An anti-fascist, atheist and member of the banned Italian Communist Party, Guttuso saw art as means of social commentary.
Guttuso rejected the academic principles of art, putting free figures in space and experimenting with colour. He associated naturalism with the facist establishment – who favoured Nazi Aesthetics – yet deemed abstract painting too formal for his practice. Instead he allied himself with Corrente, an artistic movement which stood for free and open attitudes.
Born in Sicily to a peasant family, Guttuso experienced economic hardship under the facist government. In his early career he moved to Milan where he developed a style of 'social art', centred around a moral or political message. This became a defining theme in his work and over the next 40 years he used paint to champion his agricultural heritage, highlight the horrors of the Second World War and criticise the government. His work came to be defined as 'expressionist realism' – a style adopted by a surge of Italian artists in the post-war years.