Alberto Burri (born 12 March 1915 in Città di Castello, Italy, died 13 February 1995 in Nice, France) was an Italian painter and sculptor.
Alberto Burri was born in Città di Castello, in Umbria in 1915 to a wine merchant and an elementary school teacher. He earned a medical degree from the University of Perugia specializing in tropical medicine.On 12 October 1940, two days after Italy entered World War II, Burri was called up as a medic and sent to Libya. On 8 May 1943 after the Axis forces were defeated at El Alamein, his unit was captured in Tunisia.He was interned in Camp Howze prisoner of warcamp in Gainesville, Texas, where he began to paint.
After his release in 1946, Burri moved to Rome to pursue a full-time career as painter, despite the disapproval of most his friends and family. He joined his cousin, a musician and sole supporter in his decision, who helped to connect him with the Roman art circles. Burri was influenced by his contemporary Enrico Prampolini, whose involvement in Dada and Surrealism shaped Burri's approach to art. Prampolini's use of color, abstraction in painting and techniques in stage-design can be seen markedly in the works that Burri created.
Burri started investigating the use of non-traditional materials such as burlap, wood, tar, plastic, zinc oxide, pumice, kaolin, PVC adhesives, cellotex and fabric in the late 1940s. In the mid-1950s, Burri introduced charred wood into his burlap works, followed by scrap iron sheets fixed onto the wood, as well as colored and transparent sheets of plastic. In the 1970s he began his "cracked" paintings, or cretti. He created a series of works in the industrial insulating material, Celotex, from 1979 through the 1990s.
In 1953–54, Burri garnered attention in the United States when his work was included in the group exhibition Younger European Painters: A Selection at the Guggenheim Museum. His first U.S. retrospective was presented by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1963. A traveling Burri retrospective made a stop at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1978. In the fall of 2015, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will present Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting, the first major retrospective of Burri's work in the United States in over thirty-five years.
In 1960, Burri was awarded Third Prize at the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh. In 1959 he won the Premio dell’Ariete in Milan and the UNESCO Prize at the São Paulo Biennial. There was a solo show of Burri’s art in 1960 at the Venice Biennale, where he was awarded the Critics’ Prize
In 1973, the Academia Nazionale dei Lincei awarded Burri the Premio Feltrinelli per la Grafica in recognition of the importance of his graphic work and of its complimentary nature to his painting
Burri was awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1994.