s onward Pirandello participated in all of the most important Italian exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale and the Rome Quadriennale, and his work was also included in many international shows. He was a constant voice in Italy’s cultural debate, espousing a consistently modern and international outlook.

The exhibition has been curated by Fabio Benzi and organised by the Estorick Collection in collaboration with the Fondazione Fausto Pirandello; the catalogue will include essays by the curator as well as Francesco Leone and Flavia Matitti, a member of the Associazione Fausto Pirandello, which has kindly supported the exhibition.