Presenting 500 exhibits revealing how the legendary Italian film-maker Federico Fellini used drawings to develop the scenes and characters for his films.

From drawings to charachters in a film

Federico Fellini (1920–1993) is one of the most important directors in cinema history. Films such as ‘La strada’ (1954), ‘La dolce vita’ (1960), ‘Amarcord’ (1973) and ‘Città delle donne’ (1980) are classics that are discussed by culture practitioners internationally and loved by the public at large. They are incisive commentaries on Italian society but also on Western values in the 20th century. Less known is the fact that Fellini had been a tireless draughtsman since his youth, initially sketching out his dreams and ideas using a felt or ball-point pen or a fineliner on paper before arranging them on the set and letting the cameras roll.

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German film poster for ‘Il bidone’, 1955, Collection of the German Poster Museum in the Museum Folkwang, Essen © 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich
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Federico Fellini Signora del treno, 1979–1980 (La città delle donne), Jakob and Philipp Keel Collection, © 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich
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Federico Fellini Casanova (Donald Sutherland), 1976 (Il casanova), Graziano Mandozzi, © 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich
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Pierluigi Praturlon Still taken on the set of ‘Il Casanova’, 1976, Graziano Mandozzi © Estate Pierluigi Praturlon
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Federico Fellini Untitled (departure of the market women), 1972–1973 (Amarcord), Jakob and Philipp Keel Collection, © 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich
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Federico Fellini Untitled (study of a female boxer), 1979–1980 (La città delle donne), Jakob and Philipp Keel Collection, © 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich
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Federico Fellini Anita vestita da prete, 1959–1960 (La dolce vita), Jakob and Philipp Keel Collection, © 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich

In addition to individual scenes and details of sets, he was chiefly interested in the characters that populate his films. Drawing was one way in which he developed his thoughts about them. These rapid sketches helped to guide him, but he also used them to explain his ideas visually to the film crew. As a consequence of his artistic leanings – he first worked as a caricaturist and creator of humorous drawings for newspapers – Fellini’s film drawings show a marked tendency towards caricature, and even the grotesque. It is that specific style that makes the drawings remarkable artistic creations in their own right, independently of the films for which they were made.

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Danilo Donati Costume for the Dresden Opera scene, 1976 (Il casanova) Graziano Mandozzi

Important private collections, film clips and props

The presentation includes some 500 exhibits: drawings, on-set photographs and props actually used in the films. It has been conceived by Cathérine Hug, who is curating the presentation at the Kunsthaus Zürich, in collaboration with Tobias Burg, who was responsible for its earlier showing at the Museum Folkwang in Essen. The last exhibition of this kind at the Kunsthaus was staged in 1984 while the director was still alive, and with his personal involvement. A large proportion of the exhibits consist of drawings from the Zurich collection of Jakob and Philipp Keel. They are complemented by a similar number of mostly black-and-white set photographs, costumes and props as well as expansive film clips and trailers which, through their interplay with the drawings, shed light on Fellini’s working method. The drawings and photographs attest to the close ties between Federico Fellini and the Keels. Many have not previously been published. The selection on display at the Kunsthaus Zürich includes 40 additional loans that were not on show at its cooperation partner, the Museum Folkwang in Essen, where the exhibition ran until 20 February 2022. These costumes, props, casting letters and personal effects come from the Fondation Fellini pour le cinéma in Sion, the Fellini Museum in Rimini, which opened in 2021, and the private holdings of the conductor Graziano Mandozzi.

The exhibition is supported by the Truus and Gerrit van Riemsdijk Foundation and the Dr. Georg and Josi Guggenheim Foundation.

Ill:

Federico Fellini, Maria de Sisti as the inn owner, 1972 (Roma), Fondation Fellini pour le cinéma, Sion © 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich

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