Archivio Luigi Pericle
The Royal Drawing School and the Archivio Luigi Pericle (Switzerland), offer for the first time an Artistic Residency in Ascona, on the hill of the mythical Monte Verità (Mount of Truth). The residency offers one Royal Drawing School Drawing Year Alumni or one Royal Drawing School faculty member a 2-month residency at the Hotel Ascona, home of the Archivio Luigi Pericle.
As part of the residency the artists will have access to the work, studies and thought of Luigi Pericle and the artistic-intellectual movements linked to Theosophy, Monte Verità and Eranos as decisive places and movements for the development of modern arts. The artists will also have access to Luigi Pericle's paintings and graphics, the esoteric library and the archives of the Archivio Luigi Pericle. The artists in residence will visit the Monte Verità Foundation, the Municipal Museum of Modern Art, the San Materno Theatre, the Eranos Foundation, the Marguerite Arp Foundation, the Remo Rossi Foundation and much more. The stay will be enriched by the collaboration with the Research Centre of the Swiss Theosophical Society.
The Monte Verità is a place of extraordinary cultural value. Built on the remains of the project of the lay theosophical convent Fraternitas (1889) conceived by Alfredo Pioda (1848-1909), Franz Hartmann (1838-1912) and Constance Wachtmeister (1838-1910) - Hartmann and Wachtmeister were close collaborators of H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) - from 1900 onwards it welcomed a utopian community. During the 20th century, few other venues hosted as many innovative personalities as, for example, Rudolf von Laban, a leading figure in modern dance and one of the main exponents of 'free dance'. Artists, writers, philosophers, dancers, all attracted by the desire to find like-minded individuals with whom to share a path of artistic and spiritual research.
This is a unique opportunity for an artist to be immersed in the works of Luigi Pericle. It is required that the artist in residence is interested in the work of Luigi Pericle and to create work in response to the archive. To conclude the residency the artist will create an artwork in dialogue with the oeuvre of Luigi Pericle; the artwork will be gifted to the permanent collection of the Archivio Luigi Pericle.
Find out more by watching our Creative Conversation -
Luigi Pericle: A Rediscovery – Andrea Biasca-Caroni and Thomas Marks in conversation
The artists in residence will be provided with accommodation at the Hotel Ascona, full board (all meals), a studio space (as the studio is based in a hotel, dry materials can only be used inside). Artists will be required to pay for their own travel and any additional costs.
Applications are now closed for the Archivio Luigi Pericle residency. If you have any questions regarding the residency, please contact email@example.com
This residency is generously supported by The Archivio Luigi Percile.
A Swiss painter of Italian origin, Luigi Pericle (1916-2001) was also an illustrator, writer and a scholar of esoteric doctrines such as astrology and theosophy. During the early 1960s his intense, enigmatic and multilayered imagery was the subject of several high-profile exhibitions in Britain also alongside the great artists of his time such as Karel Appel, Sam Francis, Asger Jorn, Antoni Tàpies, Jean Dubuffet, Jean-Paul Riopelle and Pablo Picasso. It was greatly admired by important figures such as Herbert Read.
Born Pericle Luigi Giovannetti in Basel, his father was Italian and his mother had French roots. He was drawn to both philosophy and the arts at an early age, when he began signing his works with the name by which he is best known today. However, he found the creative restrictions of art school intolerable and soon abandoned his formal studies. In1947 he married the painter Orsolina Klainguti, who would be his lifelong companion, and shortly thereafter the couple moved to Ascona, attracted by its vibrant artistic and intellectual community. Working under the pseudonym ‘Giovannetti’, his first major success was as an illustrator: in 1952 he created the comic strip Max the Marmot, which became hugely popular in the United States and Japan, and was serialised in the British satirical magazine Punch.
At the end of the 1950s, Pericle suddenly destroyed all but one of his figurative paintings. His subsequent works, characterised by sweeping, calligraphic brushstrokes and robust forms, would establish him as a key protagonist of post-war abstraction; yet in late 1965, at the peak of his success, he abruptly withdrew from the art world. “Ambition, pride and vanity must be set aside”, he wrote. “One should not seek personal advancement, fame or prestige. The love of acclaim, the desire for glory and the impulses of the ego should be rejected.” The remainder of Pericle’s career constituted something of an extended spiritual odyssey, during which he dedicated himself to his philosophical studies and to the creation of luminous, complex artworks in which cosmic forces and transcendental psychic states were explored through a vocabulary of geometric forms and mystical, totemic symbols.
Having fallen into oblivion for several decades, his work was dramatically rediscovered in 2016 with the purchase of the artist’s former residence, which proved to be an immense treasure trove of paintings and graphic works. The process of restoring, cataloguing and researching this vast oeuvre is ongoing, and is overseen by Ascona’s Archivio Luigi Pericle, with which this career-spanning retrospective has been organised starting with the Fondazione Querini Stampalia for the Venice Biennale (2019), followed by the MASI Museum in Lugano (2021) and the Estorick Collection in London (2022), as well as collaborations with thematic group exhibitions such as Scribbling and Doodling. From Leonardo da Vinci to Cy Twombly at the Academy of France Villa Medici Rome (2022) and the Beaux-Arts in Paris (2023). In March 2024, the monographic exhibition Luigi Pericle. D'un monde à l'autre (15.03-18.08.'24) at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in collaboration with the Musée National de l'Automobile in Mulhouse, France.
The interaction between saturated and diluted colour is an important aspect of Pericle’s works on paper; these occupied him intensively throughout the 1960s, although he continued to use Indian ink during the course of the following decade. The relationship between positive and negative space, the study of light, the juxtaposition of precise, almost technical lines with broader brushstrokes, and investigations into the density of matter and its dissolution would all be explored further in the artist’s works on Masonite created during the 1970s.
Pericle’s soft and sinuous lines relate directly to his study of Eastern calligraphy, which he practiced assiduously, as is evident from the notebooks he kept in his archive. The artist carefully organised his documents and works on paper, conserving them in dozens of wooden boxes to prevent them from being damaged. Calligraphy would be a source of inspiration to Pericle throughout his career. However, it appears to have been fundamental not only to his development of a flowing approach to mark making but also to his perception of painting as something of a meditative exercise, enabling him to transcend reason.
The same calm and patient rigour distinguished the rhythms of Pericle’s artistic practice and the genesis of all his works, which were preceded by exhaustive studies of modern imagery or classical motifs from ancient Greece. Pericle’s iconography stands at the intersection of several different cultures, and it is not surprising that his graphic works often depict figures with both human and animal qualities such as bird-men, perhaps inspired by Egyptian imagery. His work is populated with esoteric symbols from antiquity – symbols that also incorporate influences from Japanese ideograms and Zen philosophy. In an article that appeared in 1962 in The Burlington Magazine, Anita Brookner wrote: “Pericle’s drawings achieve a high degree of beauty and the kind of elliptical pointedness that we associate with the aphorism of Zen teaching … supremely decorative, most economically ordained, but with a very strong feeling for structure and linear autonomy.
"Spirituality in art is timeless. It escapes human transience, it is never old and it is never new: It is, because it is essential; or rather, it is the essential way to express Truth. The essential is that which does not come from the artist, but through the artist".