The Departure of the Argonaut

  • 1986
  • Francesco Clemente
  • lithograph on paper
  • (doos) 67,2 x 52,2 cm
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1986
  • Inventory number 1505

The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.

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The portfolio, 'The Departure of the Argonaut', contains 48 lithographs which Clemente made between 1983 and 1986 to accompany the eponymous story by Alberto Savinio. The lithographs, which are folded double in a folder, all consist of one or two pages of text combined with illustrations. In some, half consists of text while the other consists of illustration; other prints contain two pages of text accompanied by smaller illustrations, while in others the illustration covers the whole sheet and the text is placed over it. Some of the lithographs are printed in black, others in colour. Clemente’s illustrations vary from abstract signs, to recognizable objects or landscapes, to complex images in which recognizable and unrecognizable fragments are combined as in a confusing dream. Clemente used the technique of lithographs in various ways: from drawing using fine or coarse chalk, to an approach more like painting with slightly or strongly diluted tusche.

During the First World War, the Italian painter/writer/musician Alberto Savinio was sent from Ferrara to the front at Saloniki. In 'The Departure of the Argonaut' he described his experiences during that trip. Some fragments consist of realistic descriptions of situations or people. Others contain emotional outpourings or the reflections of daydreams. According to Savinio, the intention of this work, as of every artistic act, was “to attempt the generous embrace of Nature in its wholeness to know the reason governing everything and penetrating everything.”

Clemente said: “The Departure of the Argonaut is a text which opens up continuously, developing and extending, but never explaining.” He made his illustrations in a similar way. “The images are not the results of focusing on a good idea, but of wandering from one idea to the next, without giving any more weight to one than to another…”. Sometimes Clemente’s illustrations referred to a fragment from the text, but often they did not relate to it directly. Rather they evoked an atmosphere corresponding to it. Both Clemente and Savinio and the Argonauts in the mythological story on which Savinio’s title is based literally or metaphorically move from one place to the other, from one moment to the other. They accept everything they come across on the way with a sense of wonder.

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