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Umberto Boccioni

(1882 Reggio di Calabria – 1916 near Verona)

L'Atleta (The Athlete). Drypoint on chamois-coloured wove paper. 14.9 x 23.2 cm (platemark); 41.0 x 50.2 cm (sheet size). Signed. (1907). Bellini 11 I B (of III).

An entry in Boccioni’s diary confirms that he produced this depiction of a young athlete in Venice in the summer of 1907. The artist probably observed the young man on the beach at the Lido. Sailing boats are discernible on the horizon and in the centre ground the artist has sketched two men in swimming trunks sitting in relaxed manner on the beach, their leisurely pose offering a stark contrast to the alert and concentrated posture of the athlete. The very effectively applied plate tone notwithstanding, the treatment is distinctly linear, Boccioni’s purist drawing style enabling him to achieve a very high degree of expressiveness and artistic synthesis. The work demonstrates once again just how fascinated the artist was by motion and sequences of movement. The young athlete exhibits a feline lissomness as he prepares for the start; every fibre of his wiry, muscular body is strained.

Since there are no known preliminary studies for this etching and Boccioni subsequently made several corrections to the plate, the artist probably dispensed with any preparatory studies and worked directly on the copperplate.

A superb, contrasting impression of the first state, with a slightly curved scratch above the left leg, but before the two crossed scratches above the boat at the top right; with the full margins. Slight surface soiling, occasional small spots in the white margin, a minor water stain in the bottom left-hand corner, slight traces of handling, otherwise in very fine, unrestored condition. In this state the etching is of extreme rarity. Bellini records just two impressions of version B; the present impression was unknown to him.

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