“I am looking for a non-eloquent painting, immobile and of atmosphere. I never actively intervene against the object; I can feel the magic of its presence.”
The sumptuous canvases of Italian realist painter Domenico Gnoli (1933–1970) lend gravity to obscure details of everyday objects and scenarios. Lingering over the scalloped hem of a blouse, the knot of a necktie, or a groomed hairline, Gnoli captured the mannerisms of postwar Italy. His uncanny style brings together a disenchanted gaze and a fetishism for craftmanship and adornment. He tightly cropped his subjects, often capturing them so vividly as to render them abstract. Gnoli mixed sand and marble debris into his pigments, giving his paintings a texture that contradicts their clean illusionism. The encrusted surfaces suggest the quality of fresco, recalling the traditions of fifteenth-century Italy. Eschewing the doctrines of abstraction, Pop, and Conceptualism, Gnoli’s work was in its time boldly anachronistic.
Gnoli’s life was brief but prolific. Born in Rome to a ceramicist and an art historian, he spent his early years between the capital and Spoleto, Italy. At 16, he began studying engraving under painter and printmaker Carlo Alberto Petrucci, and two years later he was exhibiting his work alongside such established artists as Giacomo Manzù and Giorgio Morandi. At 19, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, but soon left to travel in Paris and London. In his twenties, he spent time in New York; he authored a children’s book that was published by Simon and Schuster, designed scenography for the Old Vic in London and the Schauspielhaus in Zurich, and worked as an illustrator for such publications as Sports Illustrated, Life, and Horizons. He married sculptor Yannick Vu in 1963, and they lived between Majorca, Spain, and Rome. In 1968, Gnoli’s work was included in Documenta IV in Kassel and the Venice Biennale, as well as exhibitions at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hanover, Germany. He died of cancer two years later at the age of 36—just three months after his enthusiastically received first exhibition at Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. He developed his signature style of painting in the decade before his New York debut. Posthumously, he garnered widespread acclaim. In 2021, the Fondazione Prada in Milan organized a major retrospective dedicated to Gnoli’s work.
- Domenico Gnoli: Detail of a Detail
- Luxembourg & Dayan, New York
May 3 - July 18, 2018
Domenico Gnoli: Detail of a Detail (2018) was a solo exhibition of the Italian artist at Luxembourg & Dayan. Internationally admired theater and opera director Robert Carsen, who has cited Gnoli’s work among his inspirations, created the installation design for the exhibition.
Domenico Gnoli died in 1970 at the age of 36, months after his enthusiastically received first exhibition at Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, leaving behind an arresting, mysterious oeuvre comprising paintings, drawings, prints, and theatrical set designs. He developed his signature approach in the...Read More
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