Over a period of sixty years following the Second World War, Vito Merlini (1923-2007) amassed an extraordinary collection of prints whilst working as a doctor in his Tuscan home town of Peccioli. Following his first acquisition – a lithograph by Ardengo Soffici – the collection grew until by the turn of the century it numbered around 1,000 works, comprising prints by both Italian and international artists from de Chirico to Mirò, Guttuso to Sutherland. Towards the end of his life, 279 works from the collection were presented by Merlini to Peccioli, and it is from this donation that the exhibition was drawn.
Paper Trail: Prints from the Merlini Collection comprised 55 works on paper in a variety of printmaking techniques, focusing on those by Italian artists. Among the figures represented were Carla Accardi, Carlo Carrà, Giorgio de Chirico, Renato Guttuso, Giacomo Manzù, Aligi Sassu, Mario Tozzi and Emilio Vedova. Tuscan artists, or those who have explored Tuscan imagery, such as Mino Maccari, Marino Marini, Soffici and Guiseppe Vivani also occupied an important place.
Like that of Eric and Salome Estorick, Merlini's collection is extremely varied, yet possesses a strong sense of coherence through its predominantly figurative character and the collector's undoubted eye for striking imagery. In offering a personal yet comprehensive overview of twentieth century Italian graphic art, it was the perfect complement to the Estorick's own representative collection of Modernist painting and sculpture.