Carlo Scarpa

Venice 1906 — Sendai, Miyagi 1978

An architect, designer, and scholar, Carlo Scarpa was a fundamental figure in the art of the Italian Novecento. Using glass as sculptural material, his creations succeed in arousing impressions and evocations of colour and imperfect lines reminiscent of long ago.

While still studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice (1919-26), he received his first professional engagement as a designer for a number of Murano glassmakers. From 1926 to 1931 he worked alongside Guido Cirilli in his private studio and at the Venice Higher Institute of Architecture. Frequenting intellectual circles in Venice, he associated with the likes of Ungaretti, Carrà, Martini, Deluigi, Casorati, and Nono. He created his first elements of decor at the end of the 1920s, while between 1935 and 1937 he worked on one of the most innovative restoration projects of day: Ca' Foscari.

Distinguished by his meticulous attention to detail and the quality of constructive materials, Scarpa was attracted to the applied arts and architecture of Vienna’s First Secession, Le Corbusier, and Lloyd-Wright, and Japanese Art, which had a great influence on his work. From 1927 to 1930, he worked artistic glass for Cappellin & Co., and between 1932 and 1947, he was the art director at Venini. His designs and productive techniques were a blend of tradition and innovation, and his experiments with pasta vitrea (vitreous paste) led to the creation of a number of Venini icons, such as tessuto and battuto glass. In 1932, he exhibited at the Venice Biennale, and two years later, at the 1934 Milan Triennale. His long collaboration with the Biennale began in 1948 when he set up the Paul Klee retrospective. The layout of the over sixty exhibitions and museums he supervised in the long course of his career revolutionized 20th century museography.