Upon returning to the United States, I devoured the small book that provided a high level review of Luzzati’s career. In those pages, I discovered why he was not well known as an artist. Luzzati never thought of himself as a traditional artist, but rather saw himself first as a craftsman. What is the difference? Well, that is a little difficult to explain, but there has been an ongoing debate during the past century, and likely longer between what is art, and what is craft.
Craftsmen create objects, which might have some artistic details, but generally speaking are not considered art. Usually they are consigned to the realm of the “decorative arts.”
Artist on the other hand use their imagination, vision, and skills to create art using any means possible. Usually this art has some statement about mankind, or might symbolize some great truth. The craftsmanship that goes into the object is secondary to the creative expression of the piece.
However, there really is no such thing as an artist that has no craftsmanship to his work, or a craftsman who uses no creative abilities. Artist however will sometimes take offence at any comparison to the craftsman. Craftsmen usually have no desire to be a known artist and will gladly take any commission offered to them.
Luzzati spent his career working as a craftsman using his artistic training. When the Italian race laws came about in 1938,( he is Jewish) he left Genova Italy to study art under the sculptor Edoarod Alfieri and the painter Onofrio Martinelli. He moved to Lausanne, Switzerland in 1940, where he took up studies at the School of Fine and Applied Arts.
After World War Two ended, Luzzati explored illustrations, theater, animation, applied art, and urban décor during his hyper prolific career, and he never had to leave Genova Italy to do this. The ship yard for the Italian line was right there and his murals graced nearly all of the ships built post WW2.
The same man creating murals for the dining rooms of ships, could illustrate children’s books with images like these,
|Adventures of Marco Polo, 1975|
|Ronald & The Wizard Calico, 1962|
And could also create ceramic murals such as the one below.
|Ceramic Mural, Transportation, 1958|
Or create the stage sets such as this one,
|Set for Candide, 1994|
Or create the wonderful animation of the “Thieving Magpie,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 1964.
|Thieving Magpie, 1964|
This animation by the way is incredible, so please do take the ten minutes to view. It is very fun.
Or create posters such as these.
|1970, Le Cirque Imaginaire|
|Spoleto Festival, 1993|
He worked from 1944 to 2006. He died at 86, on the day he was to be awarded “Grifo d’oro”, the highest tribute of the City of Genova to one of their citizens.
|Emanuele Luzzati, 1998|
I had no idea when I stood before that mural in Los Angeles I would find such a wonderful gift of an artist-craftsman as Luzzati.So, what is fantasy? It is a story about something. Luzzati said that "fantasy is when a chair is not a chair, but something else." Luzzati is an artist of fantasy, using his imagination to give us a beautiful colorful world. His mind could take the ordinary and transform it into the extraordinary, which is the source of that smile when you read his books, behold his stages, or view his animated movies.
Was he a craftsman, or an artist? He was a student of Marc Chagall’s colors. He loved the work of Pablo Picasso. Looking at everything Luzzati created, I would say he was someone dedicated to making people smile. Luzzati’s magic mind gave fantastic creations to the world that brought warmth, joy, and laughter for a career of 62 years.
His museum is small, but his following is very large. If you are ever in Genova, stop by Porto Antico, and check out the small museum and smile.