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Enrico Donati

 (1909 - 2008)
Enrico Donati was active/lived in New York / Italy.  Enrico Donati is known for abstract expressionist and surreal painting.

Enrico Donati

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Enrico Donati
Enrico Donati, a surrealist and abstract expressionist painter, was born in Milan, Italy in 1909 and died in Manhattan on April 25, 2008.  He was known for his association with the surrealist movement of the 1940's, but his artwork continued to transform itself through the many trends that have occurred during his long career. 

In Italy he attended the Universita degli Studi in Pavia where he studied economics.  In 1934, he moved to the United States settling in New York where he studied at the New School for Social Research and the Art Students' League.

Considered the surviving dean of the Surrealist Movement and a member of the New York School, Donati painted with Ernst, Matta and Tanguy in the thirties and forties, and in particular with Andre Breton, regarded by many to be the grand master of Surrealism.

He helped organize the Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme in Paris in 1947 where he exhibited three of his pieces. The Surrealists were known to avoid presenting or representing reality, and put the emphasis on invention and creativity by uncovering the poetic aspect of life with its kaleidoscopic multidimensional images, using reality only to enhance imagination.

Donati survived the decline of Surrealism in the late 1940's by adapting his style to current art trends as he worked with new materials and textures throughout the 1950's.

One trend with which he became involved was Abstract Expressionism, which originated in the 1940s, and became popular in the 1950s.  It was a movement in which artists typically applied paint, rapidly and with force, to large canvases, in an effort to show feelings and emotions. 

Paint might be applied with large brushes, sometimes dripping or even throwing it onto canvas.  Abstract Expressionist work is characterized by a strong dependence on what appears to be accident and chance, although it is actually highly planned.

Donati held a retrospective at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1961 and went on to exhibit at the Betty Parsons Gallery with other forerunners of American Abstract Expressionism: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Jackson Pollock. It was at this time that Donati created some of his most inventive and extraordinary work, some of which was featured in a survey exhibition at the Alter & Gil Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, in January 2000.

He has held many teaching positions and has been an active lecturer, while continuing to add to his artistic repertoire. From 1960 to 1962 he was a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, and from 1962 to 1972 a Member of the Yale University Council for the Arts and Architecture.

He has had seventy-five one-man shows, among them an exhibit of new paintings at the Maxwell Davidson Gallery (57th St., New York) in the fall of 1997.  Donati's work is held in collections throughout the world, and his work has appeared in over 300 articles and publications, two hard cover books, and he has participated in several Biennials.

Moving into his nineties, Donati worked almost every day. From his studio overlooking Central Park, he continued painting as he had done  for almost six decades.  Since his arrival in the Untied States in 1942, he has recorded the evolution of American art over the past sixty years, including the Surrealism of the 1940's, Abstract Expressionism, Native American symbols, and even Pop Art, all evoked in his knife or brush strokes.


1909    Born in Milan, Italy
1928    Enrolled at University of Pavia
1929    Received Doctorate in Sociology
1933    Moved to Paris; joined a group of composers
1934    American Southwest and Canada to collect Native American and Eskimo artifacts       
1935    Moved to New York
1936    Returned to Paris.  Enrolled in art school at the Ecole de la Rue de Berri
1940    Moved back to New York
1942    First show at New School of Social Research
            Met Andre Breton and others of the Surrealist movement
1945    Naturalized American citizen
Collaborated with Marcel Duchamp on installation of window display at Brentano's store in New York
1947    Helped Decamp organize Exposition Internationale du Surrealism at Gallery Maeght, Paris
1947-49Worked in Surrealist geometrical style
1948      Experimented in Letters series
1949      Began Moonscape series
1954      First show at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York
              Member of Jury of Fullbright Scholarship Program
1955      Traveled to India, Japan, Hong Kong
1956      Began Sargon series
1960      Fossil series
1962      Visiting lecturer at Yale University
1963      Member of Jury of Fulbright Scholarship Program
1968      Started Anti-magnetic series
1970      Chairman National Committee, University Art Museum of California, Berkley
1972      Chairman National Committee, University Art Museum of California, Berkley
1978      Began Coptic Walls Series
1979      Visited Egypt
1987       Zabriskie Gallery, New York holds one-man exhibition of Surrealism geometrical works from 1947
1989      One-man exhibition at Zabriskie Gallerie, Paris
1997      Retrospective at Boca Raton Museum, Florida
2008      Death on April 25 in Manhattan, NY

Solo Exhibitions

1942    New School for Social Research Passedoit Gallery, New York
1944    The Arts Club of Chicago; G. Place Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Passedoit Gallery, New York
1945    Durand - Ruel Galleries, New York
1946    Durand - Ruel Galleries, New York
1947    Durand - Ruel Galleries, New York; Galerie Drouant - David, Paris; Gallery Studio, Chicago, Illinois; Krouse College, Syracuse University, New York
1949    Durand - Ruel Galleries, New York; A. Weil, Paris
1950     Galleria Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan; Galleria del Milione, Milan;  Paul Rosenberg Gallery, New York; Galleria dell'Obelisco, Rome, Italy
1952    Alexandre Iolas Gallery, New York; Galleria d'arte del Cavallino, Venice, Italy;
Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy
1953    Galleria d'arte del Cavallino, Venice, Italy
1954    Betty Parsons Gallery, New York
1955    Betty Parsons Gallery, New York
1956    Galleria del Naviglio, Milan
1957    Betty Parsons Gallery, New York
1958    Lowe Art Gallery, Syracuse University, New York
1959    Betty Parsons Gallery, New York
1960    Betty Parsons Gallery, New York
1961    Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
1962    Neue Galerie im Kunstlerhaus, Munich, Germany; Staempfli Gallery, New York
1963    Staempfli Gallery, New York
1964    J.L. Hudson Gallery, Detroit, Michigan; Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 
1965    Obelisk Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1966    Staempfli Gallery , New York; J.L. Hudson Gallery, Detroit, Michigan
1968    Staempfli Gallery, New York
1970    Staempfli Gallery, New York
1972    Staempfli Gallery, New York
1974    Staempfli Gallery, New York
1976    Staempfli Gallery, New York
1977    Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles, California; Minnesota Museum of Art, St. Paul;
    The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; Fairweather Hardin Gallery, Chicago, Illinois; Tennessee Fine Arts Center, Nashville
1978    Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, Iowa; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Wildenstein Art Center, Houston, Texas
1979    Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles, California; Norton Gallery of Art,  West Palm Beach, Florida; Osuna Gallery, Washington, D.C.; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
1980    Palm Springs Desert Museum, California; International Art Fair, Grand Palais, FIAC, Paris
1982    Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1984    Carone Gallery, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York
1985    Georges Fall, Paris
1986    Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York; Louis Newman Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA
1987    Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York; Zabriskie Gallery, New York
1989    Galerie Zabriskie, Paris; Louis Newman Gallery, Beverly Hills, California
1990    Carone Gallery, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
1991    Louis Newman Gallery, Beverly Hills, California
1992    Carone Gallery, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
1994    Carone Gallery, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Louis Newman Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA
1995    Horwitch Newman Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona; Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York
1996    Horwitch Newman Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona
1997    Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York   
1998    Alter & Gil, Los Angeles, California
2000    Alter & Gil, Los Angeles, California
2001    Galerie yoramgil, Los Angeles, California
2002    Galerie yoramgil, Los Angeles, California
2004    Gallerie Les Yeux  Fertiles, Paris; Galerie yoramgil, Los Angeles, California
2005    Galerie yoramgil, Los Angeles, California; Gallerie Les Yeux  Fertiles, Paris


Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
The Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland
Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium
University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan
Doane College, Crete, Nebraska
Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Museum of International Center of Aesthetic Research, Turin, Italy
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The Johns - Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
The Lowe Museum, University of Miami, Florida
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT - List Visual Art Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts
University of Michigan Art Gallery, Ann Arbor
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Neuberger Museum of Art, State University of New York at Purchase
Newark Museum, New Jersey
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderne, Milan, Italy
Orlando Museum of Art, Florida
Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, California
Portland Art Museum, Oregon
Rockefeller University, New York
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderne, Rome, Italy
Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida
Arturo Schwarz Surrealist Foundation, Milan, Italy
Seattle Art Museum, Washington
Swarthmore College Art Collection, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Tacoma Art Museum, Washington
University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery
Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi
Vassar Collage, Poughkeepsie, New York
Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, DC  (Closed,  Sold collection to Oklahoma City Art Museum)
Washington University Gallery of Art, St. Louis, Missouri
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut

Detailed factual information was provided in March of 2006 by Kathleen Hill
Frank J. Prial, "Enrico Donati, 99, Surrealist Artist", The New York Times obituaries, 4/26/2008

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About  Enrico Donati

Born:  1909 - Milan, Italy
Died:   2008 - Manhattan, New York
Known for:  abstract expressionist and surreal painting

Essays referring to
Enrico Donati

Abstract Expressionism