Beast in the Mirror: The Life of Outsider Artist Antonio Ligabue
This biography introduces the remarkable career of Antonio Ligabue (1899-1965) to the American audience for the first time. A self-taught painter and sculptor, Ligabue lived most of his life in a rude hut beside the Po River, not emerging from obscurity until the 1950s when articles and reviews began appearing in Italy. In 1961 he was awarded Grand Prize at the National Art Exhibit. Known as the "Van Gogh of Italy", Capra is pleased to present a lively telling of the life of this enigmatic artist who worked purely by passion and instinct. As he said, "Sometimes they ask me why I use such strong colors, but how can you explain that you feel fire in your arms?"
Ligabue was a true "outsider", not only in how we might categorize his art, but in the unfortunate facts of his life. All but ostracized by human society because of mental, physical, and emotional "deficiencies", Ligabue lived isolated in his hut, where he sculpted his animals from the river clay. Eventually he acquired oils and painted on canvas his fantastic, mysterious visions of animals, insects, birds, and landscapes, but also, and most dramatically, his tortured self-portraits. Critics have labeled him Naif, Expressionist, Primitive, Fauvist, and Visionary. He is all these things; as one critic put it, "We are dealing with an alchemistic mixture, full of that magical quality we call poetry because we haven't got a better way of defining it". Ligabue's life and art form a whole, reflecting not only the beauty and genius of the human spirit, but its agony and sorrow as well. A permanent collection of his works is at the Ligabue Institute in Parma.