The Malta Independent 21 November 2018, Wednesday

Giuseppe Galea and Mdina

Tuesday, 28 March 2017, 09:44 Last update: about 3 years ago

Emma Borg

The Maltese artist Giuseppe Galea is arguably one of Malta's finest decorators as can be demonstrated by his impressive portfolio. Today he is known for his various works for churches such as those at the church of Ta' Giesu in Rabat, a medal produced for St Pauls Grotto in Rabat to commemorate a Papal visit, as well as the decoration of the Casino Maltese.

Galea was born into an artistic family. His father Pawlu Galea was a talented craftsman who was able to work in various mediums as well as also being a student of the famous Maltese artist Giuseppe Cali. Inspired by his father, he began classes at the tender age of nine with Wistin Muscat, a skilled stone carver. He later went on to work under Benjamin Tonna and Carmelo Tonna and his artistic career began from there.

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Giuseppe Galea, born in 1911, is today remembered as a decorator. He is fondly remembered for his stucco works such as those found in the Basilica of St George in Victoria, Gozo, together with the silver tabernacle produced for the same church. He may be considered as one of Malta's finest, yet he did not limit himself to this field of craftsmanship.

That aspect of the artist's oeuvre which is tendentiously ignored will be exhibited as a prelude to The Mdina Cathedral APS Contemporary Art Biennale 2017 in October. This year's Mdina Biennale will be showcasing many of his intriguing drawings of the human figure prior to the official opening of the contemporary art exhibition. This side of the artist which is sadly neglected will be showcased under the supervision of the Mdina Cathedral APS Contemporary Art Biennale 2017 artistic director Dr Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci.

What will be highlighted is the works he undertook when in Rome. It all began with his studies at the Regia Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome after Galea was awarded a scholarship by the Malta Government School of Art to study sculpture at this institution.  In Rome, he studied under the supervision of Professor Calori and Professor Zanelli. After finishing his studies and receiving a diploma in sculpture he was fortunate enough to have received an extension to continue his studies. Galea then studied decorative painting where he focused on various techniques such as tempera and fresco.

His five years in Rome were not only limited to studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti. He also worked extensively during his time off by attending various evening courses. One that had an impact on the artist more than the others was that held at the British Academy of Art in Rome. There he studied life drawing under the tutelage of the great Maltese sculptor Antonio Sciortino. Galea always felt a certain amount of admiration for Sciortino, who was the director of the British Academy of Art, throughout his life, even after the closing of the academy in 1936.  When studying with the Maltese Master, he won first prize in the Caledron Competition. Once the academy closed he was able to study life drawing at the French Academy in Rome. It is important to note that he was the only Maltese artist to attend such a course during this time.  After coming back from Rome in 1938 he began an extensive and impressive career as a decorator of various Maltese churches.

The Mdina Cathedral APS Contemporary Art Biennale 2017 which has also decided to highlight a number of his life drawings, depicting both men and women. These works in particular have been selected to show the artist's skill and technique. His drawings are undoubtedly classical in their manner and reveal the keen eye for detail that the artist possessed. His works will without a doubt impress any viewer irrespective of whether they were aware of the artist or not. The Mdina Cathedral APS Contemporary Art Biennale 2017 has decided to highlight this unfortunately under-represented element of the artist's capability as these drawings display Galea's talent and extensive technical knowledge.


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