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Fornasetti: 100 Years Of Solitude

by Hollie Moat
‘I was born a painter,’ Piero Fornasetti once declared. ‘I began at the age of ten.’ During a lifetime spent creating more than 11,000 works of art, the Milanese artist developed a visual vocabulary that remains instantly identifiable: bold, whimsical and always original.

The five things you need to know about Piero Fornasetti


1. Despite his success, he had an uneasy relationship with the art establishment
Piero Fornasetti was born on November 10, 1913, and attended the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan before being expelled for insubordination. His daughter, Barbara, later described her father as ‘laughing at the world from behind his moustache his whole life’. This irreverence is at the root of all of his work.

2. He liked older women
Many of Fornasetti’s pieces feature the face of the 19th-century opera singer Lina Cavalieri. The artist had found a picture of the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’ in an old magazine. ‘What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?’ he explained. ‘I don’t know. I began to make them and I never stopped.’

3. He was an artist with a secret
Fornasetti was always secretive about his printing technique. The same effect can be easily achieved today at the click of a button in Photoshop, but Fornasetti used centuries-old transfer methods, in which the design is printed in a silk-screen process onto a film, which is then fired onto a ceramic blank. No two of his designs are identical.

4. He wasn’t in it for the glory
Fornasetti never signed any of his pieces. ‘He regards his work as manufactured pieces, not art,’ Norman Blumenthal, an importer who worked with the artist, said. Indeed, Fornasetti’s work has often been used as fodder in the debate over the distinction between ‘decoration’ and ‘design’.

5. He has become an unlikely hero on Pinterest
Fornasetti’s strong, graphic visuals translate beautifully to the image-sharing social media platform. There are countless boards with thousands of followers dedicated to the artist’s quirky designs, including a board called ‘My Crush for Piero Fornasetti ’. 
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