Although born in Scotland, Rossi's work from the very beginning has been dominated by a sympathy and feeling for Italy. His parents were Italian and the culture of the Rossi home - language, music, etc. - was Italian. While a student at the Glasgow School of Art it was not Mackintosh or the Scottish Colourists he turned to for inspiration but to Paul Cezanne, Picasso, and the French cubist Georges Braque. His many Still Lives of that period and after are remarkable for their handling of colour, the soft muted tones enhancing very quiet simple compositions, where echoes are also seen of the work of the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi. This is to be seen particularly in Still Life with Jug and Fruit (1958). But although Cezanne and Braque were the dominant forces, Rossi also experimented with works in the style of both Picasso and the Fauvists, as in the copy of a Picasso Mother and Child (1941). His brief encounter with Fauvism is to be seen in only one work, Portrait of a Girl (1941), a competent work in a style with which he obviously felt little sympathy as it was never repeated. Rossi continued to paint Still Lives with dark rich colours and large simple shapes, such as Still Life with Mandolin (1946) and Still Life with Fruit (1947), until the end of the mid-60's. Together with his admiration for Braque to be seen in his oil paintings, in his prolific activity as a printmaker, particularly of monotypes, we see the influence of another artist, Henri Matisse. The series of Reclining Nudes (1958), with the female form outlined in white on a dark background, show an economy of line and a balance of composition which takes as its starting point a work such as Matisse's Nude Study (1936). Rossi's work, however, in the final analysis is Truscan and Roman more monumental and more classical, reminiscent of the figures from V.G~ sarcophagi bas-reliefs, studied in Italy.
The other subject to fascinate Rossi is the Tuscan landscape, particularly that of the area around Lucca, where both his wife and mother were born. The many paintings of the hill-town Barga, which is his home in Italy, are filled with bright warm colours depicting the red-roofed buildings and luxuriant foliage, and represent magically on the canvas the full impact of the atmosphere of an Italian mid-summer's day. The paint-is applied with great virtuosity, but a virtuosity tempered with sensitivity and a poetic nature. Rossi's ability to handle oil paint is to be seen in a work such as The Sheep's Skull (1965) where the heavily impastoed passages clearly show his admiration and study of the work of Rembrandt.
Another source of inspiration for him has been his fascination with Venice where he gives free reign to his poetic vision in his rendering of Vienetian buildings.
From the early 60's there has been a move in his work from the medium of oil paint to mixed media, and at the same time a development in his work to a more strictly classical Still Life composition. Whereas before one could make comparisons between Rossi and Braque, in this latest phase of his work something totally personal has evolved. The paintings, now much larger than before, are poetic fantasies of shapes and colours. The shapes of bottles, coffee-grinders and musical instruments flow across a background of rich muted colours like the notes of a Bach Fugue, which incidentally is Rossi's favourite music and to which on more than one occasion his work has been compared. Collage is another important aspect of his recent work, adding just the right note of reality into a world of visual fantasy and poetic sensibility, an effect comparable to the compositions of Italy's greatest contemporary poet Eugenio Montale.
University of Lancaster