Click on photos to enlarge.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Antonio Donghi

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        
Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same,       
And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black.  
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back.        
I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.

                                     --The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
Every artist has two roads to follow. Except in rare cases, he or she must choose between them. One leads the artist to create what is highly popular based almost solely on content. Here the artist's success depends as much on the breadth and intensity of marketing as on the work itself. The vast majority of artists choose this path. That therefore demands that if they wish to achieve any degree of success, they must find some means by which to elevate themselves and their work above the pack of thousands of other artists doing roughly the same type of art with only slight differences as to painting style and content.

Circus, 1928, Antonio Donghi
The second path corresponds to Robert Frost's A Road Not Taken (top). We might term it the "path of most resistance," in which the artist strives to create that which is new and different, and thus appears strange and foreboding to the vast majority of others. Both career paths are toll roads. The first has a very low toll to be paid at dozens of points throughout the artist's largely level, uninspiring cruise to the end. The second demands a relatively high initial toll involving figuratively (if not literally) an uphill struggle against obscurity, demoralization, and privation. Frost's "all the difference" suggests that, though the way may be steep and littered with obstacles as the result of being "less traveled by," being steep indicates an ascent to a higher level and the ultimate artists' goal of becoming "important" along with some degree of financial success in later life. Of course, the trick is to get to the "top" while still alive and well and able to enjoy that success. However, once at the top, the artist must also avoid the off-ramps leading back down to obscurity.
It seems strange that the artist looks older in the 1924
self-portrait than he does in the one painted some nineteen
years later. I guess there's no accounting for artists' vanity.
The Italian painter, Antonio Donghi took "the road less traveled by," achieved a degree of recognition among his peers, but seems to have missed class the day they taught about "off ramps." Donghi was born in Rome, in 1897. He began is art studies at the age of eleven at Rome's Instituto di Belle Arti, graduating some eight years later in 1916 just in time to fight in WW I. After the war, Donghi continued his studies in Venice and Florence. Portraits such as Baptizing (below) soon established him as one of Italy's leading artists in the neoclassical painting style so popular in the 1920s.
Baptizing, Antonio Donghi
The Juggler, 1936,
Antonio Donghi
Donghi's paintings possess a gravity and an archaic stiffness which, along with an extremely refined technique, strong com-position, spatial clarity, and popular subject matter, were seen as reminiscent of Piero della Francesca. Critics likened his work to that of Henri Rousseau and Georges Seurat, whose scenes of contemporary life are similarly touched with a subtle humor. They absolutely adored his series of circus themed paintings such as Circus, from 1928, and The Juggler (right) from 1936. in 1927 Donghi won First Prize in an International Exhibit at the Carnegie Institute in Pitts-burgh. Donghi's critical success also led to no small degree of popular success as well, as seen in his many portraits from this period, most quite similar to the style seen in his Baptizing (above).

The Seahorse Fountain, Antonio Donghi
Vase of Flowers,
Antonio Donghi.
However, by the 1940s, Antonio Donghi's work, such as The Seahorse Fountain (above), had moved far outside the mainstream of modernism. His still-lifes often consisted of a small vase of flowers (left), depicted with a disarming symmetry usually seen only in naïve art. Donghi's reputation began to declined, although he continued to exhibit regularly. In his last years he concentrated mainly on land-scapes, painted in a style that empha-sizes linear patterns. Longhi had veered off the high road, which by that time, was leading toward Expressionism and more alarmingly for Donghi, Abstract Expres-sionism. He died in Rome in 1963 at the age of sixty-six.

Casolare (cottage), 1955 , Antonio Donghi

Little Girl Reading, Antonio Donghi
(You know you're slipping when you
face the model the wrong way.)


No comments:

Post a Comment