Antonio Donghi died on July 19, 1963, in Rome where he had been born on March 16, 1897.

In Rome, he attended the Institute of Fine Arts.

After a short Cubist phase, he became part of a group of artists that also included Virgilio Guidi, Amerigo Bartoli, Carlo Socrate, Riccardo Francalancia, Francesco Trombadori, who were active in Rome in the 1920s. In contrast to the Formalist trend of the day, they returned to a clear, defined form without shadows.

This period of the “Italian 20th century” is often discussed too generally. We should make distinctions between the different personalities, such as Antonio Donghi, with his “rhetoric of simplicity” in contrast, for example, to that of Mario Sironi, with his “rhetoric of magniloquence.”

The essential components of Donghi’s style can already be gleaned in his “Washerwomen Putting out the Sheets” from his early years, when he brought to mind the Dutch masters, as seen here.

These components are even clearer in “Canarino” in the scenes of the circus and home life, which he painted around 1930.

His 1931 paintings the “Flowers” and “Boat Trip” draw inspiration from eighteenth-century artists; and his admirable “Juggler” is from 1936.

For this and for other paintings, including portraits, the “Figures of a Young Woman” from 1932 is particularly remarkable; Lavagnino described them as “carefully studied and dynamic compositions” executed with a “fifteenth-century style technique honed to make stand out in the space with metaphysical prominence.”

Many others have written, if only briefly, about Antonio Donghi, including Cesare Brandi, Alfredo Mezio, Virgilio Guzzi, Emilio Cecchi, Leonardo Sinisgalli and Leo Longanesi.

In 1927 he was awarded the First Honorable Mention from the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.

Still, these early signs of esteem for an artist seemingly isolated from the world did not truly break through his isolation and the silence about him.

Donghi’s fame was tied to a close circle in Rome, as an exceptional case, an example of the “candor” of cultured, refined primitivism.

The large posthumous exhibition put on by Nuova Pesa in November 1963, reopened the case of Antonio Donghi, so to speak, one consisting of the “Plastic Values” that emerged in the 1920s in Italy with the “return to tradition” movement.

But during his life, Donghi was never truly understood by critics Especially in the late 1920s, there was scant attention to him before he was rediscovered and appreciated only in modern times.

Piccoli saltimbanchi

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