Piero Manzoni was born on 13 July 1933 in Soncino, a village in the Po Valley not far form Cremona. His father was Egisto Manzoni, Conte di Chiosca and Poggiolo. His mother, Valeria Meroni, came from one of the leading families of Soncino.
Piero Manzoni was the eldest of of five children: he had two brothers, Giuseppe and Giacomo, and two sisters, Elena and Mariuccia. He grew up in Milan, where the family resided at via Cernaia 4. His education took place at the prestigious Jesuit Liceo Leone XIII in Milan. Throughout his childhood and his youth, Manzoni spent his summer holidays in the family home at Soncino, Soprazocco (on Lake Garda) and at Albisola, a well-known seaside resort on the Ligurian riviera.
Piero Manzoni began painting at the age of seventeen. His earliest attempts, all in oils, were traditional and figurative landscapes (Savona, 1951, Albisola Marina, 1953, Santa Margherita Ligure, 1953), a self-portrait (1951, destroyed) and a portrait of his sister Elena (1952-53, destroyed). Manzoni was still very young when he and his family used to encounter daily Lucio Fontana at Albisola. He later met again Fontana among the artistic "clientèle" of the Bar Giamaica in Milan.
At Castello Sforzesco of Soncino, Piero Manzoni has his first appearance in a group show for local painters: "Fourth Market Fair and Contemporary Art Show" ("Quarta Fiera di Mercato. Mostra d'Arte Contemporanea", 11-16 August). In November, in Milan, he took part in the "Premio di pittura San Fedele", a collective exhibition in the Galleria San Fedele, a venue for Nuclear painting.
His works in 1956 are anthropomorphic subjects (hominids with big heads and extremely contracted bodies), canvases covered with tar and works bearing the imprints of ordinary everyday objects dipped in paint (keys, scissors, safety pins, pincers, buttons).
On December, at the age of twenty-three, Manzoni published the first declaration of his ideas in a manifesto, "Per la scoperta di una zona d'immagini" ("For the discovery of a zone of images"), written with Camillo Corvi-Mora, Ettore Sordini and Giuseppe Zecca. "The picture is our idea of freedom; in its space we set out on a journey of discovery and creation of images".
Piero Manzoni published the manifesto "L'arte non è vera creazione" ("Art is not true creation") for the three-man show "Manzoni Verga Sordini", which opened at the Galleria Pater in Milan (May). Manzoni reworked his conception of art in "Prolegomeni a un'attività artistica" ("Introduction to artistic activity"), "Per una pittura organica" ("Towards organic painting"), the "Manifesto of Albisola Marina".
In Milan Manzoni signed the "Manifesto contro lo stile", affiliating himself officially with the International Nuclear Movement.
In October, again with the group of the Nucleari, Manzoni partecipated in a collective show at Galleria San Fedele, Milan ("Arte Nucleare 1957"). The exhibition showed works by Enrico Baj, Franco Bemporad, Asger Jorn, Yves Klein, Arnaldo and Giò Pomodoro, Mario Rossello, Ettore Sordini, Serge Vandercam and Angelo Verga.
Also in October, the first one-man show in the Foyer of the Teatro delle Maschere.
A crucial year, 1957 concluded with the invention of the Achromes, completely white canvases covered with glue and liquid kaolin.