Born on January 21, 1895, in that extraordinary Mascanian opera season in Livorno, Virgilio Marchi studied at the Technical Institute of Livorno and later at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lucca; he graduated twenty-five years old at the Higher School of Architecture of the Royal Provincial Institute of Fine Arts in Siena, in 1920 and, as a brilliant student, already in 1912, he was awarded the Biringucci Prize followed by a scholarshipof study by the Ramond Foundation, in 1913.
Marchi's extraordinary career leaves a vast production of public and private architecture, costumes and sets for cinema and theater, theoretical writings, created and formulated in one of the most lively and controversial seasons of the Italian art scene of the first half of the twentieth century. In him are infused expressions and contrasting styles: secessionism and futurism, proto-decò principles and rationalist rigor.
Young and revolutionary spirit, Virgilio Marchi, like many contemporary artists, actively participated in the front of the First World War, interrupting his studies for a short period. The whirlwind of interventionist politics, sponsored in human activities by that group of irreverent and bold authors who call themselves "Futurists", led by mentor Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the latter sensitize the inspiration of the Livorno architect with their example. He came into contact with Giacomo Balla in 1916 and with Marinetti during the exhibition of drawings that took place during his pupil at the Bombardieri School of Livorno in 1918 Marchi studied the subversive futurist manifestos, focusing above all on the informal solutions announced by the mind of Antonio Sant 'Elia and Umberto Boccioni; his adherence to the second futurism, which arose from the inauspicious years of the war, is spontaneous. As Guido Calderini writes about the Tuscan artist: "After Antonio Sant'Elia, Marchi is the only young architect who has boldly studied the problem of the renewal of this revolutionary art following the invention of new materials under construction. ". As an enterprising student, already during the war period, he sketches the embryonic personal ideas on the nascent contemporary architectural culture, which take shape in 1920, when Virgilio Marchi publishes the Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, dynamics, mood, dramatic on "Rome Futurist ”, in which he does not fail to pronounce a lapidary sentence on how contemporary buildings are characterized“ by a deplorable hybridity ”. By participating at the same time in his first public conference at the People's Assembly in Siena, the fame that derives from it allows Marchi to be involved among the main actors in the long and weary debate on the uncertain future of the recent futurist cultural heritage. post Santeliano; testimony of these lively interventions are the numerous articles that have appeared in the major futurist and sector publications, such as "Iron Head", "Dinamo", "L'Impero", "Centauro", "Chronicle of actuality", "Scenario", "Chronicle of actuality", arriving later at the completion of his first theoretical manual published by Campitelli in 1924: Futurist Architecture.
In 1925 Marchi joined the Futurist Exhibition (Scenography Section) at the Winter Club of Turin, following his other presence for the 1st Futurist Congress in Milan (1924), while in 1926 he exhibited at the International Theater Exposition in New York, in followed by the exhibition of 13 design works at the 1st Exhibition of Futurist Architecture in Turin in 1928, receiving heartfelt honors for his staff at the Teatro degli Illusi in Naples in 1929. These are the years of greatest commitment and public recognition of the novelties he brings in the twentieth-century theater workshop, where the Tuscan artist gets prizes, such as at the Theater Show in the Barcelona International Exhibition (1930), at the Scenography Exhibition at the International Artistic Association in via Margutta, inaugurated by Marinetti in 1932 with the direction art by Corrado D'Errico, at the XCVII Exhibition of Amateurs and Connoisseurs of Fine Arts (Scenic Architecture Section) and at the XVI Biennale di Venezia (Mo stra on Italian and foreign theater), from 1942.
Called to Rome from his hometown in 1921 by Anton Giulio Bragaglia, a renewed creative season opens for Marchi, who by joining the entourage of Casa d'Arte Bragaglia, at Palazzo Tittoni in via degli Avignonesi 1922, his first solo exhibition at the age of 24. As he himself describes on the occasion: "This exhibition brings together a series of studies, attempts and research into a new character of architecture"; the originality of the Tuscan artist's youthful work, in fact, is concentrated in the happy attempt to overcome the idea of Gothic architectural verticalism bequeathed by Antonio Sant’Elia. The "vivid Tuscan genius" of the Livorno artist resides in the abolition of the canonical perpendicular structural lines, "seeking plastic movement through the dynamic impulse of curves", reflecting the vibrations and optical and phonetic stimuli of modern metropolitan life. Virgilio Marchi suggests the study of a contemporary "lyricism", which has as its ideal basis the concept of dynamic interpenetration of the planes extracted from the Boccioni's thoughtagainst any stylistic coldness.
In the years of the Italian political fervor of the African Campaigns, ideas for a Palazzo Littorio were publicly presented, in 1934, and almost simultaneously for an ambitious universal exhibition, remembered with the historical name of E42. Marchi took part in both competitions, presenting buildings that, although devoid of nationalist rhetoric, were proudly described by the critics of the time as rich in "fascistically virile inspiration".
As can be seen from the numerous critical interventions in "La Gazzetta del Popolo", "La Nazione", "Il Secolo", "Augustea", "L'argante" and "The literary fair", Virgilio Marchi's activity as a theorist never ceased, simultaneously conceiving new editorial commitments, which testify to the evolution of architectural semantics and the definitive decline of the emotional tension of the first avant-garde: Italia nuova Architettura nuova (1931) and Introduction to theatrical and cinematographic scenography (1946).
The last but no less important season of artistic productivity, Virgilio Marchi dedicates it to cinematographic scenography, starting from 1935, with the film Milizia territoriale by Mario Bonnard, a long and fruitful career of experimentation and adaptation of theatrical scenographic characters to recent art, about sixty films. He signs the environmental reconstructions and costumes for the major authors, including Alessandro Blasetti (An adventure by Salvador Rosa, The Iron Crown, La cena delle beffe, Four steps in the clouds) and the neorealists Roberto Rossellini (A pilot returns, Europa51, Francesco jester of God) and Vittorio De Sica (Termini Station, Umberto D).
In the last twenty years of his life, the honors to his long-lived profession of urban planner, architect and set designer and costume designer, are reflected in the election to leading roles in teaching. Appointed as Director of the Art Institute of Siena, between 1931 and 1940, new assignments followed one another as at the Royal National Academy of Dramatic Art from 1936 (chair of "Scenotecnica" and "History of costume"), while between 1944 and 1946 he was engaged at the Istituto d'Atte of Venice, as a teacher of Scenography, and later at the Experimental Center of Cinematography in Rome, he held the chair of "Scenography" from 1951 until his death on 30 April 1960.
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