Emilio Pettoruti’s Futurist Headache

THE DAILY PIC: He brought the future to Argentina, however it made him feel.


THE DAILY PIC (#1529): To end this week’s “visit” to Argentina, here’s a self-portrait painted in 1918 by Emilio Pettoruti, from the permanent collection of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires. Pettoruti lived in Italy for 11 years from 1913, and then became a crucial transmitter of European avant-garde ideas to his native Argentina. (The art historian Lauren Kaplan has a nice essay about his Italian visit.)

A lot of Pettoruti’s pictures come off as frankly tame derivations from Picasso. This self-portrait, however, strikes me as having an almost Surrealist edge, before Picasso himself had got there. Rather than simply echoing the moment’s advanced art in its surfaces, it seems to capture Pettoruti’s own deep reaction to the avant-garde culture he encountered. It’s about his undoing and remaking by the cutting edge.

After visiting a Futurist show in Florence in 1913, Pettorutti wrote that “I left the exhibition with a splitting headache and experienced a spiritual turmoil difficult to explain. It was as though everything were spinning inside.” Although painted five years later, this picture seems to recall that moment.

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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