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  • Who’s Afraid of the White Sheet?The Art of Alessandro Sanna
  • Isabella Del Monte (bio) and Marcella Terrusi (bio)

The magic of pencil gestures, the metaphysical quality of watercolors, the restless search for the hidden source and soul of images—these characteristics best describe Alessandro Sanna’s artistic world as illustrator and author of picture books. Born in 1975 in Mantua, Alessandro Sanna started his visual explorations as a painter. In a conference he had with us in 2015 at the historical Biblioteca Terenziana in Mantua, Sanna told us how his artistic journey began with working on canvas. In the late 90s, he started visiting the Bologna Children’s Book Fair carrying a large number of his unpublished sketches. While Italian publishers initially did not welcome Sanna’s artwork and considered them as “out of time,” in France, Éditions Grandir became the springboard for his career with Le roi cycliste (2001)—where the dialogue between languages and different materials and the combination of sign, color, collage, and white space that will lead him to find his métier in the following years is already evident.

The page is for Sanna the ultimate and chosen homeland, as the book format allows him to express his love for wordless narrative and color. His signature style is a dynamic balance between different elements that have as a common starting point in the grammar of gestures. Sanna is like “the king of the bicycle,” putting in equilibrium the dynamic development of a visual thought, the dialogue with great artists of illustration and painting, and the invitation to the reader to explore the visibility of the world.

His stylistic approach and great storytelling ability depend on his powerful and enchanting sense of style. Alessandro Sanna explored and animated the pages of picture books both as illustrator and as author, with titles dedicated to artists such as Mondrian and van Gogh. He has also been an outstanding visual interpret of several classics of literature, such as Miguel de Cervantes, Beppe Fenoglio, and Italo Calvino, as well as contemporary poets like Vivian Lamarque, Roberto Piumini, and Bruno Tognolini. His rich oeuvre includes books for toddlers and young adults, covers for classics, and original poems in illustrations. Since 2001, he has published sixty-nine titles, which have been published in twelve different countries all around the world (Italy, France, Korea, Spain, Brazil, Estonia, USA, China, Germany, Turkey, Japan, and Russia).

His works have been shown in many exhibitions and have also appeared in national and international magazines such as Corriere della Sera, Il Sole24Ore, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker. He currently collaborates with Vanity Fair France for the column Fumoir. In 2007, he designed Mostra di Pittura (Art Exhibition) an “art book” for children, co-published by Corraini Editore and the Centre Pompidou. In the same year he started an important collaboration with Einaudi Editore, which led, in 2015, to the publication of L’anima degli animali (The soul of animals) a collection of writings by Aristotele, Plutarco and Porfirio with twelve watercolour illustrations, for the prestigious collection of Millenni Einaudi. In 2014, Alessandro Sanna’s masterpiece Fiume Lento (The River) was included in the “White Ravens 2014” selection and won the Italian “Premio [End Page 47]

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Fiume lento [The River]. Milano, Italy: Rizzoli, 2013.

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Pinocchio prima di Pinocchio [Pinocchio: The Origin Story]. Roma, Italy: Orecchio Acerbo, 2015.

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Andersen” as best illustrator of the year.

Alessandro Sanna is a prolific and versatile author. His versatility comes from an attraction for movement and dynamism, since his drawing always tends to create and capture an impression of movement that naturally flows from the rapid and precise lines of his gesture. As Sanna himself stated, “My drawing, whether in black-and-white or colored, does always capture a movement. I catch it with my pen and the observer makes it move.” The great capability of Alessandro Sanna to explore different subjects and to use different competencies can be highlighted by focusing on some selected titles:

Una casa la mia casa

The idea of this small...


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pp. 47-52
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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