Flaminio Bertoni. Life, Genius and Works

(2007 Italy, directed by Maurizio Radice, b&w and color, 29 mins)

Flaminio Bertoni has lived in Paris nearly all the life. Perhaps, he is more famous like the designer that has marked the history of the automobile in the past century, with the realization of the futuristic lines of the Traction Avant and the DS Citroen.

But there are two Bertoni in Flaminio, dissociated and indissoluble: the designer who earns his maintenance to the Citroen workshops creating the auto body lines, and the artist who studies, designs and carves all the nights for the love of the art.

Flaminio Bertoni

Born in Masnago (1903) - a small town in the Varese region of northern Italy - Flaminio Bertoni discovered car design by accident when, after his father’s death in 1918, he was forced to leave technical school to earn a living to support his family. He found a job as a joiner’s apprentice at the local body maker’s “Carrozzeria Macchi” before moving to the tinker’s department, where his passion for automobiles took off.

In 1932 he was hired by Citroën for which in 1934 he created the Traction Avant in plasticine: for the first time in history a model of a car was realized instead of on paper. At The Citroën he also begun to work on a new car, the TPV (2CV) presented in 1948 at the Paris Salon de l'Automobile and which became a word phenomenon. 

In 1949 he obtained a degree in architecture, starting his architectural activities with various projects in Paris and suburbs. 

In 1955 his design masterpiece, the DS 19 , was presented at the Salon de l’Automobile in Paris. As well as marking this century’s automobile history, this event placed Bertoni among the Masters of Design. When the Citroën DS 19 was shown at the “Triennale ” in Milan it obtained the prize for best industrial work of art.

In his artistic career he was twice awarded the first prize for drawing and sculpture, during the International Free Art Show in Paris in 1953 and 1954, and his sculptures again were awarded first prize in 1959 and 1962.

In 1961 his last work as a designer, the Citroën Ami 6, was produced and the French Minister for Culture, the Nobel Prize Winner André Malraux, nominated him Master of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic. It was the fair recognition to a man who had given so much to French culture.

He died in Paris in 1964, far away from Italy and disowned by Italian people who loved his 2CV and DS' armonious lines whithout knowing that the author was one of them.



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La Déesse (the goddess)

"I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object.

It is obvious that the new Citroen has fallen from the sky inasmuch as it appears at first sight as a superlative object .. We must not forget that an object is the best messenger of a world above that of nature: one can easily see in an object at once a perfection and an absence of origin, a closure and a brilliance, a transformation of life into matter (matter is much more magical than life), and in a word a silence which belongs to the realm of fairy-tales. The D.S. - the “Goddess” - has all the features (or at least the public is unanimous in attributing them to it at first sight) of one of those objects from another universe which have supplied fuel for the neomania of the eighteenth century and that of our own science-fiction: the Deesse is first and foremost a new Nautilus."

Roland Barthes - Mythologies Vintage

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