Around the end of 1911, the war between Italy and Ottoman Empire began, a war called in Italy as ‘Campagna di Libia’. This war will end on October the 18th in 1912. What this has to do with Maraja is easily understandable. During these years, more  precisely on April the 15th  1912, in Bellinzona,  Maraja was born. His  name, Libico, comes exactly from Libia, and it is a proof of a fervent nationalism  felt by his father Francesco. Soon after the birth, the family moved to Lugano, with the intent of allowing Francesco to pursue his career as journalist. Later on, Maraja’s father will become a foreign landmark for the whole local Italian community.

Surrounded by such a  patriotic spirit, Libico started his education in kindergarten and already showed the first signs of his genius, in some postcards inspired by war injured men, postcards in which it is noticeable the knowledge of space depth,  narrative intent  and the respect  for the proportions. His real skills began to be expressed between 1926 and 1929, when Maraja attended the Art School within the Lugano Gymnasium High School. In this period he won the Premio Maraini award for his drawing and the Premio Bariffi award for his plastic art.

During his 20s Maraja decided to make his art his own work, opening in 1932, the studio for advertisement graphic ALA, where he realized posters, playbills, and design for shop windows. After a while, he married Chiarina Colombo, with whom he had a child, his first, named Marzio. However, this period of stability will end soon: in 1936 his father Francesco was accused of irredentism of Ticino (Swiss Canton where Lugano lies) and was forced to move with his whole family in Como, city in which the artist will remain for the rest of his life. In this period his major work is the illustration for the children book La storia di Cicc.

Maraja started to work in Milan in 1940, on a collaboration with IMA Pubblicità, for which, along with his normal job as advertisement graphic, he painted disk cover, musical scores and two fairy tales. This collaboration became a lucky strike for Maraja, when IMA Pubblicità changed into IMA Film, and launched the project for the first animated feature film of Europe: La Rosa di Bagdad. The movie director, Anton Gino Domeneghini, appointed Maraja as chief set designer and cartoonist, giving him the possibility of enriching his skills with new techniques, which he used in a creative way and in a constant evolution of his artistic value.

In 1947, World War II ended, and the Maraja family, with the recent new born Fracesco, decided to move once again. This time in a small and picturesque village located on the peaceful shore of Como Lake. In this new phase, Libico focused himself on illustration, realizing the covers for PIGNA notebooks (one of the most famous in Italy, and worldwide also nowadays) and the first coloured Sussidiario, (the all-embrancing study book used by student of little age), Il mio mondo. From this period it is important to remember his first collaboration with Fabbri publisher, a relation that will last till the death of Maraja, in 1983. This important bond will lead to a rich production, with the realization of thousands of illustrations dedicated to the most famous masterpieces of literature for youngster. Among them, the most important one is Le avventure di Pinocchio, 1955. The Fratelli Fabbri is not the only publisher, whom Maraja worked with.  He made illustrations as well for the most important italian publishers of that time: Mondadori, Carroccio, Baldini&Castoldi, Aristea and Conte.

Starting from the 60s, Maraja began to be known even on international level. In the following twenty years, his illustrations winged all over the world, being visible in US, England, Russia, France, Germany and Japan. As an example of this, Maraja in 1981, received an invitation from the japanese publisher Shogakukan, whom, being positively impressed with his work, awarded LimaSan, the name with which Libico Maraja is known in extreme east, with a special prize.

Together with illustrations, another important part of the artistic life of Libico Maraja is represented by pictorial art, where it is possible to notice his real artistic flair.

As he used to say, during the day he was an artisan while working as illustrator, and a true artist in the evening, when spending time freely painting. In his work it is possible to notice a strong eclecticism, a sort of permanent oscillation that places him between the best interpreters of Como rationalism as well as futurists; without forgetting a personal footprint, denoted by abstract components and an emphasis on figurative art.

Libico Maraja died at the age of 71, on December 30th 1983, leaving to the next generations the fascinating task of walking through the steps of his genius revealed all along his life.

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