Silpa Bhirasri: The father of Modern Art in Thailand
Adorning the cities of Thailand with monumental sculptures and enlightening the enthusiastic Thai artistic minds in the world of modern art, the Tuscan-born Thai sculptor, Silpa Bhirasri, is revered as the father of modern art in Thailand.
Born Corrado Feroci to a merchant family in Florence, Italy, on September 15, 1892, the artist had a profound impact on the development of Thai art. After completing his secondary school, Feroci entered the Royal Art Academy of Florence at the age of sixteen and seven years later graduated from there. After his graduation, he embarked on a career in sculpture and won many competitions for monument design organized by the Italian government.
In 1915, Feroci passed a professorship examination at the age of 23, and in 1923 he was selected by the Italian government, by request of the King Rama VI, to be engaged as a sculptor in Thailand. After arriving in Thailand, he started to teach Western sculpture at the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Palace Affairs.
Feroci programmed a general training course on sculpture to be taught free to the interested. Impressed by the outcome of the course, the government asked him to start a bachelor programme on painting and sculpture. Therefore, in 1932 the School of Arts (Rongrian Silpakorn) was established, having Professor Feroci as the director. In 1942, the school was changed to the School of Fine Art ( Rongrian Praneet Silpakam). In 1943, the school was upgraded to be the Silpakorn University- the University of Fine Arts, which comprised of two faculties, viz. painting and sculpture.
In recognition of Feroci's services and to protect him from arrest by the occupying Japanese army after Italy surrendered to the Allies in World War II, Feroci was granted Thai citizenship in 1944 with the help from Luang Vichit Vadakan, who gave him the Thai name Silpa Bhirasri. Previously estranged from his wife in Italy, Bhirasri remarried one of his Thai student, Malini, in 1959.
After making Thailand his house for thirty-nine years, Bhirasri designed and sculpted 18 monuments in Thailand. Some of his best monuments are in Bangkok, such as the “Democracy Monument”, “Victory Monument” and the statue of “King Rama I” at Memorial Bridge.
In appreciation of Professor Silpa Bhirasri's contributions to Thailand, the royal government conferred on him the Most Notable Order of the Crown of Thailand and the Dusdi Mala Medal. A Thai commemorative stamp was issued in 1992 on the centenary of his birth. His birthday, 15 September, is nationally observer as Silpa Bhirasri Day.
At 70, the revered sculptor died on 14 May, 1962, and is buried in the Cimitero Evangelico degli Allori in the southern suburb of Florence, Galluzzo (Italy).