Italian, 1913 - 1988
Fornasetti was an eclectic artist, actively involved in a variety of aesthetic disciplines, including painting, drawing, graphic design and product design. From an early age, he was relentlessly drawing, creating an impressive kaleidoscope of motifs conjured by a profuse imagination. In 1932, he enrolled at the Accademia di Brera but was expelled two years later for insubordination. Clashing with the academic limits of the traditional institution, he claimed, “Nobody in the workshops where I went could teach me. I learned from books, lithography and etching, all this before the founding of specializing schools”. He experimented with many engraving techniques and became a master in printing execution. His style progressively refined, inspired by Italian culture and artists such as Piero Della Francesca and Giotto’s artworks, Piranesi’s etchings, Palladio’s architecture, Pirandello’s plays, and Pompeii frescoes.
By the 1940s, his signature style became recognisable with witty figurative illustrations, showing love for theatricality and symbolism, focusing on precise drawing and graphic lines. His recurrent motifs included fantastic architectures, card games, acrobats, harlequins, romantic ruins, impressive obelisks and trompe-l’œil. A decisive point in his career was meeting Gio Ponti, a renowned Milanese architect, who encouraged his intuition to produce everyday-life objects to bring art into ordinary people’s homes. “Beauty, by its very nature, is intended for all and must not be reserved for a limited circle of initiates”, Fornasetti proclaimed. He focused on using distinctive illustrations that can be deployed on any surface and thus created countless versions of the same mass-produced objects. Each item is a conversation piece, a transfiguring decor, a vision to contemplate, an invitation to imagine, but at the same time an object to be used.
In the 1950s, Piero Fornasetti founded his atelier in Milan that bears his name and achieved international recognition. Today, it is under the artistic direction of his son Barnaba who has continued his father’s work since his death.