Pina wins the National Grand Prize of Brera in Milan for sculpture in 1906. He then moves to study with Rodin in Paris from 1909 to 1910 and this of course greatly influenced the feel of Pina’s work. Excited by the artistic environment in Paris preceding the first World War he exhibited at the avant-garde venues at the Salon des Artistes Francais and the Salon d’Automne and the Tuileries.
Pina became entrenched in the most sophisticated art circles in Montparnasse and a colorful story that has been handed down through time was on the occasion of 1917 when a dinner was being held for Guillaume Apollinaire the poet and Fernand Leger. Amedeo Modigliani had been living with Beatrice Hastings a journalist and before the dinner party went off, many of the guests knew there might be trouble between Modigliani and Alfredo Pina who had been having an affair with Beatrice. Matisse was present and was in the act of carving the turkey for the guests when Modigliani arrived and headed straight for Pina to attack him. Pina expecting trouble brandished a gun and fired. Luckily, for many reasons, Modigliani was not shot or killed. This draws a bit of a conclusion that Pina was of a passionate nature and it is certainly evident in his sculpture.
There is little that Pina sculpted that is not remarkable in some sense. Many of his compositions however are very avant-garde and still today are beyond most collectors. Like Rodin, he often chose to do the figure in contorted and or very expressive gestures that can become difficult to read in bronze. Pina had little concern for creating works that could easily sit on a table and so many of his great compositions are works that need special display and do not have one clear focal point. His best known and most cast work is a head of Beethoven which stands as one of the most striking representations of the composer. In addition, he is well noted for his busts of Wagner and Paganini.
Gaston de Pawlowski in his publication Alfredo Pina (1929) writes the following about this Torse D’Adolescent:
“Once in his life Pina gave us the torso of an adolescent, a veritable masterpiece, but which was in the beginning the full figure of a dancer….it is unique in the work of Pina.”
This statement is key to understanding our work. Clearly Pina modeled a male figure in mid movement perhaps in a ballet dance. Pina rarely produced a composition whether it was a bust or full figure where the composition strikes the viewer as conservative, static or mundane. He probably made an artistic choice to truncate and to crop the arms and legs to create further drama as well as to encourage the imagination of the viewer. Pina is successful in his endeavor and furthered the effect by his unusual and daring mounting of the work at the knee. For the time period this achievement was avant-garde and unique - daring due to the weight shifts of this work. Without a careful thinking through of the weight distributions in bronze, this piece could possibly not stand without tipping due to the way it is mounted.
In the December 2015 Sotheby’s London 19th & 20th Century Sculpture Sale catalogue, Pina’s “Torse D’Adolescent (Study for La Danse)” (Lot 125) was accompanied by the following catalogue note:
If John Tweed may be regarded as the 'English Rodin', then Alfredo Pina is certainly the 'Italian Rodin'. La danse was first exhibited at Pina's Salon debut in Paris in 1912. A work imbued with the influence of Rodin's powerful sense of fluid form, La danse has been seen as a prime example of Pina's search for a harmony of form and movement. The work offered Pina matchless opportunities to explore the human body in precise action similar to those that inspired Edgar Degas' sculptural and pictorial studies of dancers. The present marble appears to be a study for the final Salon version, which was a full figure statue. However, given the success of the model, it is possible that the present marble was carved as a variant, subsequent to the Salon exhibition, with the focus shifted to the tort musculature of the torso. Indeed, the roughly hewn marble base, and the way in which the beautifully polished figure emerges from it, strongly recalls the Dying Slave by Michelangelo, Pina's other great influence.
Alfredo Pina’s expressive style clearly grew out of his admiration for Rodin’s work. Pina was born in Milan but set up his studio in France and made it his home and first had a debut of his work at the Salon of 1912. Today we can look back and compare the work of the two sculptors, and it is important to do so. Many sculptors were influenced by Rodin and each translated it in different ways. Pina was the one sculptor whose work rivals Rodin’s in its expressiveness.
We feel that almost everything Pina produced is compelling and that he deserves greater recognition as a sculptor. Many of the Post-Rodin school sculptors are in this category due largely to the fact that there has been a lack of exploration of this period in sculpture. Pina, like many of the sculptors of this time frame, did not have the money to produce large editions of their works. It is also open to speculation and further scholarship as to how many examples of Torse d’Adolescent were cast. Exactly how many other casts of this sculpture were made is open to conjecture. Potentially there may only be a few more. Our cast is the version that Pina exhibited at the above Exposition in Venice. Mr. and Mrs. Mountaha Hriez had an exceptional collection of art that included works by highly known French Modernists. They lived in France for a period and settled in Brazil, as he was a diplomat and worked in the Lebanon consulate. The wife died in 1998, leaving the art collection to her sons, and since that time these heirs have been selling the collection.
Collection of Mrs. Mountaha Hriez, Brazil
Shannon’s, Milford, Connecticut 2011
Exposizione Internationale Della Cieta di Venezia, 1928 # 806