Edoardo Villa (1915-2011)

Artwork by Edoardo Villa

Villa Edoardo, Thrust II, Painted Steel, 1983, 250x440 viewB

Thrust II


Edoardo Villa was one of South Africa’s foremost sculptors. He was born in Bergamo, Italy, where he studied at the Andrea Fontini Art School. While studying sculpture in Milan, Villa was conscripted into the army at the outbreak of World War II. His first experience of South Africa was as a prisoner of war in 1942. After his release, he remained there to pursue a career as a sculptor.

From his conventional heads and figures of the 1940s, Villa moved progressively through stylized figuration to structural abstraction. The universality of humankind is a theme that dominates his work. Villa represented South Africa at the Venice Biennale on five occasions and he received awards at the São Paulo Biennales of 1957 and 1959. He exhibited in over a hundred shows in Italy, Europe, England, Israel, South America, Africa and the United States.

In the mid-1980s, Edoardo Villa evolved the relationship between pipes and metal sheets into some of the most open, large-scale, space-related works he ever made.

In this outstanding series of works titled, ‘Thrust’ (also sometimes referred to as ‘War Machines’), the human element of his earlier works, Prisoners and Cages is replaced by expansive compositions dominated by thick pipes that mimic the aggression of tanks, cannons and rocket launchers – the tools of war. These impressive but threatening works are intended to alert the viewer to the misplaced ingenuity in the making and use of sophisticated weapons of war.