Villa, Edoardo (1915 – 2011)
Edoardo Villa was born in Bergamo, Italy and studied at the Andrea Fontini Art School. While studying
in Milan in 1939, he was conscripted for 2 years into the Italian army at the start of World War II. In
1940he was posted to North Africa, there he was injured and captured by the English in Egypt. Between
1941 and 1942 he was shipped to South Africa where he spent 4 years at the Zonderwater prisoner
of war camp. After his release Villa remained in South Africa where he continued his vocation as a
sculptor. He later did a sculpture of Colonel HF Prinsloo, head of Zonderwater for the military museum.
Villa’s first work was conventional heads and figures and later changed to stylized abstractions. His work
includes abstract explanations of the human condition but also retains some figurative concepts. His
work also has strong cross cultural synthesis which involves Italian and African styles.
His sculptures developed further in the 1950’s whereby he started to make use of cut steel and bronze.
That was also the time when he was teaching at the Polly Art Centre in Johannesburg. Originally an adult
education centre, it was then converted into an art and exhibition centre. It was also the only place, apart
from a few private galleries, where black artists could pursue their art and exhibit it as well.
Edoardo Villa represented South Africa at the Venice Biennal on five occasions and he has received
awards at the Sao Paulo Biennalles of 1957 and 1959. He has exhibited in over a hundred shows in
Europe, the UK, iIsrael, South America and the United States.
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