Ugo Attardi was born in Sori, near Genoa, in 1923. After attending senior high art school in Palermo, in 1941 he enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture, but was unable to attend courses due to the war.
In 1945, he moved to Rome on the invitation of Pietro Consagra and Renato Guttuso. Inspired by the numerous cultural initiatives that arose in the aftermath of the Second World War, he started to paint, and in 1948, together with Carla Accardi, Pietro Consagra, Piero Dorazio, Mino Guerrini, Achille Perilli, Antonio Sanflippo and Giulio Turcato, he formed part of Forma Uno, an abstract art movement.
In the early 1950s, influenced by the art works of Francis Bacon and George Grosz, he changed painting style, breaking away from abstractionism and veering towards expressionism. Around the same time, his paintings were exhibited at the 26th and 27th Venice Biennale, and he started etching, a technique that he continued to use throughout his career.
In the early 1960s his work was presented at numerous national and international exhibitions in Prague, Moscow, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Berlin and New York. In 1961, with Ennio Calabria, Fernando Farulli, Alberto Gianquinto, Piero Guccione, Renzo Vespignani, and art critics Antonio Del Guercio, Dario Micacchi and Duilio Morosini, he founded Il Pro e il Contro (The Pro and the Con), an art movement aimed at countering abstractionism through figurative painting.
The themes of the journey, conquest and the abuse of power that are widely present in his sculptural work, stemmed from the artist’s reflections on a trip he made to Spain. In 1971 he won the Viareggio Prize for Fiction with the novel L’erede selvaggio (The Wild Heir). In 1976 and 1982 he was acknowledged with two major retrospectives, in Ferrara and Milan. In 1983 the Centre Georges Pompidou organized an event to showcase his sculpture and commissioned a ballet inspired by his artworks.
The 1990s saw Attardi creating important sculptures, among which I sogni del Normanno (The Dreams of the Norman) in 1992 for Palermo Airport and Ulisse (Ulysses), which was later installed in New York’s Battery Park in 1997. He died in Rome in 2006. His work is to be found in important public and private collections in Italy and abroad.