Fondazione Adolfo Pini

Renzo Bongiovanni Radice e Adolfo Pini

Artist and Art Collector | Brera – Garibaldi | Between the two world wars


Renzo Bongiovanni Radice, gripped from an early age by a passion for art, after private schooling began to study painting under the guidance of Attilio Andreoli (1877-1950), heir to the Brera Academy of Giuseppe Bertini and Vespasiano Bignami. After brief experiences in Novecento circles, the unavoidable appeal of Paris, at the start of the 1930s, brought him to the school of André Lhote (1885-1962). Bongiovanni had an interverted character and a certain aristocratic reserve that also implied a reluctance to show his work, especially when it came to producing solo shows. Nevertheless, his career included important participations at Venice Biennials, Rome Quadriennials and the Biennials of Milan at the Permanente.

You were a young man of ’99. You didn’t wait to be called up, you volunteered, when you were just sixteen years old. It was your sole tribute to a family tradition of generals, aviators, ambassadors, medals of honor, patriotic and D’Annunzian impulses. You uncle Gino was involved, faultlessly, in the debacle of Caporetto. He then became governor of Cyrenaica and a senator. Officers’ school was your natural, inevitable outlet. But the military life was not for you, Renzo. You took after your mother, who had always been an art lover. She was a Radice. An upper middle class family, industrious, aristocratic. One of those families that count in Milan. Your martial father reluctantly allowed you to take painting lessons from Attilio Andreoli. A capable teacher of a thoughtful student. You.

Da destra RBR, Guido Piovene, Arturo Brambilla, Leonardo Borgese

Everyone remembers you as being closed off in your own world. Your dearest friends were afraid you might seem cold, detached, aloof, even snobbish. From the heights of your lanky physique, your blond hair, your aristocratic bearing, you lived your life, your torment in a rather bashful way. Your father had taught you that “one must know how to gain pardon for one’s wealth,” and your family really was wealthy. You lived your life without ever taking advantage of that fact. You didn’t feel the urge for the limelight, for acclaim, as did many artists of your age, who spent their time not only on research, but also on public relations. You stayed inside your studio on Corso Garibaldi, looking for balance, harmony, composure. You tried to say new things by using the vocabulary that came before you. Adelante con juicio. The tradition that could not be abandoned yet had to be updated. You painted that way, showing how a certain bourgeoisie of the city liked – and still likes – to imagine the world for itself.

Of course you knew everyone. You were part of the cultural gatherings at the restaurant on Via Bagutta, a member of the Permanente starting in the Twenties, showing your works there for decades. Preferably in group shows; you hated solo shows. Too much attention. It was as if you were trying to make people forget about you, to never seem too aggressive. You were a young man of ’99, you had experienced the slaughter of the Great War. The things of the world just seemed futile, perhaps.