Alfredo Bortoluzzi was an enthusiastic member of the Bauhaus stage. Under the direction of the charismatic Oskar Schlemmer, Bortoluzzi expanded his skills. With success: Bortoluzzi was one of the few students to become a professional dancer, choreographer and stage designer after completing his studies at the Bauhaus.
Alfredo Bortoluzzi was born on 21st December 1905 to Italian parents in Karlsruhe and grew up there, making regular visits to his relatives in Venice. After completing his secondary school leaving examination, he was accepted to study at the art academy in Venice, but turned this down in favour of a place at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Karlsruhe – a choice motivated by the more modern teaching methods in Karlsruhe, which made the curriculum in Venice seem antiquated and outdated by comparison. Bortoluzzi states that his tutors during his student days from 1924 to 1927 included Hermann Gehri, who taught figurative drawing, and most notably Walter Conz, in whose etching class he gained his diploma as a masters student. Offered a position as an assistant to Conz, he chose instead to continue his studies at the Bauhaus Dessau. He enrolled there for one term in 1927 and 1928 respectively and returned again in 1930 as a guest student. After taking Josef Albers’s preliminary course, he attended the drawing and painting classes of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee and Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus stage. In 1930 his work was shown in Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin, in a joint exhibition with other Bauhauslers sponsored by Paul Klee and organised by Ernst Kállai. In 1931 Galerie Flechtheim, Berlin, showed an exhibition of works by Paul Klee and Alfredo Bortoluzzi. In 1933, he participated alongside other Bauhaus artists in an exhibition in Düsseldorf; the exhibition was closed and the works condemned by the National Socialists as 'degenerate' art.
Prevented from painting, Bortoluzzi devoted himself to his further passion, dance. He built on the principles that he had learned under Oskar Schlemmer and took ballet lessons in Karlsruhe. In 1936 he moved to Paris and studied classical ballet at Lubov Egorova’s École de Danse. He won prizes, became principal dancer at the Paris Opera, worked as a choreographer and designed stage sets. In autumn 1936 he returned to Germany, initially taking a position as ballet master at Stadttheater Aachen; engagements as a dancer, choreographer and stage designer in various cities in Germany followed up to 1944. After WWII, he first worked as a choreographer and set designer at Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe before taking up other positions in Dresden, Bielefeld und Essen. In 1958, a serious knee injury ended his career as a dancer. However, Bortoluzzi had never given up painting; he now devoted himself entirely to it and moved to Italy, to Peschici in the province of Foggia in the Appulia region. Alfredo Bortoluzzi died on 21st December 1995 in Peschici.
In 1946 Bortoluzzi’s work was shown in Heidelberg in a joint exhibition with Kandinsky, Klee and other former Bauhauslers. In 1947 his work was shown in Kunstverein Karlsruhe and a number of other exhibitions followed: in 1948 in Baden-Baden, 1950 in Cologne and 1954 in Essen. His work was shown in joint and solo exhibitions throughout Italy. In 1968 he took part in the exhibition '50 Jahre Bauhaus' in Stuttgart. His native Foggia paid tribute to Bortoluzzi with a solo exhibition in 1975 and a large retrospective in 1983. After his death, Bortoluzzi’s work was shown in numerous international exhibitions and retrospectives, including 'Bauhaus 1919–1933: da Klee a Kandinsky, da Gropius a Mies van der Rohe' (Milan, 1996), 'ABSTRACTA. Austria-Germania-Italia 1919–1939: Die andere entartete Kunst' (Museion museum for modern and contemporary art, Bolzano, 1997) and the retrospective 'Alfredo Bortoluzzi – die Lehre des Bauhauses' of Mario Botta (Kunstmuseum Mendrisio, Tessin, 2001). In 2009 the foundation Fondazione Banca del Monte in Foggia acquired the assets of Bortoluzzi’s creative estate, which it has been researching and presenting to the public in a series of solo exhibitions since 2010.
Text: Stefan Nienhaus / Burckhard Kieselbach
Cristino, Gaetano & Guido Pensato (2001): Alfredo Bortoluzzi - Die Lektion des Bauhauses, Mendrisio.
Cristino, Gaetano & Guido Pensato: Fondo Alfredo Bortoluzzi. Quaderni 1–4, Foggia 2010–2013.