Carlo Battaglia was born in La Maddalena, Sardinia in 1933, but spent his childhood in Genova. From 1943 to 1947 he returns in La Maddalena and after that he is in Rome. Those lonely years spent in Sardinia were to leave indelible marks in his visual memory.
After a stormy time at high school, he fortuitously ends up studying stage design at the Accademia di Belle Arti. In those early years, his interests were the theatre and the cinema. He discovers panting at the Accademia and, thanks to the teaching of Toti Scialoja, he falls in love with American contemporary painting.His final thesis is on Jackson Pollock; had it been published, it would have been the first text ever on the American artist to appear in Italy.
After the compulsory induction into military service, Battaglia, above all, devotes himself to painting. Aware of his underdeveloped manual talents, he undertakes a long practical apprenticeship and, inspired by his beloved Gorky, he copies the masters, in particular Matisse. Since in Italy, at that time, the only chance of seeing contemporary art was at the Biennale in Venice, Battaglia begins to travel: Kassel, Paris, London. “To really understand, it is necessary to see the dexterity and the dimension of the originals: it is misleading to limit oneself only to the reproduction”.In 1962, he lives for six months in Paris, thanks to a grant for painting. His dream however, is to see the work of Matisse in New York, Baltimore, St. Petersburg.
After seeing and understanding those at MoMA and in the Cone Collection, he evolves from the inspiration of Matisse. Later, he starts to exhibit in 1964 in Rome, still aware that his painting is not yet individual. However, he achieves the final exorcism in 1966 in a show at the Salone Annunziata in Milan. Carlo Battaglia remembers, with fondness and gratitude, Carlo Grossetti who had the courage to exhibit in his avantgarde gallery, an artist as yet unfashionable.In 1967 Battaglia resides for six months in New York, working in a studio in Canal Street and establishing friendship with Reinhart, Motherwell and, in particular,Mark Rothko, to whose study he goes daily. Mark had been he and his wife’s, Carla Panicali, guest in Rome for two months, back in 1965. This is the time when he discovers his true motifs and interests, the ambiguity and illusion of the tangible world, and clarifies them by working on them in a series of paintings until he explores and exploits, as much as possible, those ideas. The results are Misterioso, Vertiginoso, Visionario; works that examine the relation between volume and void of the skyscrapers, the play of the reflection on the crystal walls of the buildings.
In 1970, invited with an individual space to the Venice Biennale, he exhibits for the first time the Maree a theme which still involves him today. The ambiguity, the illusion, the spell of the seascape coincides with his boundless love for the sea. From 1970, he participates in all of the most important exhibitions, both in Italy and Europe, of the “Nuova Pittura” or “Pittura analitica”, although feeling an ever increasing awkwardness in identifying himself purely in those theoretical formulations, In 1974 he has a retrospective exhibition in Venice, at Palazzo Grassi, and then in Ferrara, at the Palazzo dei Diamanti, and, in 1978, at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf. He takes part in several shows of Italian contemporary art: Selected Paintings and Sculptures, the inaugural exhibition of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, 1974, I.C.C. in Antwerp, 1975; Aalborg and Odense, Denmark, Boymans Museum in Rotterdam, 1977, Howard Gallery in London, and the Peter Stuyvesant Collection of Provincial Museum in Hasselt, Belgium, 1982. In Italy, he exhibits in the museums of Rome, Milan, Turin and many more: in 1980 he is invited, again with an individual space, at the Venice Biennale.
From 1980, he increasingly isolates himself. He starts to paint with egg tempera, and divides his time between Rome and New York, ending back in La Maddalena, where he now paints in total solitude. In searching the hidden structure of landscape, his painting tends more and more to resemble the appearance of the visible world, not by imitating it, but by trying to create a “parallel image”. The themes are the sea, the rains, the illusion of clouds interspersed with the distant coast: to enrapture an image that has already disappeared the moment it stamps itself on the retina. Painting is a metaphor of landscape, landscape a metaphor of painting.
To paint is to suggest rather than to define the secret sense of objects, the unseizable nature of the waves, the depth of space, the constant illusion of light and shadow.
Carlo Battaglia passed away on the morning of January 17, 2005.
In 2008 his wife, Carla Panicali, collector, art dealer and internationally renowned gallery owner decided to begin cataloguing Battaglia’s works. It was a lengthy endeavor but was facilitated by the painter’s great precision, meticulously signing and dating each painting. Carla Panicali’s passion, while never interfering with her husband’s work, permitted the existence of this catalogue, and describes her wonderful adventure as an intellectual of painting.
Carla Panicali passed away on the 4th of August 2012 in La Maddalena as had Carlo Battaglia, facing the sea they had both so unreservedly loved.