Giuseppe Angeli, known in art as Franco Angeli, was born in Rome, in the San Lorenzo district, on May 14, 1935, from a family of the people with a solid anti-fascist and socialist tradition.
Angeli lives his childhood and adolescence, after San Lorenzo (where he witnesses the terrible bombing of 19 July 1943), in Borgo Pio, then in Via Angelo Brunetti.
In the chaos of the war he interrupts elementary school, and due to the death of his father and the precarious health conditions of his mother he instead begins to work, as a porter at the markets, as a barber’s boy and then as a laundry boy, and later as an upholsterer for cars. and by a coachbuilder.
In 1949 the death of his mother marked him deeply. From this moment on, his elder brother Otello, trade unionist and then secretary of the Cinecittà section of the Communist Party, takes care of him.
He begins to devote himself to the first artistic experiments as a self-taught, between ’55 and ’57.
He attends the studio of the sculptor Edgardo Mannucci, where he sees works by Burri that strongly influence the first phase of his poetics, of an abstract-informal and material nature.
Angeli joined the Communist Party in the section of Campo Marzio, and in 1955 he met first Tano Festa and then Mario Schifano, with whom he formed a relationship of deep and solid friendship. They share popular extraction and therefore a very strong sense of reality, the frequentation of the same places, and the need to go beyond informal experiences. They are fully part of what will be called the “School of Piazza del Popolo”. But Angeli is also fascinated by writing and the poetic word, and among his friends he counts poets of great value, such as Nanni Balestrini, Sandro Penna, Cesare Vivaldi.
In 1959 he took part in his first collective exhibition, at the La Salita Gallery in Rome, with Festa and Uncini. In 1960, again at the Salita, he held his first solo show, presented by Cesare Vivaldi.
At the beginning of the 1960s, his poetics moved towards figuration: icons and fragments of historical and collective symbolism, cultural and ideological symbols such as crosses, hammer and sickle or swastikas, which, decontextualized, acquire a very strong critical potential.
Capitoline wolves, American and Roman eagles are born, emblems of power whose impact violence is filtered by a sort of veil that immerses the images in a dimension of mysterious darkness.
These images, in apparent consonance with the triumphant pop trends, consecrate Angels on the international art scene, dominated by the iconography of American pop, which in the meantime exploded at the Venice Biennale in 1964, but in reality they distance themselves deeply from it.
Angeli himself participates in the Biennial of Pop Triumph, presented by Maurizio Calvesi, but in an autographed letter he writes: “I am able to affirm that I have never painted a picture in the spirit of Pop Art”.
The 1968/70 years were years of great political and ideological commitment for Angeli, which continued throughout the 1970s, during which the artist also fought against the Vietnam War, representing its horrors.
In the early 1970s he also worked directly with photography, seeking an objective rendering of reality based on narrative immediacy, a research also documented by the series of enlarged photograms exhibited in 1972 at the Sirio Gallery in Rome, as part of the exhibition. Film . Also in ’72, images of airplanes, obelisks, pyramids, small landscapes appeared in the figural universe of Angels, which became the dominant motifs of these years.
Starting from 1973 a new, more analytical vision emerged, and the painter turned to more geometric forms, more and more marked by regular backgrounds and clear outlines.
Since 1975 the choice of a figuration has been strengthened which seems to immerse the objects in a metaphysical space, evident in the works exhibited at the X Quadriennale in Rome.
In 1975 he also met the young Roman noblewoman Livia Massimo Lancellotti, who became his life partner and in ’76 gave him his only daughter, Maria.
In 1978 he took part in the Venice Biennale curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, in the section The urban iconosphere, where he also presented a short film.
In the 1980s the neo-metaphysical nature of Angeli’s visual research was deepened, while his works also reveal the study and influence of Sironi, Scipione, Mafai.
In 1984 the figure of a disjointed puppet appears in his works, perhaps an emblem of the artist himself, who, like a puppet, is at the mercy of the inscrutable threads of fate.
Franco Angeli died in Rome on November 12, 1988, at the age of 53, following complications due to HIV.
His funeral is held at the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, which houses the work of Caravaggio The Conversion of St. Paul, much admired and loved by Angeli.