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Copyright © 2018  

Valeria Costa Piccinini Heritage Fund all rights reserved 

Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by Valeria Costa Piccinini Heritage Fund


Valeria Costa was born in Rome in 1912. She started her artistic career in the second half of the ‘30s, after studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Nude School in Rome.​

In the first part of her life, she worked alongside his brother Orazio Costa as costume and theatrical set designer, collaborating with the Compagnia dell'Accademia, created by the critic and theatrical theorist Silvio d'Amico.

Her theatrical debut was with "Il dramma di Margherita" from Goethe's Faust directed by Wanda Fabro. After that, she started to collaborate with her brother Orazio and she realized costumes and scenography's for several of his shows among which: "Hippolytus" by Euripides at the Greek Theater of Syracuse (1954); "The Carmelite dialogues" by Bernanos, at the Teatro delle Arti in Rome (1955); "Giants of the mountain" by Pirandello at the National Theater of Brussels (1963). For the Piccolo Teatro di Roma, again under the direction of Orazio,  she has signed scenes and costumes of: "The family of antiquarians" by Goldoni (1955-1956); the "Fable of the changed son" by Pirandello (1957); "The wild duck" by Ibsen (1962) among others. ​

During the years of Italian economic boom, between the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s, she started to experiment with abstractionism which allowed her greater freedom of expression. Abstraction remains a constant in her artistic production, but there was no transition between the figurative and the abstract style and she continued to practice both during her whole life.​

In the same period, her figurative painting becomes gradually schematized and distilled and charged with an unusual aggressiveness of the strokes. This gestural violence suited better the themes that the artist began to face through her works in those years. Human suffering is at the center of a corpus of more almost eighty paintings that Costa started to realize in the mid-60s. This series of works seem to represent a sort of bridge between the experiences of the Roman School and those of the Trans-Avanguardia. Part of these works, which we could define as Neo-expressionist, are vividly colored by mixing warm shades of red, carmine, ocher and sand and  seem to refer to the chromatic researches of the Roman School of painting that had influenced Costa’s work over the juveniles years. Nevertheless, inspired by Picasso’s Guernica, Costa realized also several paintings of these same series in black and white. In this series of works, the artist depicted a sort of tormented proto-humanity. She distorted the proportions and anatomy of the characters' bodies, she stretched their limbs like tentacles, enlarged their hands and eyes to highlight better the feelings of suffering or fear that torment them. She focused on pain and agony, fears and nightmares and any unconscious projections which can hunt human beings.​

In fact, in the afterwar period, Costa spontaneously embraced the post-modern dictates and Jacques Lacan’s post-structuralist ideas that questioned the conventional boundaries between the rational and irrational by suggesting that the unconscious rather than being primitive, is just as complicated and sophisticated in its structure as the conscious. Subconscient and classic mythology were a continuous source of references to her but the numerous journeys around the world, which she made together with her husband from the 60s onwards, had probably the most significant impact on her painting’s style. During her travels through the African continent, like Picasso fifty years earlier, Costa became passionate about the vitality and the mystical power of the “art negre”. She realized a considerable number of abstract paintings and artworks on paper which was inspired by tribal motif and totemic art. 

She painted and continuously drew every day of her life, but her works were rarely exhibited before the second half of the 80s. In 2002, a year before her death in 2003, she left a corpus of about 1400 works at the Fondazione Alberto Sordi. These works are now part of the Valeria Costa Piccinini Heritage Fund, a non-profit organization created in 2018 by her daughter and grandchildren to preserve and promote the artist’s legacy.