Alberto was born on July 1st, 1888 in Florence, Italy. In 1907, while vacationing in the Tuscan Apennines, Magnelli accompanies an antiques dealer and painter who had gone off “in search of motifs.” His friend encourages Magnelli to imitate him and thus to make his first painting. In 1909, Magnelli begins to exhibit his work. In June, he participates in the Eighth Venice Biennial. In 1910, at the International Exhibition of the City of Venice, the landscape he exhibited is purchased for 1,000 pounds by a Russian collector, Count Theocharides. This is the first picture that he sells.
In 1915, the Lacerba review announces that it will organize a second exhibition. Magnelli has plans to participate, but the declaration of war leads to the cancellation of this event. In that same year, Magnelli executes his first abstract paintings. The next year, figurative elements reappear in his work, though in highly transposed fashion. In 1918, he paints the Lyrical Explosions series, which marks a turning point in his work. The next year, following the example of the Valori Plastici group, his work evolves toward a return to a legible form of figurative painting and a greater classicism.
In 1921, Magnelli's first one-man show takes place at the Galleria Materassi in Florence. In 1929, the Pesaro Gallery of Milan presents a one-man show of Magnelli's work, with a preface by Enrico Somare. This text constitutes the first major study of the painter.
In 1932, Magnelli leaves Florence and settles in Paris, where he paints the canvasses of the Stones series. In 1934, Magnelli's first one-man show in Paris takes place at Pierre Loeb's Galerie Pierre. In 1936, Magnelli executes his first Collages and paints his first Slates. The next year, De Chirico, who had brought some of Magnelli's gouaches to New York, establishes contact with the Nierendorf Gallery. In 1938, this gallery organizes Magnelli's first one-man show in the United States.
A while later in 1941, without the means to paint and unable to find canvasses and paints in Grasse, Magnelli makes a series of Music Collages using exercise books lined with musical staffs found at a local shop. In 1942, Arp and Magnelli decide to create an album of lithographs whose plates would be done by the two of them together, along with Sophie Taeuber and Sonia Delaunay, who had also settled in the area. In 1944, Magnelli secretly returns to Paris.
In 1947, the René Drouin Gallery presents the first overall exhibition of Magnelli's work. The show brings together works dating from 1914 to 1947 and is accompanied by a catalogue prefaced by Jean Arp. With this exhibition, Magnelli becomes, in the eyes of critics, the leader of the new generation, and his influence makes its mark on the works of Nicolas de Staël, Vasarely, and members of the Italian and South-American avant-guards.
In 1954, the first retrospective of Magnelli's work takes place at the Palace of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium. The exhibition includes one hundred canvasses from 1914 to 1954. The show was later to be reprised at the Eindhoven Museum in the Netherlands.
In 1963, to celebrate Magnelli's seventy-fifth birthday, a major retrospective of his works is presented in Switzerland by the Kunsthaus Zürich and then shown at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Later, in 1970, the Cantini Museum in Marseilles presents a touring show of Magnelli's work organized by the French National Center of Contemporary Art. This exhibition is then presented in five other French museums.
In 1971, Magnelli dies of heart failure in the evening at his home. He is buried in the Meudon Cemetery. According to his wishes, the following inscription appears on his gravestone: Alberto Magnelli, 1888-1971, pittore fiorentino. (Florentine painter)