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"When I want to relax, I read on essay by Engels. When I want to read something hard, I read Corto Maltese" - Umberto Eco -

Hugo Pratt is considered one of the greatest graphic novelists in the world. His strips, graphic works, and watercolors, have been exhibited in major museums, such as the Gran Palais and Pinacotheque in Paris, the Vittoriano in Rome, Ca'Pesaro in Venice, Santa Maria della Scala in Siena.

At an early age, Hugo Pratt got to see a lot of the world as he moved with his parents, first to Venice, then to Ethiopia, then back to Italy. In 1945, he met Mario Faustinelli, with whom he created his first comic book, "Asso di Picche". He became part of what some call the Venice group, an association of writers and artists, such as Alberto Ongaro, Paolo Campani, Mario Faustinelli and DIno Battaglia. With them, he worked on several series for the comic "Asso di Picche", including the title comic "Ray e Roy", "Silver-Pan", "Indian RIver" and "April e il Fantasma". Finding new opportunities for comic artists in post-war Italy, Pratt, Ongaro and Mario Faustinelli moved to Argentina after an invitation by the publisher Cesar Civita of Editorial Abril.

During his stay in Argentina, he created some of his most important comics, such as "Sgt. Kirk", "Ernie Pike", "Anna della Jungla", and many others. His first Argentine work was "Ray Kitt", which appeared in the magazine Salgari in 1949. Two years later, he founded his own monthly Sgt. Kirk. For this, he wrote and drew "Luck Star O'Hara" and "Gli Scorpioni del Deserto", as well as "Una Ballata del Mare Salato", a brooding tale about the South Sears, in which a character was featured who would later become the famous Corto Maltese, Pratt's most popular creation, whose stories appeared in the French magazine "Pif Gadget" from 1970. The similarities between Pratt and his travelling protagonist are so striking. Pratt created a number of independent comic series during the last twenty years of his life, such as "Cato Zulu", "West of Eden", "Saint-Exupéry: the Last Flight" and "Jesuit Joe". In 1991, he wrote the script for "The Gaucho", which was illustrated by Milo Managara. In the summer of 1995, Hugo Pratt died of cancer at his home in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Hugo Pratt is considered to be one of the greatest among comic artists for his versatile fantasy and use of graphic freedom, and the combination of these factors resulted in very strange stories. In his tales, reality can change into dream and vice-versa, and in this way he took his readers into the strangest lands and even through time. He is thought to be one of the first comic artists to mix literature with adventure. Hugo Pratt has been a great inspiration to comic artists all over the world. in 2002 a full animated feature film was made called "Corto Maltese: La cour secrete des Arcanes".

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Corto Maltese is a laconic sea captain adventuring during the early 20th century (1900-1920s). A "rogue with a heart of gold", he is tolerant and sympathetic to the underdog. Born in Valletta on July 10, 1887, he is the son of a British sailor from Cornwall and an Andalusian-Romani witch and prostitute known as "La Niña de Gibraltar". As a boy growing up in the Jewish quarter of Córdoba, Maltese discovered that he had no fate line on his palm and therefore carved his own with his father's razor, determining that his fate was his to choose. Although maintaining a neutral position, Corto instinctively supports the disadvanted and oppressed.

The character embodies the author's skepticism of national, ideological and religious assertions. Corto befriends people from all walks of life, including the murderous Russian Rasputin. British heir Tristan Bantam, voodoo priestess Gold Mouth and Cezech academic Jeremiah Steiner. He also knows and meets various real-life historical figures, including Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse, Butch Cassidy, James Joyce, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Frederick Rolfe, Joseph Conrad, Sukhbaatar, John Reed, White Russian general Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, Enver Pasha of Turkey and Sergei Semenov, modelled after Grigory Semyonov.

Corto Maltese stories range from straight historical adventure to occult dream squences. He is presente when the Red Baron is shot down, helps the Jivaros in South America, and flees Fascists in Venice, but also unwittingly helps Merlin and Oberon to defend Britain and helps Tristan Bantam to visit the lost continent of Mu.

Chronologically, the first Corto Maltese adventure, "La Giovinezza", happens during the Russo-Japanese War. In other albums, he experiences the Great War in several locations, participates in the Russian Civil War after the October Revolution, and appears during the early stages of Fascists Italy. In a separate series by Pratt, "Gli Scorpioni del Deserto", he is described as disappearing in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

The exhibition presents over 400 works by Hugo Pratt, including drawings, water colours, Indian ink drawings, magazines and rarities and a sort of exhibition within the exhibition displaying, on the 50th anniversary of their pubblication, all the 164 original plates for "A Ballad of the Salt Sea", a classic of comic strip literature in which Corto Maltese made his debut.

The exhibition displays not only Corto Maltese but also Anne of The Jungle (1959), Ernie Pieke (1961), Sergeant Kirk (1955), and the incredible plates and water colours of the Desert Scorpions that take us to the Ethiopia of 1941-1942, superimposing imaginary characters on historic figures. The exhibition guides the visitor through the numerous literary references that feature in Pratt's stories: Jack London and American adventure novels, Joseph Conrad, and the poetry of W. Yeats, A. Rimbaud and J.I. Borges, in an intese confrontation with the mark left by masters of American comics such as Milton Caniff and Héctor Oesterheld.

The idea of exhibition, organised by CMS.Cultura and Genus Bononiae, supported by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna and curated by Patrizia Zanotti with the cooperation of Cong - Hugo Pratt Art Properties, is to celebrate Hugo Pratt and the 50 years of his alter ego Corto Maltese.

When: from the 4th of November 2016 to the 19th March of 2017
Where: Palazzo Pepoli, Museo della Storia di Bologna - Via Castiglione 8, Bologna
Information: +39 051 19936343 | info@mostrapratt.it
Website: www.mostrapratt.it


Texts by: CMS Cultura

Press Office Genus Bononiae,

Lambek-ComicLopedia, Wikipedia


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