Born in San Giovanni
The fourth of seven children, Carlo, and introverted child, was only nine years old when he was separated from his family and sent to work as a farm laborer. Rural life having strengthened his solitary inclinations, Carlo found his move to Verona at fifteen to become a butcher's apprentice quite disconcerting. It was in Verona, where he lived until conscripted into the army in 1936, however, that Carlo developed an interest in music and painting. During his military service the first signs of his mental disturbance appeared. In a state of confusion and anxiety brought on by shock of war, Carlo attacked his captain and was discharged after being examined at a military hospital in 1941. In the years following the war he was increasingly incapacitated by a persecution complex, terrifying visual hallucinations, and speech disorders, and in 1947 family members committed him to the San Giacomo Psychiatric Hospital in Verona.
In 1957, two years after Carlo began drawing graffiti on the hospital walls with a brick, the Countess Berletti, at the instigation of the Scottish sculptor Michael Nobel, set up the Studio for Artistic Expression. In this creative environment Carlo painted every day for the next fourteen years. Using a fine brush, he drew plants, animals, boats, and houses, but his predominant motif was a stereotyped mechanical human figure drawn in profile. Around 1962 he began adding stripes of pure color to his paper before superimposing figures. To his silhouetted, repetitive forms, painted in calligraphic style, Carlo eventually added a profusion of letters and words. The words, however, were nonsensical, reflecting the artist's inability to use language.
In 1971 San Giacomo was closed, and Carlo was transferred to its replacement, the newly built Marzana Psychiatric Hospital in Verona. Devastated by the loss of the old studio, Carlo painted only sporadically. Not long after his transfer, the new hospital too was closed, and after twenty-four years of confinement Carlo was released to a family who did not have the means or desire to care for him. In 1974 he died of tuberculosis.
Source: Barbara Freeman, Biographies of Outsider Artists in "Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art," Copyright 1992 by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Princeton University Press, Reprinted by permission of the copyright holder.