Alberto Burri’s relationship with fire stemmed from, and brought together, creative inspiration and his scientific background. The artist remarked: ‘’For a long time I wanted to understand the way fire consumes materials, to understand the nature of combustion and how everything can live and die in combustion to form a perfect unity.’’ Burri explained that first of all he needed a surface on which to arrange the composition…. Then he laid plastic on it and burnt it. ‘’Nothing is left to chance. What I do here is the most controlled and controllable type of painting…You have to control the material and this is achieved by mastering the technique.’’
Alberto Burri was born in Città di Castello, in 1915. He graduated in Medical studies at the university of Perugia in 1940.
As a medical officer in the Italian army, he was captured by the Allies in 1943 and was a prisoner of war in Texas, USA. There he decided to abandon the medical profession in favour of painting. When he returned to Italy, in 1946, he settled in Rome. In 1948 he abandoned figuration definitively in favour of abstraction and he became concerned with the expressive potential of raw materials. In 1950, he created his first Sacchi [Sacks], works that came to dominate his following solo exhibitions, which were held in various American and European cities. In 1951 he founded the Gruppo Origine with Mario Ballocco, Giuseppe Capogrossi and Ettore Colla. In 1952 made his first appearance at the Venice Biennale, to which he was invited back in 1960, 1964, 1966 and 1968. Between 1952 and 1953, Burri’s art attracted international attention with shows in New York and Chicago.
During the 1950s and 1960s, he created various cycles of works by using fire on different raw materials. Thus, the Combustioni [Combustions], the Legni [Woods], the Ferri [Irons] and the Plastiche [Plastics] took shape. In the 1970s, while his work continued to be shown at solo and group exhibitions at some of the most prestigious museums in the world – including the Museo Civico di Torino (1971), the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris (1972), the Tate Gallery in London (1974), the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome (1976) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (1978) – he developed the Cretti [Cracks] and the Cellotex cycles.
Burri established the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri in Città di Castello in 1978. In this building he exhibited a permanent collection of specially chosen works whose installation was curated by him and remains unchanged to this day.
In 1989, the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini acquired the former Seccatoi del Tabacco in Città di Castello. These industrial architectural structures became the perfect containers for the monumental cycles of site-specific paintings and sculptures created by the artist. Alberto Burri died in Nice on February 13, 1995.