Livio was born in Verona, Italy in 1946. Despite only spending a few years in his native Venetia, his homeland meant a lot to him. From the Renaissance painters to the beautifully simple cuisine which he felt was the best in the world, from the beauty of the landscapes to the unsurpassed exploits of Valentino Rossi on two wheels, his native land was a constant source of pride and admiration.
In 1949 the Benedetti family, Gino and Maria, who lie nearby in the Myans Cemetery, the eldest sister Marie, the younger brother Robert, and Livio set out for France and the Savoie. Livio was only three at the time, and Robert was just a baby. Family lore has it that their intention was to cross the Atlantic to the United States of America.
After a few years, the family settled in Myans, where with the help of Livio and Robert, their father Gino built their family home a few steps from the town's church. Gino was a bricklayer, which would become such an important point for Livio. Livio always identified himself as a bricklayer first and foremost, and only after that as a sculptor. He was proud of his family of builders. In Myans, the Benedetti family grew with the arrival of Raphaelle, the beloved younger sister, whose bedroom wall was decorated with one of Livio's first pieces.
Livio graduated with a diploma in construction to follow in the footsteps of his father. He was a model student. Few were on hand to witness it… he was awarded a tour around the country, a prize reserved for the best student of each county, and which ended at the hotel Matignon, the French prime minister's residence. It was his first meeting with Pierre Dumas, who was then the secretary of state. It was a meeting which Livio recalled with pride.
Livio left Myans for a time, first to go to Annecy, where he made lifelong friends… And then further still, to the forests of the Ardennes and Charleville Mézieres where he carried out his military service. It was at this point that Livio took the road less travelled and began his first sculptures: a series of wooden heads which were recently on display for a retrospective in Chambéry this spring, and which have lost nothing of their vigor.
During his military service, Livio met Florence who would become his wife and the mother of his children. It was at that time that he resolved to dedicate himself to sculpture and to return to his adoptive Alps that he loved so much. For Livio, there was no place more beautiful than where we are today, and there was no landscape as majestic as the mountains here. Returning to climb in the Alps was of vital importance. He built solid friendships in the Savoie. This land was a constant inspiration to him. Livio and Florence returned to the Savoie in 1973, by way of the Bourgogne where their sons Luc and Roland were born.
From 1975 onward, Livio set up his workshop in Chambery. He spent most of his time there. He dedicated himself to sculpture and worked at it tirelessly, using what he had at hand and under incredibly demanding conditions. The Basse du Chateau road was his theatre, at the foot of the Chateau des Ducs where his work was recently celebrated, a nod to his beginnings. He made several lasting friendships during this time, just as he did wherever he went.
It was much later that he settled on the slopes of the Granier near Apremont, on a farm in ruins bought with the help of Robert and Florence. He rebuilt it one brick at a time until it became the marvelous workshop that many of you now know.
Livio's life was much too rich and his spirit too generous to recount in a couple of sentences. Some moments however are so striking that they cannot be omitted. In 1982, Livio met Hugo, the artist and writer who brought Corto Maltese into the world. Hugo Pratt was a friend to Livio, but also a second father, a permanent inspiration with standards as high as his own, a poet whose precise lines mimic the precision of the forms in Livio's sculptures. They shared a distain for mediocrity as well as an absolute discretion.
Recognition as an artist came to him little by little starting in the mid-nineteen nineties, finally allowing him to live from his work. With the help of some close friends his work became known outside of a small circle of admirers, and eventually abroad. His art commanded respect, establishing itself as important, hugely diverse, both modern and classic, outside of time, free and soulful, equally compelling for any and all audiences. Many of his pieces can attest to this, and they will for years to come, from the Sarrazine that can be seen on the shore of the Tigne Lake, to the Last of the Just in Aix les Bains, the Lady of the Wind at the Savoie Technolac, and the bust of Pierre Dumas at the entrance of the Fréjus Tunnel all bear witness to the universal and timeless nature of his work.
His life as a man was as rich as his life as an artist. It was characterized by loyalty. He was demanding, but also constant in his generosity, both with his family and his friends. An infinite generosity, an unequaled warmth, enduring friendliness, allied with a genuine curiosity for people. His life was characterized by freedom as well--freedom of thought to exist beyond conventions, free from the current's pull, outside the lines inscribed on the blueprint. No one can forget his temper. He had occasion to give more than one of us a hard time.
In 2010, Livio was struck by illness. It was a constant struggle up until the end. He fought like a lion, with all the force that we all know he possessed, without ever giving in, never letting the illness take away that which made him who he was. His close relatives were by his side everyday for the last couple of months providing love and support. They witnessed his strength of character. He never complained, and he never gave up. His generosity never failed, it carried us along, and it still does in our memories and in his works of art.