Today we offer to our readers a stunning mezzotint, entitled Reverie. This print is by artist Alessandro Mastro-Valerio, an accomplished Italian printmaker of the early 20th century. This nude print, created in 1942, is at the same time demure and compelling.
Mastro-Valerio’s primary source for inspiration was the female form. With a talent for illustrating human anatomy coupled with such artistic prowess, his art—drypoints, etchings, paintings, and sketches—explored the beauty and irregularity of the human body. Stumbling upon a display of mezzotint engravings at the Century of Progress exposition during a trip to Chicago in 1933, the artist discovered the medium that would ultimately yield the images he wanted to create. Perfecting the medium quickly, he published his first mezzotint in 1934, and one of his earliest mezzotints, Morning was chosen for Fine Prints of the Year in 1935.
Reverie is captivating, enticing, and beautiful. The mezzotint offers a rich tonality—resulting in a flesh that both glows and breathes. The soft face of the nude is filled with quiet emotion—one that resonates deeply with the viewers. Even the composition is spot on; Maestro-Valerio’s dark mountainous landscape and cloud-filled sky frame the woman perfectly and offer a gorgeous contrast to her creamy white skin. The result is a velvety rich print, with all the dreamy contemplation the title Reverie implies.
Mastro-Valerio was a highly regarded painter and watercolorist before he began his printmaking career. He worked in Naples, Italy while attending the Salvator Rosa Art Institute, and then moved to Chicago in 1913, where he opened a portrait studio. He established himself as a commercial artist, painting the Chicago elite until he moved to Michigan in search of a quieter atmosphere. He taught summer classes at Michigan State Normal College, now Eastern Michigan University, and then gained full residency at University of Michigan. Mastro-Valerio’s first prints were drypoints, but he also experimented with etchings and soft ground prints in a series of views of Italy. For a period of time, he sampled aquatints, creating energetic, frantic, and dark abstract images. But he is best known for his female nudes and the medium he found late in his artistic career—mezzotints.
Reverie hangs on our gallery walls and is visibly magnetic, mesmerizing almost all who walk by it. It is not an image that the mind quickly forgets; rather it haunts you with its beauty, simplicity, and truth.