Alberto Burri (Italian, 1915–1995) was one of the most prominent Italian Abstract painters of the 20th century. Beginning his career as a doctor rather than an artist, Burri earned a medical degree at the University of Perugia in 1940, and then worked as a physician during World War II. He was imprisoned with his captured unit at a prisoner-of-war camp in Texas, where he painted on burlap. After his release in 1946, he moved to Rome to become an artist. Like many Italian artists working in the late 1940s, Burri turned away from the politicized realism popular at the time, and toward abstraction, becoming a proponent of Art Informel. He subsequently experimented with various unorthodox materials, producing textured collages with pumice, tar, and burlap in order to break with the traditional two-dimensional surface.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, Burri burned his media in a technique he called “combustion”; he also started to burn plastic works in the early 1960s. In the early 1970s, Burri began his “cracked” paintings series, creating works with creviced surfaces resembling chipped soil that explored the illusionistic properties of painting. In the late 1970s, Burri turned to another industrial material, Cellotex, and continued to use it in his work for the next few decades. Burri’s use of materials such as nails, burlap, or tar, and his breaking, burning, and assemblage techniques represented his early experiences at war, and his interpretation of Art Informel aesthetics. His work has been shown internationally in group exhibitions and at several shows at the Venice Biennale and documenta in Kassel. Several successful retrospectives of his work have been presented at institutions including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City and the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris. One year before his death in Nice, France in 1995, Alberto Burri received the Italian Order of Merit.


Born on March 12 in Città di Castello, Italy
Earned his medical degree in 1940 from the University of Perugia and served as a physician during World War II
Following his unit’s capture in northern Africa, he was interned in a prisoner-of-war camp in Hereford, Texas where he started to paint on the burlap that was at hand
Released from camp and moved to Rome, where his first solo show was held at the Galleria La Margherita the following year
Experimented with various unorthodox materials, fabricating tactile collages with pumice, tar, and burlap
Gained attention in the United States: his work was included in the group exhibition Younger European Painters at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and was shown as well at the Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, and the Stable Gallery, New York
Won the Premio dell’Ariete in Milan and the UNESCO Prize at the São Paulo Bienal
Retrospective of work inaugurated at the University of California’s Frederick S. Wight Gallery, Los Angeles
Presented Italian Order of Merit
Died on February 15 in Nice, France


Omaggio a Alberto Burri-Grafica e Scultura, Comune di Colonnella, Teramo, Italy
Palazzo del Esposizioni, Rome, Italy; Städtische Galerie, Munich, Germany; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Alberto Burri mostra omaggio, Galleria II Segno, Rome, Italy
Perielio: Burri-Saffo, Italian Cultural Institute, Athens, Greece
Alberto Burri graphics, M. Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Burri, Combustioni, Cretti, Cellotex 1974-1984, Galerie Artcurial, Paris, France
Alberto Burri, Il Viaggio, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich, Germany
Alberto Burri 1978-1979, J. Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles, California
(retrospective) University of California’s Frederick S. Wight Gallery, Los Angeles, California; Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, Texas; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Galleria 2RC, Milan-Rome, Italy
(Retrospective) Musée National d’ Art Moderne, Paris
Kunsthalle, Darmstadt, Germany
(Retrospective), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California; Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California
Marlborough Galleria, Rome
Hanover Gallery, London, England
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Galleria Blu, Milan, Italy
Galleria dell’Obelisco, Rome, Italy
The Stable Gallery, New York
Galleria d’Arte Contemporanea, Florence, Italy
Galleria dell’Angelo, Città di Castello, Italy
Galleria La Margherita, Rome, Italy