He is considered one of the pioneers of costume satire in our country, even though Giuseppe Novello (Codogno, 1897-1988), the son of a bank manager, was set on a clerical career from a young age, despite the fact that his mother’s brother, Giorgio Belloni, was an artist of some renown. As a young man, Giuseppe frequented his uncle’s studio and, after a degree taken to please his father, in 1919 he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and began a career as a painter, devoting himself to landscapes and figurative portraits of an academic nature, exhibited in four editions of the Venice Biennale and the Quadriennale.

FROM PAINTING TO SATIRE

But his artistic destiny is another, and Novello discovers it almost by chance, a few years after fighting as a member of the Tirano Alpine Battalion in the Battle of Caporetto, when in 1925 he begins to collaborate with the magazine L’Alpino, where he signs his satirical cartoons with issue 46. In the fortnightly’s editorial staff he meets journalist Paolo Monelli, who asks him to publish the book of cartoons La guerra è bella ma scomoda, which comes out in 1929.

With his friend Monelli he began to frequent the Bagutta tavern, where he met the cream of Milanese writers, from Orio Vergani to Riccardo Bacchelli, as well as some of the city’s literary salons.Also thanks to Monelli, he began a collaboration with the Gazzetta del Popolo, where he published three reportages in the 1930s: a trip in search of the “ugliest monuments in Italy” in ’32, a gastronomic tour in ’34 and a tourist itinerary in the main resorts of northern Italy in 1936. During World War II he returned to the front as an Alpine soldier, fought in Russia, and after returning to Italy in 1943 was taken prisoner and conducted to a German lager in Wietzendorf, Lower Saxony.

Two years later Swiss newspapers spread the news of his death, and obituaries flourished in the Italian press.A few months later, however, Novello returned to his homeland alive and well, and Dino Buzzati commented, “The redivivivo who enjoys his own eulogies is quite Novellian, it seems to us.” At the sad news Silvio Negro had commented, “Death, when it is unjust, as a rule strikes the best.” And Novello replied, “Evidently and fortunately I am not among that chosen group.”

NOVELLO’S STYLE

His timely and sharp satire was enormously successful beginning in 1948, when Novello began a weekly collaboration with La Stampa that would last until 1965.He lives in his hometown of Codogno, from which he hardly ever leaves, and spends a quiet and habitual life. “I commute between drawing and painting,” he confesses, and recounts with his cartoons the Italian bourgeois class, with its foibles and miseries.”Novello’s vignettes are an accurate contraption, a three-plate scale in which the comic weight is distributed between drawing, title and caption.The stroke is sinuous and incisive, sharp,” points out Matteo De Giuli on Il Tascabile website.

THE RETURN TO PAINTING

If the 1950s are familiar to him, in front of the boom of the 1960s he appears dismayed: “His elitist, anti-modern gaze fails to read boom Italy,” De Giuli adds. Novello does not know how to narrate the new decade and retires from illustration to return to painting, which he had abandoned out of timidity in 1940, after winning a prize at the Biennale. “Painting is harmless: one who paints does not bother anyone,” he declares. Today, the memory of Giuseppe Novello, author of volumes of cartoons published by Mondadori such as Il signore di buona famiglia, Che cosa dirà la gente or Resti fra di noi, is entrusted to a few works on display in the hall of the Pro Loco of Codogno and to a room dedicated to him at the Lamberti Foundation.

NOVELLO PRIZE – INTERNATIONAL HUMOR & SATIRE AWARDS