When Hitler launched his invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, he prevailed on his ally Benito Mussolini to contribute soldiers to sustain his war effort. Three Italian divisions were sent initially and two more in 1942, integrated into the German army fighting in Ukraine and at one stage besieging Odessa. During the entire war—the initial offensive and the Soviet counteroffensive—Italy sent a total 295,000 men, of whom eventually 77,000 men were killed (at least 54,000 in captivity) and some nearly 40,000 wounded and frostbitten. When Mussolini withdrew what remained of his army from Russian soil in February 1943, it had been reduced to fewer than 150,000 men.
Sometime in 1942, my father Salvatore Fiume, while stationed in Piemonte waiting for his battalion to be sent to Russia, was summoned by the colonel in charge who had read in his curriculum “Profession: Painter.” Being an amateur draftsman, the colonel asked him to draw his portrait, which my father did right away. He then made the decision to preserve a great talent from the high risk of being lost in battle. My father remained in the hospital and was asked to create a work paying tribute to the historical doctors and personnel who dedicated their lives to war victims throughout time. The building later became the headquarters of the Carabinieri of Novara, where the painting can be seen on request.
After the war, during my father’s first official exhibition in Milan in 1949, Mr. Alfred Barr, then Director of Collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA), purchased one of his first Islands of Statues for the museum. In 1952, my father was chosen by the distinguished architect Gio Ponti to carry out a huge painting (48 m x 3 m) for the Andrea Doria ocean liner, which was wrecked off Nantucket in 1956. Other works by my father are in the Vatican Museum, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and the Scala Theatre Museum in Milan. His work is also available at fiume.org as well as via @atelier_fiume on Instagram.
LUCIANO FIUME, Chair, Fondazione Salvatore Fiume, Canzo (Como), Italy
Highlighted in Frontispiece Volume 15, Issue 4 – Fall 2023