Alberto Burri

Sacking and Red


Not on display

Alberto Burri 1915–1995
Original title
Sacco e rosso
Acrylic paint and hessian on canvas
Support: 864 × 1003 mm
frame: 893 × 1030 × 31 mm
Purchased 1965

Display caption

In the early 1950s, Burri made a number of works using sacking. Some included the original printing found on the sacks, acknowledging their origins as part of the relief effort for post-war Europe. The addition of red paint, reminiscent of blood, was seen as a link to the artist’s early training as a doctor. However, Burri dismissed these sombre interpretations, insisting that he strove for an art that was independent of references. He described his painting as ‘a freedom attained, constantly consolidated, vigilantly guarded’.

Gallery label, April 2009

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Catalogue entry

Alberto Burri born 1915 [- 1995]

T00787 Sacking and Red 1954

Inscribed 'Burri 54' on back of canvas
Sacking, glue and plastic paint (vinyl) on canvas, 34 x 39 1/2 (86 x 100)
Purchased from Marlborough Fine Art (Grant-in-Aid) 1965
Prov: With Stable Gallery, New York (purchased from the artist 1955); with Galleria Pogliani, Rome; with Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Rome
Exh: Burri, Stable Gallery, New York, May-June 1955 (no catalogue); 2° Mostra Mercato Nazionale d'Arte Contemporanea, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, March-April 1964 (not in catalogue); Plastiche di Burri, Galleria d'Arte 'La Bussola', Turin, January 1965 (1); Summer 1965, Marlborough Fine Art, London, July-August 1965 (11); Alberto Burri, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin, October-December 1971 (28, repr.); Alberto Burri, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, May-July 1972 (22, repr.)
Lit: Cesare Brandi, Burri (Rome 1963), No.162, p.200, repr.
Repr: Vittorio Rubiu, Alberto Burri (Turin 1975), pl.22; Terry Measham, The Moderns 1945-1975 (Oxford 1976), pl.20 in colour

Burri made several paintings in 1954 combining sacking with a large area of red. The making of what was apparently the first of these in the summer of 1954 is described in detail by Milton Gendel in 'Burri makes a Picture', Art News, LIII, December 1954, p.28 ff. Burri said to Gendel of this picture, which is fairly similar to the one at the Tate: 'I have worked with a big red space that is expanding forward and in all directions. With the other elements it is involved in a whole chain of pulls and tensions. But this is only the architectonic structure. For the rest I have nothing to add.'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.87, reproduced p.87

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