Breccia and the sculptor Greco.
Galleria Maitani, Orvieto, 1981
Uno Mattina, RAI, 2004
Breccia in his atelier. Rome, 2014
Pier Augusto Breccia was born in Trento on 12 April 1943. Both of his parents worked in the hospital sector: his father was a surgeon and his mother was a ward sister. After a short period in Porano, the birthplace of his paternal family, Pier Augusto moved to Rome where he spent the majority of his life.
Breccia studied at the Giulio Cesare liceo classico at Rome, where he developed a profound interest in humanist studies which stayed with him for the rest of his life. His abilities shone from a very young age. At fourteen, he discovered the Divine Comedy which he studied of his own accord. Soon afterwards, fascinated by philosophy and Greek myth, he translated “Antigone” and “Prometheus Bound” for the publisher Signorelli. Still in his adolescence, he translated Plato’s “Dialogues”, which introduced him to Socrates, who would become one of his greatest masters. Upon completing his schooling, although his knowledge of the classics surpassed that of his peers, Pier Augusto took his studies in a new direction, away from the vocation of his youth.
In 1961, Breccia followed in his father’s footsteps and enrolled in the faculty of medicine at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore which was inaugurated in that same year at Rome. In July 1967, he was chosen to receive the first degree from the new faculty. He won a scholarship and specialised in Urology, while also beginning to practise at the Policlinico Gemelli in Rome. He then specialised in General Surgery before finally settling on Cardiovascular Surgery. In 1969, he married Maria Antonietta Vinciguerra and had two children.
At the beginning of the seventies, Breccia’s dedication to cardiac surgery brought him to the Karolinska Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery in Stockholm, where he worked under the supervision of V. Björk, the inventor of the prosthetic heart valve. In 1979, he became Associate Professor and Clinical Lecturer in General Surgery at the Policlinico Gemelli. During this decade, Breccia performed over a thousand open-heart surgeries and published more than fifty articles in medical journals.
It was in the summer of 1977 that Pier Augusto stumbled across an unexpected talent for design. Fascinated by his new discovery, he began to practice in his spare time. However, for the following two years, drawing was nothing more than a hobby. It was only in 1979, after the death of his father, that his artistic talent unexpectedly matured into an entirely personal “pictorial figure”. His profound interest in the classics from his childhood re-emerged and had been sharpened by experiencing humankind throughout his fifteen years of practicing medicine.
In 1981, Cesare Vivaldi, the director of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome, presented Breccia’s first exhibition at Orvieto. There, Pier Augusto met the sculptor Emilio Greco, one of his first supporters in the transition from medicine to art. Between 1981 and 1983, Breccia showed his works in eight solo exhibitions. His new commitment as an artist became so intense that in August 1983, he took a period of leave from the medical profession.
Over the following two years, the artistic style that Breccia defined as “ideomorphic” was defined with greater clarity, along with his philosophical thought, which he presented in 1984 in his book “The Eternal Mortal”. In 1985, Breccia’s medical career drew to a close and he resigned from the Policlinico Gemelli. In that same year, Aldo Gucci organised the artist’s first exhibition at New York, which became Breccia’s permanent home until 1996.
During his stay in America, Breccia exhibited in numerous cities (New York, Columbus, Santa Fe, Miami, Houston and so on) while continuing to exhibit regularly in Italy. In that period, the volumes of his first pencil drawings transformed into profound spaces on imposing oil canvases.
A firm friendship with the philosopher Rosario Assunto helped Breccia to re-examine his pictorial figure in a more rigorous philosophical context. The collaboration between Breccia and Assunto took shape in the book “Animus-Anima” in 1992, introduced by Assunto: a monumental volume of images and reflections which show the clear harmony between Breccia’s thought and Jasper’s hermeneutics.
In 1996, a growing involvement with Italian and European museums brought Breccia back to Italy. There, in that year, he inaugurated his spacious new studio-atelier, where he could work on his large canvases.
Even when his health deteriorated, Breccia’s intense artistic productivity continued. In 1999, he had a heart attack. His convalescence was brief and later that same year, he published “The Other Book”, a collection of works, thoughts and visionary accounts that he produced during his decade in America. Breccia continued his endeavour in a series of solo exhibitions, the most impressive of which was held in 2002 at the Vittoriano, where ninety of his large works were exhibited.
In 2004, Breccia published his artistic manifesto, “An Introduction to Hermeneutic Painting” and in the following years, despite his precarious health, he maintained his engagement with galleries and museums.
Breccia’s health further declined in 2010 when he had a second heart attack, which slowed the “furore” of the previous years. On 17 November 2017, two weeks after the end of his exhibition in Trento, Breccia had a heart attack in his studio at Rome. He was taken to the Policlinico Gemelli, that same hospital in which he had been a pioneer of cardiac surgery forty years previously. On 20 November 2017, Pier Augusto Breccia died at the age of seventy-four.
During his artistic career, which spanned almost three decades, Breccia held around seventy solo exhibitions in Europe, the U.S. and Russia.