Enzo Plazzotta (1921-1981) The Italian-born sculptor, Enzo Plazzotta, gained a major international reputation. Though he retained close links to his native country, it was in London that he established his sculptural practice in the 1960s, and was first celebrated. Then, throughout his career, he exhibited widely in Europe, the United States and Australia. He produced inventive and engaging compositions in marble and bronze, especially of human and animal figures in movement. He developed a particular rapport with dancers, and worked with some of the most celebrated performers of his day.
His output encompasses both personal expressions of his sensibility and highly accessible, popular works, many of which grace our public spaces. Enzo Plazzotta was born in Mestre, near Venice on 29 May 1921, and grew up on the shores of Lake Maggiore. Developing a particular aptitude for sculpture, he began to study under Messina at the Accademia di Brera, in Milan, at the age of seventeen. However, he had to terminate his studies abruptly when Italy entered the Second World War. A volunteer in the Bersaglieri, he was sent to North Africa, where he was awarded the Silver Medal for valour. Following the fall of Mussolini in 1943, he broke with the Fascist regiment and helped to found a partisan group in the Italian mountains. Betrayed by an infiltrator, he was captured and placed in solitary confinement, escaping six months later while in transit to Mauthausen. In Switzerland, he helped to improve relations between the partisans and the Allies. In the closing months of the war, he returned to Italy to participate in the final struggle for national liberation.
Plazzotta was finally able to return to the Brera to complete his studies, under Manzù, who exerted a considerable influence over his work. On graduating, he received a commission from the Italian Committee of Liberation to make a bronze statuette for presentation to the British Special Forces Club. He travelled to London himself to present the statuette and was so drawn to the British way of life that he decided to stay.
Plazzotta found work as a portrait artist but later, with a family to support, he was obliged to turn to more lucrative pursuits. Rather than practise his art merely as a hobby, he set up a commercial art agency in London, which specialised in importing Milanese art and design. It was not until the early 1960s that he found himself in a position to take up sculpting again. Engaging himself fully in his work, he produced both accessible pieces and more personal projects in which he overcame conceptual and technical problems. Favourite preoccupations included dancing figures, horses and adaptations of classical and Christian themes. Retaining close links with his native Italy, he kept a small studio in Pietrasanta, near Carrara; it was the base for much casting of his work, and for experiments in carving marble and onyx. In 1976 he received the title of Cavaliere from the Italian government for services to art. In the same year he moved into the Garden Studio in Cathcart Road, built and formerly owned by Sir Charles Wheeler. He contracted cancer in 1981 and died in the same year.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Stanley Picker Gallery at Kingston University; College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Mass); and Queensland Art Gallery (Brisbane).
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