RAM fra Novecento e Metafisica. La Natura ricreata


(Ruggero Alfredo Michahelles Firenze 1898-1976)


September 19-December 07, 2019



RAM fra Novecento e Metafisica.

La Natura ricreata.

 Edited by Susanna Ragionieri

Translation by Riccardo Michahelles


Multifaceted figure of active artist as painter, sculptor, illustrator, graphic designer and engraver, with interests in the world of theatrical set design, fashion, architecture, RAM, acronym for Roger Alfred Michahelles (Florence, 1898 – 1976), it represents to the full the prototype of cosmopolitan intellectual, “to which Art – as Raphael Franchi wrote back in 1926 – succeeds positively and precise, while changing inspiration and form”. In the abstract, synthetic and consciously decorative tension of his works as in the adoption of different languages, always aimed at the search for a beauty capable of becoming an interpreter of his time, it is to be recognized a voice among the most significant and profound of that spirit of modernity that characterizes and crosses the entire first part of the Twentieth century, defining its complex and sometimes controversial atmosphere.

The exhibition examines for the first time the entire arc of the artist’s activity, with a selection of paintings, sculptures and advertising sketches ranging from the early 1920s to the second half of the 1960s.

Born into a wealthy Swiss-Anglo-American family that moved to Florence since the mid-Nineteenth century on the initiative of the famous neoclassical sculptor Hiram Powers, RAM grows up in an international environment and naturally open to art, practiced primarily by the brilliant older brother Ernesto, aka Thayaht. His beginnings saw him as a cartoonist and creator, in 1920, of the advertising campaign Tuttintuta for the launch of the revolutionary dress designed by his brother; then set designer, author, still at the side of his brother, of synthetic and monumental sketches at Gordon Craig for Aida, awarded in 1924; Finally, a billboard is a signwith in the refined language of déco, as it appears in the Marzocco of E.A.T. of 1925, commissioned as part of a campaign to enhance the image of Florence.

The long periods he lived in Paris attending the ateliers of Alexandre Jacovleff, Maurice Denis, Othon Friesz, in the meantime, become familiar with the results of a nonchalant international language; of that climate, RAM seems rather inclined to grasp, as already Picasso, the lesson of the stylishness of Ingres that, combined with the reflections “between Flemish and Caravaggesco” of The Italian works studied in museums, is the basis of intense paintings such as Yellow turban or Portrait of a model from the precious floral slate, presented in the first Florentine solo show in 1928.

In these years, however, there are two elements that play a decisive role in the construction of the mature language of the artist: on the one hand the intensification of graphic activity, with parallel collaborations to the two important monthly Milanese newspapers – “La Rivista illustrata del Popolo d’Italia” and “Natura” (for which he will design between 1927 and 1942 an average of three covers a year)-, on the other, a renewed commitment to sculpture, which leads him in short to the rough and compact forms of Primitive maiden, close to the plastic of Libero Andreotti, to the cosmic aspiration of Mother Nature and above all to the rhythmic energy of 4 H.P. X 1931 (Quadriga), praised by Marinetti and presented in the main exhibitions of Futurism.   These elements act as effective deterrents against the looming danger of the museum, opening the artist to new problems. These include the relationship with architecture, which, fed on rationalist ideas, as well as being part of a series of visionary projects such as the Monumento al Marinaio of Brindisi, the Nuovo fabbricato viaggiatori of the railway station of Florence (in collaboration with the architects Bianchini and Fagnoni), the Livorno Stadium, or in the Brevetto per “Casolaria” – Casa razionale estensibile (written together with Thayaht), will create a real turning point in his pictorial research, characterized throughout the 1930s, by a particular and personal “neo-metaphysical” experience, in which tangenzeties and develop kinship with the “Italiens de Paris” active in the  French capital: Magnelli, Tozzi, Paresce and especially De Chirico.

From the new decade, in the works of RAM, a particular process begins that, permanently stripping the image of any anecdotal residue, transforms its compositional and spatial structure making it allusive through the symbolic use of architecture , as is the case in Severini or Tozzi, elevating the figures, like Campigli, to the rank of unmoving terracotta statues, while the color lights up with an internal and clear light, as happens in the contemporary works of Magnelli, and a suspended echo of solitude and expectation remains to hover with a subtle reference to de Chirico.  L’Ile de Cythère, The newlyweds, Promenade en auto, Le retour, exhibited in Paris in the personal at the gallery “Le Niveau” in November 1936, or the glassed-in terracotta sculpture The builder, demonstrate the state of grace achieved in this new season. De Chirico himself, who will write a short presentation text for the catalogue, recognizes the artist’s ability to give poetic form to the unfathomable mystery of metaphysical reality.

The theme of “nature recreated” through the investigation of a pure and transcendent beauty, in search of that “living thrill” that for RAM ensures the irreplaceable legitimacy of painting even against then-rising means such as photography (which also he himself uses and manipulates in his updated photo-collages), remains the basis of a series of portraits that reach the forties and will be strengthened even in the following decade, when the chasms opened from the rubble of the Second World War will make this kind of research more difficult by condemning it to an event which often results in the most complete isolation.

Now, in the middle of the post-war period, the cycle of acrobats and jumpers is born that goes to dialogue with the distant roots of the Blue and Pink period by Picasso, in subtle controversy with the break-in on the Italian scene of the Picassian post-cubism of Guernica. Once again the artist starts from the reality and the now mythical memory of when boy, in Maremma, followed “families of jumpers with their furniture houses: tents, theaters, carriages, horses, shimmering and discolored costumes without era, caps and frills, but rich in life.” After all, it seems to suggest in the deep glances of the figures who call into question the viewer with a neo-realist film intensity, “we are all jumpers, we all have a double face, a mask that disguises or hides us from others”.

During the 1950s, if this dramatic atmosphere gradually subsides, the complex artistic parable of RAM nevertheless reserves an unexpected outcome: we could call it a further decisive turn-off -almost a take-off – towards the abstract world of forms, as had happened to old Matisse. This opens the last period of the naked fragment and illumination – real haiku paintings – that dot the Sixties: a pure and free play of rhythms color and light made on the edge of the absolute.