Francesco Messina was born in Linguaglossa, in the province of Catania in a very poor family. Raised in Genoa where he studied and lived until the age of thirty-two, he moved from here to Milan. It is considered by critics among the greatest figurative sculptors of the Italian twentieth century, together with Giacomo Manzù, Arturo Martini, Marino Marini and Felice Mina. He is the author of some of the major monuments of the twentieth century Italian: Santa Caterina da Siena (1961/2), located on the Lungotevere of Castel Sant'Angelo (depicting the singer and actress Maria Sole, used by Messina as a model); the Via Crucis of San Giovanni Rotondo; the dying horse of the RAI; the Monument to Pius XII in the Basilica of St. Peter. His works appear in the most prestigious museums in the world: Bern, Zurich, Gothenburg, Oslo, Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Venice, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Washington, Tokyo.
From 1922 he began to regularly exhibit his works at the Venice International Art Biennial and between 1926 and 1929 he participated in the exhibitions of the artistic group Il Novecento Italiano in Milan. In 1932 he moved to Milan, where he obtained after a national competition, in 1934 the chair of sculpture at the Brera Academy of which he became, after only two years, the director.
The new Regisole (1937) in front of the Cathedral of Pavia
In those years Carlo Carrà writes about him: "the sculpture of Francesco Messina is characterized by a simple and grandiose making and by an idealistic and classic procedure, able to give life to forms that remain as" ideal images ". (Carlo Carrà, Francesco Messina sculptor, Galleria Milano, March 1929).
In the thirties he took part in many important group exhibitions of Italian art in Barcelona, Berlin, Bern, Gothenburg, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Sao Paulo, Zurich.
In 1934 he executed Giobbe, a bronze sculpture, today preserved in the Collection of Contemporary Art of the Cathedral of Ravello.
In 1935 he executed the great monument to Christopher Columbus in the city of Chiavari.
In 1936 he was appointed director of the Brera Academy, a post that he would maintain until 1944.
In 1937 he performed for the city of Pavia the equestrian monument, called "Regisole", in memory of another Roman monument dedicated to Emperor Antoninus Pius and destroyed by French soldiers in 1796. In the same year he created the Portrait of Salvatore Quasimodo, bust in bronze.
In 1938 Giorgio de Chirico in Rome and Salvatore Quasimodo in Turin presented two of his personal exhibitions. Sculpting the monumental group in marble of San Carlo bearing the pardon to the hospice deputies for the Ospedale Maggiore of Niguarda in Milan.
In 1942 he won the Sculpture Award at the XXIII International Art Biennial of Venice, where he held a personal exhibition with fifteen sculptures and seventeen drawings. In 1943 he was appointed Academic of Italy.
When the Fascist regime fell, it was temporarily removed from the Academy, simply because it was its director during the Fascist period, but regaining its professorship as early as 1947.
Also in 1947 he took part in the exhibition of sculpture and graphics in Buenos Aires in the Muller Gallery, receiving considerable success. In 1949 he exhibited at the 3rd Sculpture International in Philadelphia together with Marino Marini and Picasso.
In 1956 he participated with a personal exhibition at the XXVIII Venice Biennale.
In 1963 he executed the great monument to Pius XII for the Basilica of San Pietro in Rome and the bust of Pietro Mascagni for the Teatro alla Scala. In the same year in Florence he was awarded the Michelangelo Prize for sculpture.
In 1966 he executed the Dying Horse for RAI on commission, which will become the symbol of the public radio and television company and which is exhibited at the entrance to the main office in Rome.
Romantic, 1973 ca. (Cariplo Foundation)
In 1968 he executed the monument to Pius XI for the Milan Cathedral.
In the early seventies he was assigned the Sala Borgia of the Vatican Gallery of Paul VI, dedicated to contemporary sacred art, as the site of a permanent exhibition of twenty works of sacred subject.
In 1974 the Civico museo-studio Francesco Messina was opened in Milan in the ancient deconsecrated church of San Sisto al Carrobbio. In what will be until his death the official study of the artist, he permanently exhibits about eighty sculptures (plaster, polychrome terracottas, bronzes, waxes) and about thirty graphic works (lithographs, pastels, watercolors, pencil drawings) donated to the Municipality from Milan.
In 1978 he took part in two major exhibitions in the Soviet Union at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Ermitage in Leningrad which then opened dedicated rooms thanks to the donation of about 40 works of sculpture and as many of graphics.
In 1981 in the former church of San Francesco in Pordenone there is an exhibition of unpublished drawings and at the same time a sculptural exhibition at the Palazzo Ragazzoni-Flangini-Bili di Sacile.
Between 1984 and 1986 his sculptures were exhibited at the Theseus Tempel in Vienna, at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington and at the Gallery Universe in Tokyo.