Antonio Ligabue: Biography

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December 18, 1899 - Antonio Ligabue is born in Zurich; his mother is Elisabetta Costa, originally from Cencenighe Agordino, a town in the province of Belluno. The child is registered under the name of Antonio Costa.

September 1900 - Antonio is entrusted to the care of a Swiss-German couple, Elise Hanselmann and J. V. Göbel. German becomes his mother tongue. His adoption is never made officia. The child becames very close to his stepmother, although they have a love-hate relationship.

January 18, 1901 - Bonfiglio Laccabue, an emigrant to Switzerland from the Italian township of Gualtieri, is married, in Amrisweil, to Elisabetta Costa. On March10  of the same year, he takes little Antonio as his legitimate offspring, giving him his own surname. The painter, as an adult, will change that surname to Ligabue. 

1910/1912 - The Göbel family is in Tablat, near St. Gallen. Ligabue attends  school, progressing  no further than third grade.

May 17, 1913 - He is admitted to the Marbach Institute, a boarding school for handicapped boys. He immediately distinguishes himself for his skill at drawing and his poor behaviour.

January 18 - April 4, 1917 – After a violent outburst towards his adoptive mother, he is admitted to the psychiatric clinic in Pfäfers. 

May 15, 1919 - Ligabue is expelled from Switzerland in response to a complaint by his adoptive mother.

August 9, 1919 – He is escorted to Reggio Emilia, Italy, by the Carabinieri. In an attempt to leave Italy he flees the town of  Gualtieri where he has been taken to live but he is caught and taken back to Gualtieri. He lives on the charity of the town, the money that his stepmother sends him from Switzerland, and the kindness of the townfolk. He begins working as a day labourer. Since he speaks and understands only German, he spends time with the former emigrants to German-speaking countries. He spends time drawing. Until 1929 he works as a labourer on the embankments of the River Po.

1927/1928 - He spends more and more time painting and sculpting with clay. He is approached by the sculptor Marino Mazzacurati.

1932 - Ligabue is given a place to live by the flautist Licinio Ferretti. He is mainly interested in painting. He lives the life of a nomad alternating stays in the homes of friends with life in the open air in the countryside along the banks of the Po.

July 14, 1937 - He is committed to the insane asylum of San Lazzaro in Reggio Emilia. The physician in Gualtieri explains that he is hospitalized owing to his  irascible and violent personality and his self-destructive behaviour. Heis  diagnosed as suffering from a  is “state of depression”.

 March 23, 1940 – He is hospitalized a second in Reggio Emilia for “manic-depressive psychosis”.

May 16, 1941 - The sculptor Andrea Mozzali takes personal responsibility for Ligabue’s release from the psychiatric hospital, and lets him live in his own home in Guastalla. That same year, Luigi Bartolini takes an interest in Ligabue’s paintings. During the war, the painter  works as an interpreter for the German army.

February 13, 1945 - Third admittance to the psychiatric hospital in Reggio Emilia, this time for breaking a bottle over a German soldier’s head. Confinement in a medical facility saves him from punishment.

December 6, 1948 - He is released from the hospital. He finds shelter in the poor people’s home in Gualtieri. He continues to paint and his reputation slowly spreads. He frequently leaves the poor people’s home; he is a guest at friends’ homes. Art critics, dealers, and galleries begin to show great interest in his artwork.

February 1961 - Exhibition of Ligabue’s work in Rome.

November 1962 –A major show of his work is held in Guastalla (near Reggio Emilia).

November 18, 1962 - He is stricken with paralysis. After being admitted to several hospitals, he is declared an invalid and sent to the Carri rest home in Gualtieri.

May 27, 1965 - He dies at the Carri rest home in Gualtieri.