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1926 – 1931

In 1926 Libico Maraja, then a 14-year-old, enrols at the Art school at the Lugano high school, where he attends classes in plastic arts and decoration for three years. Here he is surrounded by an academic milieu where he improves his drawing, painting, and sculpting skills. At 16 he wins the Maraini Award that allows him to get a scholarship funded by the school.

Aside from brilliantly concluding his studies, a fortunate encounter allows Maraja to engage in decorating the interiors of a hall in the old centre of Lugano. The owner, impressed by his skills, entrusts to him the decoration of the outside façade and offers him a position as a cartoonist and graphic designer.

Although these are the only record of Libico’s early years, his calling to art is clear and he expresses it through an analytic fashion that preludes to the modern style. Such art favours subjects and landscapes and fluctuates between Romanticism and Futurism.

His desire to put himself to test and acquire new techniques leads him in the 1930s to engage with frescos. His teacher was Bonafedi, a painter from Florence with whom Maraja restores the façade of what he dubbed the “Coat of Arms House” – in fact a sixteenth-century building called “Locanda Stanga” (“Stanga Inn”). Maraja’s hand intervened to revive the old coat of arms painted by Caresano e Tarilli at the time of its construction. The building, situated in Giomico, now hosts the Leventina Valley Museum and it is still possible today to visit the old village and the restoration of the façade.

This experience, though important and formative, does not distract Maraja from pictorial art, his true inclination. His style in the 1930s is predominantly a figurative one, where his skills are particularly evident in portraits – for which he is particularly appreciated and demanded – and in landscapes – where the framing recalls that of nineteenth-century Realism. Oil paintings from the same years allow to establish a connection with Symbolism, Divisionism and Italian Proto-Futurism. What is already evident at the end of Maraja’s training is his curiosity for the variegated artistic styles but also an eclectic skill in pictorial art, which will make him a master in creating perfect figures within suggestive settings.

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