was born on September 7th 1892 in Ortona, Province of Chieti, and he
died in Milan in 1989.
Like his brother Tommaso, he studied under his father Basilio, who was
also born in Ortona and was an important painter, ceramist, lithographer
and ladies’ tailor. Michele, right from primary school, was not a good
pupil, and even in drawing gave poor results (yes, you may well smile!).
His mother decided that an ecclesiastic career would be best for him,
but his father wanted him, and made him, a painter, taking him in his
chromolithographic laboratory and making him copy the drawings of
Leonardo and Botticelli, or simplifications of large mouths and noses
that he prepared specifically for him. Their father, for Michele and his
brother Tommaso, was their guide in design and in comprehending the
logic of art, comparable to a soft background music, or the
comprehension of the demands of human beings, objects and natural
In 1907 he exhibited for the first time at the Familglia Artistica in
Milan, then in 1908 this was repeated at the Caffè Ligure in Turin and
at the Druet Gallery, Paris, in 1909. His technique mainly consists in
the use of pastels, thus approaching the style of the symbolist Michetti.
Around 1910 he began to frequent the cultural circles of Milan, where he
became acquainted with his great friend, the poet Clemente Rebora, as
well as the philosopher Antonio Banfi and the writer Sibilia Aleramo,
who in her turn introduced him to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto
Boccioni and Margherita Sarfatti.
He was a soldier during the first World War and his visual memories
regarding military life have been portrayed in his pictures. Some of
these works are at the Risorgimento Museum and the Historical
Collections in Milan. At the end of the war he settled permanently in
Milan and dedicated himself to engraving and ceramics, to later return
to oil and water colour painting.
Venice Biennial exhibitions
In 1924 he exhibited for the first time at the Venice Biennial and in
1925 organised a personal exhibition at the Pesaro Gallery in Milan,
which received good reviews from Carlo Carrà, who was a great supporter
of the primitivism in Cascella’s paintings. His seascapes and urban
views, his female portraits brought him success and invitations to all
the Venice Biennial exhibitions without interruption from 1928 to 1942,
and in this last year he was dedicated a personal showroom.
Cascella in Europe
During the ‘thirties Cascella used the water colour technique, and
painted views of towns. These paintings were mainly exhibited in Europe,
in London, Paris and Brussels until his works were moved to the
Luxembourg Museum, the Jeu de Paume and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In 1933 he worked with the “Corriere della Sera”, invited by Andrea
Borelli, sketching important Italian localities. In 1934 he spent some
time in Libya and shortly afterwards received a commission from the
princess of Piedmont for a set of paintings of southern Italian
North and South America
After the second World war his exhibitions abroad considerably increased:
Montevideo and Buenos Aires and many other towns in South America,
during the ‘fifties and the ‘sixties he exhibited regularly in Paris at
the Andrè Weil Gallery, the Allard gallery and the Marseille Gallery. In
1959 he was obliged to remain frequently in California where his
pictures are hung at the Juarez Gallery in Los Angeles.
In 1938 he worked on the drafts of the opera Margherita da Cortona which
was performed at the Scala Opera House in Milan. His most frequent
subjects in this period were flowers, still life, cornfields and poppies,
landscapes of Abruzzo and Portofino. The techniques he mainly used were
oil painting, water colours, pastels and lithography.
The most representative anthological exhibitions
1981: Palazzo Reale, Milan
1981/82: Palazzo del Diamante, Ferrara
1985: National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome
1988: Mondatori published the first volume of the “Catalogue of
paintings by Michele Cascella”
Acknowledgements received during his life
Michele Cascella, a very congenial and humane man, was a tenacious
worker and received many acknowledgements, among which the satisfaction
of winning the gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1937.
What people say about him:
“He is a landscape artist with a personal touch, at times mystical and
also humorous” says Costantini, a “crepuscolare” who loves the old
ruined houses, convents, flowered meadows and peaceful corners that
evoke memories. He has a preference for the evening shadows that he
portrays with a special freshness.
Unlike much modern art that is enclosed in critical discourse, which is
not exterior, but is an integrating part with no possibility to separate
it and look at it as something in itself, the painting of Michele
Cascella is there in the good and the bad, you can look at it as
something in itself, with no spiritual conditioning or manipulation
directed toward the initiated. His works last or will last over time for
the beauty of their form, not for the notions they transmit.
Acknowledgements after his death
The town of Pescara in merit of the fame he brought to Abruzzo has
dedicated a complete museum to the Cascella family which includes his
father, Basilio, Andrea and Pietro, important sculptors, grandsons of
Michele. Many museums contain the masterpieces of Michele Cascella and
to mention just a few: the Modern Art Gallery, Brussels, the De Saisset
Art Gallery Museum of the Santa Clara University, California, the
National Modern Art Gallery, Turin and the National Modern Art Gallery,
To commemorate the first anniversary of his death, the Busto Arsizio
museum dedicated an anthological exhibition with 100 works to this great
artist Michele Cascella, which was later exhibited at the Casa
d’Annunzio, Pescara. In 1992 for the centenary of his birth a wide
collection of his works ranging from 1907 to 1946 was organised at the
Palazzo della Permanente in Milan.