Fellini Federico

Roma, Italy

20.01.1920 - 31.10.1993

Film director, cartoonist, screenwriter, costume designer

We all know Fredrico Fellini as the creator of movie masterpieces such as “Rome is an open city”, “Sweet Life”, “The Road”, “Cabiria Nights”, “Eight and a Half”.

However, few people know that he was also an excellent draughtsman, who clothed his thoughts and ideas in the lines and colors of drawings and cartoons, an artist who created scenery and costumes for his films. Federico Fellini considered his passion for drawing as a hobby, calling sketches “doodles” and “daubs” and noting that they are not particularly interesting. Here is how he himself wrote about his hobby: “I have always, as long as I can remember, painted something on any piece of paper that came to hand. This is a kind of conditioned reflex, a purely automatic occupation — my eternal mania; and not without a feeling of some awkwardness, I must admit that there was a moment in my life when I intended to become an artist.”

Federico Fellini was born on January 20, 1920 in the family of a small businessman and housewife in Rimini, Italy. Since childhood, Fellini loved to arrange performances: he made masks, painted dolls, sewed costumes. One of Fellini’s strongest childhood impressions is a traveling circus that came on tour to Rimini. Federico Fellini attended the Classical Lyceum, a monastery school in Fao. In 1937, he moved to Florence, where he studied to be a reporter, moonlighting as a cartoonist in the firm “Febo” of his friend Demos Bonnini. It was the cartoons that brought him his first own money. In 1938, Fellini came to Rome, a city that became not only his last refuge, but also his destiny. Rome is one of the most important Fellini film themes. In the Italian capital, he lived near the train station, in furnished rooms, next to Chinese merchants, thieves and prostitutes.

For his thinness, Federico then received the nickname “Gandhi”. It was at this time that he earned his living by drawings for newspapers and magazines, wrote texts for variety shows, advertisements and small radio plays. Drawing was not only an income for him, but also a true pleasure. This pleasure came from the gymnasium of youth, but for the first time brought real income: “Even as a high school student, in the summer, in a suit and tie, with paper and a box of paints under my arm, I wandered along the beach from umbrella to umbrella, offering sunbathed vacationers in underpants to draw their portrait or cartoon. Cartoonists, artists, draftsmen —even those who depict Madonna with colored crayons on asphalt —have always made a strong impression on me and evoked almost the same feeling of timid reverence as actors (I say “actors”, although I should say “actresses”).”

It was with publications in the press that the path of Fellini the draftsman and Fellini the writer began – later a screenwriter and director grew out of this, for whom drawing remained an eternal parallel: Fellini drew every free minute, drew, playing and, playing, drawing. But after becoming a director, Fellini’s drawings and caricatures changed. Now he did not draw to order for small newspapers and magazines, did not illustrate vulgar jokes and feuilletons, drew only for himself. Fellini drew scenery, costumes, actors, scenes from films, it was often easier for him to sketch all his ideas than to write them down. And, of course, Fredrico Fellini painted what interested him most of all – women. Among the cartoons and caricatures, women occupy a huge part: “It seems to me that I have been making films about women all my life. I owe them all… At the beginning of work on each film, I spend most of my time at my desk and am exclusively occupied with absent-mindedly drawing women’s asses and breasts. This is my method of entering the film, starting to decipher it through these arabesques.”

And what women they are! As befits an Italian, he was a passionate lover of large female forms. Almost half of his drawings are about giant butts and breasts of some inhuman size. There are caricature portraits of such ladies (“A woman dancing a tango”), there are autosarges (“Fellini’s Autosarge with a naked woman with big breasts” or “Federico and his secretary”), there are funny scenes (“Too late” – a man crushed by his chest), and there are more explicit compositions.

Fellini, having started drawing at school, never left a pen or felt-tip pen for a long time (most of his works are made with the simplest materials). Comic book artist Milo Manara recalled: “On Fellini’s seventieth birthday, I gave him a box of felt-tip pens, his eyes shone like a child’s. They were good markers that don’t fade with time, but I didn’t tell him about it so as not to puzzle him. He never took his drawings seriously. It was incomprehensible to him with what reverence we kept the restaurant napkins on which he painted.”

Fellin painted, first of all, for himself, he did not think about the fate of his works.

But time decided otherwise — in 2000, a world-famous album with Fellini’s drawings was published, and in 2003-2004, a significant part of the works was shown at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where it was a great success. In 2005, his works were exhibited for the first time in Moscow, at the GIIM im. Pushkin. Early cartoons and FF comics, cartoons of favorite actors and actresses, as well as sketches for films, sketches of costumes, scenery, individual frames and entire scenes, hooligan sketches and masterpieces of Fellini’s imagination thrown out by the author (but carefully selected by connoisseurs) were shown in Moscow. Accentuating the “low” sides of being was by no means an end in itself for Fellini.  One of his most interesting drawings are considered to be “The Dream of a Chinese” (seven sheets) and two sheets from the cycle “Dreams”.

Fellini never considered comics to be a “second-rate” genre of art (“I think comics can generously share their film characters, plots, and their specific scenography with the world”); his comics clearly show the ability to move from drawing to dialogue and further to the plot. For example, the director kept a dream diary since the early 60s; many ideas were subsequently embodied in films.

Reference: Wikipedia, 2009


Leave a Reply

4 + twenty =