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 her 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.
Notes for a life-story
... So were the times
For Orazio, I made a considerable number of works, scenes, and costumes. We inaugurated the Overseas Theater in Naples, worked in Venice, at the Piccolo in Milan, in Caserta, in Belgium and, of course, in Rome ...
With Orazio, since we were children, we had played many times to imagine theatrical scenes for works interpreted or invented by us. Moving from game to reality after studying two years of architecture was a very simple thing.
At the beginning of her artistic career, between the 1930s and 1940s her technique was marked by a fascination for the new German objectivity and Italian magical realism. The influence of the Roman School is also evident, as the art historian Claudio Strinati pointed out.
Costa's earliest works are mostly family portraits, while in the 1950s, she was frequently inspired by the life of the Roman bourgeoisie. In works such as Strep-Tease, People dancing, Exit from the Theater we find all the charm of Rome in Fellini's movie la Dolce Vita.
In the 1950s, however, she also started to experiment with the abstraction that allowed her greater freedom of expression. Abstraction will remain a constant in her artistic production until the last years of her life.
"From a dream to a project and its realization, there is perhaps more than a sea..."
The numerous journeys that the artist made from the 60s, together with her husband, in America, Asia, and above all North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, changed her way of painting forever. Like Picasso fifty years earlier, Costa was passionate about African art for its vitality and mystical power.
Embracing post-modernist approaches, she retraced time backward-looking, but she also bounced forward to a hypothetical apocalyptic future.
In her works, she started to mix classic myths, biblical tales, and mythological characters, focusing on imaginative figures, passers-by, or political personalities with the same detached eyes.
An open window on freedom
She painted and sketched regularly every day of her life, although she started anew to show her works only in the second half of the 80s.
In 1992, finally, she had her first comprehensive solo exhibition, almost a retrospective, at the San Michele a Ripa monumental complex in Rome.
In 2002, a year before her death in 2003, she decided to leave a selection of around 1200 works to the Alberto Sordi Foundation. In the same year, she showcased many of the donated paintings in a large solo exhibition at the Central Museum of the Risorgimento in Rome.
Queste opere sono poi state riacquistate dalla figlia e dai nipoti della pittrice che hanno creato nel 2018 l'ente no-profit Valeria Costa Piccinini Heritage Fund con lo scopo di conservare e promuovere il lavoro dell'artista.