Art: The School of Severino

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At the age of eleven, Severino Guidi, an Italian farm boy, can boast a string of accomplishments most artists do not achieve in a lifetime. He has won top prizes in national and international exhibitions, displayed work in Paris, Cairo, New York and Honolulu. He has been the subject of a documentary film. He has launched his own art movement. At his first Rome show last week, the dark-eyed youngster shyly received the personal congratulations of a group of distinguished Romans, including Writers Carlo Levi and Alberto Moravia, Sculptor Pericle Fazzini and Painter Afro Basaldella.

Severino's art career began four years ago when, aged seven, he walked off with top prize for Italian entrants at an international children's art show in Milan. Ever since then, Severino's intricate pen & ink studies of such subjects as lizards, snails, fish, insects, flowers, vegetables and bike races have kept right on winning prizes in juvenile art shows at home and abroad. Severino's classmates at the village grammar school in Sant' Arcangelo soon caught the fever, formed a hard-painting little group known as "the School of Severino." Paramount Films did a movie short about the youthful artists. In last year's ECA International Child Art Competition (TIME, Sept. 24, 1951), several of the top prizes in Italy went to adherents of the School of Severino.

When Severino graduated last summer, it looked for a while as though his blooming artistic career might be cut cruelly short. His father, a poor tenant farmer, could not afford the $235, for tuition and expenses, to send Severino to art school in nearby Urbino (where Raphael was born in 1483). Rome Art Dealer Gaetano Chiurazzi, informed of Severino's plight, offered his gallery for a show of Severino's drawings plus a sampling of the most distinguished works of the Severino School, all proceeds to go to the artists to "study and grow up."

By week's end Severino's pictures were a sellout, his schooling virtually assured. Said Italy's leading art weekly, La Fiera Letteraria: "There is an inspirational force and power of imagination here which we have never seen in other exhibitions of the kind." Gallery Director Chiurazzi immediately began making plans to send the show on to Milan and Paris. Severino took his early success calmly. Looking for the first time at the work of another successful artist, 70-year-old Pablo Picasso, he observed: "Why, he doesn't even know how to draw. He must be a lot younger than I am."