Biography

Fulvio Bianconi was born in August 27th 1915 in Ponte di Brenta (Padova province, near Venice). His parents were Emo and Elvira Bianconi. His father was a musician, his mother a housewife and his sister Lidia was born a few years later.

From a very young age, Fulvio showed an inclination towards drawing. When his mother read in a local newspaper an add that was looking for ‘…a young man with a keen predisposition for drawing and visual arts…’ she immediately said ‘…Oh, they are looking for Fulvio…’ That’s how the young Fulvio Bianconi won a scholarship that enabled him to get accepted in the Carmini convent. From the age of 15 to 17 he worked as an apprentice decorator in the Murano furnaces, an experience that was to be proven precious in the future.

He married Bruna, a girl from Venice, and after the birth of their first born child, Maria (Marieto as they affectionately called her) the young Bianconi family started touring northern Italy, especially the Veneto and Istria regions, decorating churches and painting portraits.

In 1933, Fulvio met Dino Villani, who immediately understood his artistic and expressive potential, and introduced him to Mondadori, Motta, GI.VI.M and other important Milanese companies. During the war and until 1943, he worked in Rome and therefore miraculously escaping the Nazi killings of Rasella street. After the army, he continued his work as a graphic designer with various publishers, ending up at Garzanti’s with whom he was to work continuously until 1975; and after that for their more important editions until after 1990.

Fulvio Bianconi, ‘designer of the Seven Leagues’ as Alfonso Gatto wrote in the preface of the book ‘Fulvio Bianconi’s drawings’ (published by Garzanti multi-faceted) always on the look for new forms of artistic expression first came to glass and Murano in 1945 with an assignment by GI.VI.M. to design bottles for a series of perfumes at the Venini furnace, working with glass masters Ermete and Arturo Biassuto (nicknamed Boboli), where the bottles were to be subsequently produced. It was then that the passion (the ‘hobby’ as he called it) for glass was born, a passion that was to make him famous all over the world. A passion that, especially after Venini’s death in 1959, was initially not well accepted by the Murano furnaces where he used to go to create different glass objects with his own hands; and this because they were reluctant to make things different from their usual production of lamps, mirrors, vases, drinking glasses, beads etc.

His passion for glass and the financial independence his work at Garzanti gave him, allowed Fulvio Bianconi to create with absolute freedom of expression, with no ties and obligations to any commissioner, hundreds and hundreds of glass ‘unique examples’ which constitute the intrinsic basis of Murano’s reputation as a place of production of artistic glass.

As Fulvio Bianconi himself wrote:

‘…then the artistic glass has to be unique, if it is repeated it loses its charm…’

Bruno Munari, in the preface of the book ‘Bianconi’s glass objects’ writes:

‘…When Bianconi has a certain number of sketches and notes relative to glass, he travels to Murano where, in some furnaces, the master glass makers are waiting to work with him…’

Bianconi’s words again:

‘…it is a very rare thing for a person to have so much free time, like I do…’

Fulvio Bianconi has been the artist who, creating in glass the Venetian Carnival and Commedia dell’ Arte characters, was the first to portray human beings in glass, thus breaking the tradition of glass being a secondary material as far as artistic expression is concerned. A believer in the maximum creative freedom of the artist, with absolutely no ties to hierarchy nor industrial clichés, he always liked to plunge in person into the creative process.

Again Bruno Munari, in the preface of the book ‘Bianconi’s glass’:

‘…He likes go directly in the furnace and work together with the master glass maker, and such is his passion and energy that he is able to enter into the glass maker’s spirit and makes him  work according to his desires…’

For over 30 years he was the mind behind the external image of Garzanti, one of the most distinguished and prestigious Italian publishing houses, making it a focal point of reference for the best Italian and foreign graphic artists. He also has contributed to the image of FIAT, Marzotto, HMW, Pathé, Columbia, Pirelli and others. He was a close friend of Gaetano Sperati, Bruno Munari, Zavattini and many other important figures who have helped shape Italy in the last half of the twentieth century.

Alfonso Gatto

‘…We could call him the designer of Italy’s republic years…’

Working and living in Milano, ‘…he chose the best way to learn how to love our Milano…open to hope, to work…’ wrote Giorgio Nicodemi, in his book “Milano, vedute e panorami” (Gorlich publishing house).

Bruno Munari, again in the preface of ‘Bianconi’s glass’ writes:

‘…Bianconi is continuously drawing. I mean he draws while eating, while talking, while walking the streets, he draws in the vaporetto, in exhibitions, during conferences, everywhere and anytime…Fulvio Bianconi has observed that a drawing is a sign on paper, can be done even on a wall or on a cardboard, it often is a projection or desire. It precedes the painting. The drawing is nobler than the sketch. But sometimes the sketch moves more than the drawing…’

Reflecting on his unusual career, he wrote, with his particular blend of wistful humour:

‘Who knows what road might I have taken if I hadn’t met Dino first with panettone [a reference to his work for Motta sweets], then with countess Asura I ended up even making glass!’

( from “Homage to Dino Villani”, Botteggi Suzzera publishing house, 1991)

From him it has also been written:

‘…Eclectic and with a multi-faceted talent, Bianconi is one of the few graphic designers of his generation, all with an artist’s training, who have been able to make the transition from the collage book covers to the book series with no pictures, like Garzanti’s Blue collection…’

(from the preface of a book by  Scheiwiller publishing house, Milano, 1988)

Fulvio Bianconi  both as a person and artist, expressed a way of thought and action which belongs to a world now almost extinct, and that which would hardly be able to exist in an age when ethical, behavioural and existential guidelines have undergone a deep change in all levels of society.

Fulvio Bianconi by working relentlessly in more than 60 years of activity, has designed thousands of book covers, has illustrated books, created thousands of unique glass objects as well as many paintings; in which, according to the whim of the moment and his need to experiment with different materials and techniques, he used pencil, tempera, oil paint, xylograph, zinc etching, ink, paper, wood, markers, photographs and every other material he found suitable to express himself.

Fulvio Bianconi passed away on May 14th 1996 in Milano.