10 Things to Know About Piero Fornasetti

10 Things to Know About Piero Fornasetti

with Specialist, Philip Smith

Specialist, Philip Smith shares the top facts to know about Italian artist and designer, Piero Fornasetti.

 

1. Fornasetti rejected the path that was laid out for him


Born to a wealthy middle-class Milanese family, Piero Fornasetti was groomed to take over the family’s entrepreneurial pursuits as the eldest son. However, by the age of ten Piero was already displaying great promise as an artist, producing complex artistic pieces: landscapes, portraits, architectural elements, and even some hot air balloon design.

 

P FORNASETTI
PIERO FORNASETTI (ITALIAN 1913-1988)
'MALACHITE CUBE' SIDE TABLE, 1950S
Sold for £4,000 incl premium | MODERN MADE | Oct 2020

 

2. Academia was not for him

Despite having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, Fornasetti found it hard to follow the rules and regulations of any school due to his rebellious nature. In 1932, he enrolled at the Accademia di Brera, but was expelled for insubordination two years later. He later enrolled in the Scuola Superiore of Arts Applied to Industry at Castello Sforzesco.

 

3. He was never limited by his medium and worked prolifically 


Fornasetti has one of the largest outpours of works of the twentieth century, producing over 13,000 works. His interests were varied, and he produced a plethora of different objects: from tables to paintings, from lamps to waistcoats, from umbrella stands to ceramic plates.


 

P FORNASETTI
PIERO FORNASETTI (1913-1988)
'STRUMENTI MUSICALE' THREE FOLD LACQUER SCREEN, CIRCA 1955
Sold for £5,000 incl premium | Decorative Arts | Apr 2014

 

4. His great skill secured him high profile clients from an early stage


Fornasetti started to study engraving and printing techniques from the early 1930s and established the Fornasetti Art Printshop. Some of the greatest artists of the period took note of his skill and he began printing artist books and lithographs for clients such as Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Bo, Fabrizio Clerici, and Lucio Fontana.

 

5. He was good friends and colleagues with designer Gio Ponti 


Fornasetti and Ponti met in 1940, when Fornasetti was publishing his work in the magazine Domus, which Ponti edited. This resulted in Ponti commissioning Fornasetti to produce a series of almanacs until 1942, and then following the Second World War the pair would go on to produce important interior design projects for a variety of places such as houses, ship cabins, and cinemas.


 

P FORNASETTI
PIERO FORNASETTI (ITALIAN 1913-1988)
TABLE LAMP, 1950S
Sold for £875 incl premium | MODERN MADE | Nov 2019

 

6. Italian visual history was a big influence 


Fornasetti found much influence in his country’s culture and visual history. Neoclassical themes are present in much of his works, particularly with architectural features making numerous appearances. Painters Giotto and Piero della Francesca, along with Renaissance frescoes and paintings from Pompeii also influence much of his work.

 

7. His work on theatre sets had a lasting effect 


Fornasetti not only produces a vast array of works for sale, he also created the sets for Albert Camus's play Caligula directed by Giorgio Strehler in 1945. This experience remained visible in much of Fornasetti’s work, with a clear sense of theatricality and whimsy in much of his work.

 

P FORNASETTI
PIERO FORNASETTI (ITALIAN 1913-1988)
'RING OF FLOWERS' TABLE TOP, 1950S
Sold for £1,250 incl premium | MODERN MADE | Nov 2019

 

8. Opera singer Lina Cavalieri was his muse 


One of his most iconic series, The Tema e Variazioni series, was based on a magazine illustration of the opera singer Lina Cavalieri. Cavalieri was a renowned classical beauty, and Fornasetti produced hundreds of images of her face throughout his career. There are estimated between 400 and 500 pieces from this series alone.

 

9. Galleria dei Bibliofili


Throughout the 1970s, Fornasetti ran a gallery in the 1970s where he developed his painting and artistic side to adapt and keep up with the times, exhibiting his own new creations along with that of some of his contemporaries.

 

P FORNASETTI
PIERO FORNASETTI (1913-1988)
'JERUSALEM' PATTERN HOSTESS CART, 1950S
Sold for £938 incl premium | Decorative Arts | Apr 2017

 

10. His legacy continues through his son

Following Piero Fornasetti’s death in 1988, his son Barnaba Fornasetti continues his legacy, who acts as the creative director for the atelier created in the 1950s. Barnaba continues to represent his father’s ideals and style, helping to educate clients about his work.

 


 

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