Biography (by Elisabetta Staudacher)
Kindly donated by the Presidency of the Council of the Autonomous Province of Trento - excerpts from “Michelangelo Perghem Gelmi”, Palazzo Trentini Exhibitions, May 2003, edited by TEMI Trento.
Michelangelo Perghem was born in Innsbruck on 11 December by Trentino parents.
His family moved to Trento and Michelangelo lived there until he got his high school diploma. Luigi Bonazza, his art teacher at technical college, noticed Michelangelo’s natural artistic inclination. During his school years he devoted himself to sports and to the activity of caricature drawing for various newspapers and student reviews, collaborations that he continued throughout his university years.
Perghem won the Cross-country Students Championships on Monte Bondone. The following year he won the “Sci D’Oro del Re” Championships and in 1934 he joined the National Athletics Team in Berna for two disciplines: 400 metres run and 4x400 metres relay.
He graduated in Civil Engineering at the Turin Polytechnic and abandoned professional sports to follow his academic studies. After completing his military service in the Air Force (1937-1938), he was nominated Assistant Professor at the Turin Polytechnic.
He was appointed Chief Technical Officer at Rijeka Harbour Warehouse.
He applied for the Art Academy of Turin as a pupil of Enrico Paulucci. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was called up to join the army again and in 1942 he was forced to interrupt his painting studies at the Academy to move to Provence.
During his stay in France, he devoted himself to painting. On 8 September he was captured alongside other officers, held captive in Cannes and deported to the Deblin Irena prison camp in Poland, where he held his first solo exhibition (January 1944). He managed to return to Italy in June 1944 and went into hiding in Turin until the end of the war. During this period his sole activity was painting.
He organized his first solo exhibition at the “Trento Art Gallery” in Trento. By now he was a self-employed engineer and he lived with Antonietta, whom he married in 1946. He resumed his job as Assistant Professor at the Polytechnic and carried on painting in his spare time. His works went on show in various collective exhibitions in Turin and he took part in the City of Alessandria Prize.
His daughter Maria Rosa was born. At the end of the year he decided to move to San Juan (Argentina) on his own and there he taught at the Engineering Faculty of the “Universidad Nacional de Cuyo”. The following year he took part in the exhibition Autumn Exhibition of Saint Juan and won first prize. He then held a solo exhibition at the “Casa Espana de San Juan” and got involved in the project for a new cathedral in his new hometown.
His wife and his daughter rejoined him in Argentina and his second daughter Maria Guglielmina was born.
He became Professor of Drawing and Figure at the Architecture Faculty of Cuyo University and held a solo exhibition at the city university headquarters. During his period in Argentina, he got interested in design and he carried out many studies for the decoration of objects and textiles.
He won first prize with his work “Calle Tucuman” at the Autumn Exhibition of Saint Juan. At Christmas time he went back to Trento with his family where he settled down as a professional engineer, without ever abandoning his love for painting.
At the Buenos Aires Exhibition he won first prize with his work “Calle Lavalle”.
His son Mario was born. In the same year he was appointed to renovate the Levico Spas and two years later he was appointed for the renovation of the Merano Spas.
He successfully exhibited his work “Holy Trinity” at the Provincial Exhibition of Figurative Arts, which was later included in the Trentino Artists Exhibition at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. A further exhibition on Trentino artists was hosted in the capital later on in 1965, while other works went on show in Novara (1965) and Turin (1967).
On the occasion of the National Town-planning Congress, Perghem comes first in the competition organized by the Municipality of Trento about the conversion of the area where the previous Santa Chiara city hospital complex used to stand. His project was called “Ideas for the Trento of Tomorrow”. In the meantime, he was busy with the construction of the Norge holiday flats on Monte Bondone and the project of the new housing estate in the Clarina suburb of Trento, accomplished in 1969. The following year he was involved in the project about the parking area below the seat of the Canossa Convent, which was not to be realised.
From now on he devoted himself entirely to painting and took part to many exhibitions. His original, Surrealist works were appreciated by public and critics alike. His solo exhibitions in Trento and Rovereto were very successful and later on he exhibited his works in Cortina, Ferrara, Rome, Saint Tropez and Santa Margherita Ligure. He participated to a few group exhibitions and prizes as well, both in Italy and abroad.
On the 100th anniversary of the Trentino Alpine Club, he designed the 25 Liras postage stamp depicting a view of the Brenta Dolomites and the Paganella.
It was the year of the publication of “From Cannes to Tarnopol”, an account of his experience as an internment camp prisoner. The work, published together with Francesco Piero Baggini, was illustrated with drawings of that dreadful period.
His solo exhibition “Many minds, many ideas” opened at the “Il Castello di Trento” art gallery. This body of work focussed on the caricatures of Italian famous people and politicians together with some local VIPs. In 1977 that same gallery organized “Tribute to Trento”, an exhibition made up of sixty works dedicated to the city of Trento. That same year, his work “Florenucus Barbudos” won the “Vittoria Alata” prize at the 7th Spring exhibition at the Unesco Palace in Paris.
His solo exhibition “Perghem 80” opened at the Regional Government Seat in Trento, presenting seventy of his works.
He worked at a project to realise a parking area over Trento railway station, which was later interrupted. In the Eighties three important exhibitions took place in his beloved city. All three focussed on his trips to Mexico (“Mexico 83”, 1984), China (“China is close”, 1986), Peru and Bolivia (“Postcards from the Incas Empire”, 1989). They were hosted in the halls of the Chamber of Commerce.
Together with the artist Giuseppe Anesi, Perghem held an exhibition at the Palazzo Pretorio in Trento. On this occasion, he presented his tribute to his friend and master Guido Polo, who appeared alongside many other Trentino artists in the “Atelier de la Portela”.
The Municipality of Trento bought the impressive 3x6 metre work “Piazza Duomo on St Joseph’s Day”, now on permanent display in the garden of St Mark’s Church. The following year a very relevant exhibition about the works of Perghem and Giuseppe Anesi was organized by the Municipality of Bolzano. The two artists appeared in “An Outing in the Countryside with Beppino and…”, a painting modelled on the Déjeuner sur l’herbe by Manet.
After a successful surgical operation at the Santa Chiara Hospital, he donated his Iperrealist work “The Medical Check-up” to the medical institution.
Perghem died in Trento on 1 August at the age of 81. His painting “Vermeer copies Picasso” exhibited in Kempten, a city twinned with Trento.
A year after Perghem’s death, his family donated one of his works from his Chinese period to the Municipality of Trento, to be given to the twin city of Hang Zhou.
Perghem’s family donated the entire body of architecture and town-building works together with all his projects for public and private buildings in Italy and abroad, to the MART Photo Archive.