Enrico Donati

Italian / American, 1909 - 2008


Fossil Series: 3001 BC  , Oil and sand on canvas, 1962, 35 x 45 inches

Fossil Series: 3001 BC, Oil and sand on canvas, 1962, 35 x 45 inches

Enrico Donati produced work for a full six decades of life, and was constantly transforming in style and technique throughout the years. Though the origins of his illustrious career were rooted in his early Surrealistic work, Donati’s name and paintings survived the demise of the movement, and he went on to continue to create, innovate and inform the field of painting in many other realms. He has had at least 75 one-man shows, in addition to participating in an incredible volume of group exhibitions. André Breton himself, one of the grand masters of Surrealism, said about Donati’s work, "I love the paintings of Enrico Donati as I love a night in May.” Donati was born in Italy, and had an extensive and varied education, beginning with his first degree, which was in Economics from Italy’s Universita degli Studi in Pavia. He then moved to Paris with his wife and two children, and began to pursue art, studying at the highly rigorous École de la rue de Berri. This type of schooling was extremely traditional and technical, and would go on to serve him in the various forms of painting that he would subsequently pursue.

In 1939, the entire family moved to New York City due to the growing tensions in Europe. This move placed him in the midst of some of the greatest European and American painters and sculptors of the age, many of whom had fled their home countries as well.

Once in New York, Donati began a new course of artistic study, enrolling at both the New School for Social Research and the Art Students' League. During his first solo exhibition, held at Manhattan’s New School for Social Research, the legendary art historian Lionello Venturi took an interest in his work, and introduced him to André Breton. When Breton laid eyes on Donati’s paintings, he immediately proclaimed him a Surrealist, and took him under his wing, helping to launch his career as one of the youngest in a group of heavy hitters such as Ernst and Tanguy. As Surrealism began to die out, Donati too began to shift styles. He landed at Betty Parsons Gallery, and exhibited his a new strain of abstract works alongside some of the greatest AbEx artists of the time, including Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Jackson Pollock. His imaginative mental landscapes made a splash, and his name took off in this new movement. Donati’s work is held in public and private collections all around the world, and has appeared in hundreds of articles, publications and hard cover books. He has participated in several Biennials and has been a guest lecturer across the country, having a particularly strong relationship with Yale’s school of Art and Architecture.