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The Marthyrs of
Piazzale Loreto

Answering a survey by the magazine Domus in 1936, Sassu called himself a realist. "As for me, I aspire to being called a realist, because every work consists in translating some ‘ideal’ or ‘formal’ reality to reach that appearance which is the synthesis of the objective facts and living reality of the human spirit.

The function of artists in our time is to give men an awareness of their greatness and dignity. The process of transformation of bourgeois society will create the conditions for a new art different from that of our predecessors and the current art, born under the sign of the bourgeoisie."


The Miners

Sassu thus entered the European debate open at that time between realists and formalists. In Paris the querelle du réalisme was going on, with contributions by artists and men of letters on the theme of an art which returns to the subject and rediscovers man, while in London Antony Blunt took a similar position, in opposition to Cubists, abstract artists, Surrealists, and in generalto the developments of the historical avant-gardes.

The Strike

This choice on Sassu’s part was reflected in the works dealing with contemporary society, starting with The Big Café and later The Marthyrs of Piazzale Loreto, and continued with particular intensity in the years after World War II, when the confrontation between realism and formalism emerged also in Italy.

Works belonging to this phase of Sassu’s painting are in particular those on the theme of work (Miners, 1951; the series of The Tuna Kill and the port of Savona, of the early 1950s: The Hong Kong Coolie, 1956); those on a political theme (The Strike, 1956: Il comizio, 1957; The Battle of Dien Bien Phu, 1957) and the series of paintings inspired by African American spirituals (Little David, 1961).