Several artworks by Maltese artist Giorgio Preca have arrived in Malta from Rome to be exhibited later this year. They were loaned to Heritage Malta by the artist’s family and most of them have never been displayed in public, making this their first public appearance.
The artworks consist of 21 paintings, four drawings, and six ceramic objects that Preca used for some of his still lifes. Some of the works were created in Rome, which was Preca’s home from 1956 until his demise in 1984.
In the exhibition, these artworks will join another painting by the same artist which Heritage Malta acquired in 2019 and which is Preca’s self-portrait. The exhibition is planned to be inaugurated next December and will run for several months.
The paintings brought over from Rome include imaginative themes, abstracts, still lifes and landscapes in the distinctive idiom mastered by Preca, considered by many post-war artists as one of the finest local exponents of modern art, if not the best among them. This was particularly the case in the years following his first important exhibition in 1947.
Giorgio Preca was born in 1909 and studied at the Malta Government School of Art. Despite not having obtained a Government scholarship to study art abroad, Preca continued with his studies in Rome at the Regia Accademia di Belle Arti and the British Academy, which was directed by Antonio Sciortino who even appointed him as his assistant. Throughout the Second World War, the artist was employed as a restorer at the National Museum of Malta.
Many art historians have acknowledged Giorgio Preca’s major role as a pioneer of modern art in Malta. He will always be considered as an important and innovative artist, particularly in his treatment of controversial topics such as aliens.
At a press conference announcing the arrival of Preca’s artworks in Malta, which was also attended by Massimo Preca, the artist’s son, Anthony Scicluna, Heritage Malta’s Chairman, said that in spite of the many challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the past year has seen Heritage Malta reach various artistic milestones, such as the return to Malta of Mattia Preti’s ‘Boethius and Philosophy’ and the current exhibition of 13 loaned masterpieces at MUŻA. These milestones will be further enhanced with the Preca exhibition, through which Heritage Malta will continue on its mission to bring cultural heritage nearer to the people. This mission of accessibility will take on greater meaning with the Preca exhibition, since most of the loaned artworks on display will be making their very first public appearance.
Mario Cutajar, Heritage Malta’s Executive Director, said that despite Preca’s importance in the history of art in Malta, and despite the respect shown to him by fellow artists, he remained to a certain extent in obscurity among his compatriots. Mr Cutajar commended Heritage Malta for acquiring Preca’s artworks on loan so that the public may enjoy them for the first time and Malta may acknowledge appropriately one of its own who, through his art, honoured himself and his native land.
Noel Zammit, Heritage Malta’s Chief Executive Officer, spoke of the challenges overcome by the agency in order to make this exhibition possible. The first one was to actually bring the artworks over to Malta. There are also the challenges posed by the exhibition itself, which needs to be presented in such a way as to ensure a holistic experience for visitors and retain their place at the centre of all operations.
Kenneth Cassar, Heritage Malta’s Senior Curator for Ethnography and Art, said that the exhibition does justice to Giorgio Preca, considered as one of the pioneers of modern art in Malta, who left his motherland and successfully established himself in Rome. This is a splendid opportunity to study new works of art as well as the artistic development of an important artist who has not been bestowed the honour he deserves. The exhibited works will enable the understanding of Preca’s personality, the reasons behind his emigration, as well as his connections – both those that he sustained through several visits to his homeland and those he fostered with artistic currents in Rome.
Anthony Spagnol, Senior Conservator at Heritage Malta, spoke about Preca’s technique and the state of conservation of the artworks loaned for the exhibition. He said that in some of the works the paint’s thickness caused deformations in the canvas. However, there are also instances where Preca uses paint thinly, applying brush strokes rapidly and spontaneously. This goes to show that Preca did not pay much attention to established formulas dictating how one should use materials to build up a painting. On the contrary, it was his expressive technique that dictated his pictorial process.