Adriana Bisi Fabbri, one of the earlies feminists of the modern era, who loved wearing men’s clothes and behave unconventionally, became famous as a cartoonist under the pseudonym of Adrì, reaching the apex of her success with a number of war cartoons published on the newspaper Popolo d’Italia in 1915. Her soul, however, was agitated by other passions.
First of all a great passion for painting, which led her to develop a sensibility influenced by Symbolism, Dada and Futurism, movements represented in Milan by artists such as Gaetano Previati, Leonardo Dudreville and Umberto Boccioni (who was also her cousin).
In a 1911 interview she said that she was, or rather wanted to be, first an artist and then a woman. Curious and indefatigable by nature, she established an impressive network of relations with the leading figures of two decades of Italian art and managed to build a career that at the time was precluded to women.
Born in Ferrara, Bisi Fabbri lived in Bergamo and Mantova with husband Giannetto Bisi and their two children before moving to Milan, the city of avant-gardes, in 1914. Her participation in the collective exhibition “Nuove Tendenze”, organized by the group Famiglia Artistica in 1914, was an acknowledgment of her importance as an accomplished artist in tune with her time.
While her early self-portraits and female figures are clearly influenced by 19th-century painting, she gradually found her own creative voice, one characterized by freedom and humour, and which combined elements of Expressionism, Symbolism and Futurism. Her remarkable career was interrupted by her death by Spanish flu in 1918.
Featuring documentary material and over 200 works from the Bisi Crotti Fund, some of which on display for the first time, the exhibition “Intelligence has no gender. Adriana Bisi Fabbri and the arts network (1900-1918)”, curated by Giovanna Ginex and Danka Giacon (Museo del Novecento, Milan, until 8 March) traces the story of the artist and the woman, while also shedding new light on the artistic life of Milan at the beginning of the modern era.