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Norberto was a painter of naive art, known worldwide
his works that contain dozens of industrious "little monks".
Luigi Proietti, known as Norberto, was born in the close knit and charming hamlet of Spello in 1927.
He went on to immortalize the fairytale-like collection of ancient stone houses of his home town in most of his paintings: paintings that were set in delightful mediaeval villages framed by the sky and countryside.
Norberto was born into a working class family: his father was an agent in the livestock trade who also sold olives and grain and at the same time, he managed a modest trattoria. His mother helped out in the trattoria and was also a dressmaker of outfits for first communions.
As an adolescent, Norberto was sent to his uncle in Trastevere, a district of Rome, where he learned the tailoring. He returned to Spello in 1951 and opened his own tailor's shop.
By chance, one day Norberto found himself on this road as he was playing with and moulding a piece of plaster that a workman had left behind. He went on to carving and coloring it and subsequently embraced this art form with such passion that ten years later, in 1961, it became his life's work. In 1962 he held an exhibition in Luxembourg and shortly after he participated at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto.
Norberto's art is set within the naive style and the major promoter of this movement, Cesare Zavattini, became the strongest supporter of Norberto's work. Zavettini campaigned to have the artist receive the National Oscar for Naive Art, the Suzzarra Prize, in 1971. The label "naïve" does not entirely do justice to Norberto's style, however, and it is actually preferable to refer to it as drawing on the traditions of the primitive style.
The stylistic trademark that has particularly characterised the artist is the use of his "little monks". Tiny, overactive figures that fill the paintings like busy little bees tell of a world of prayer and work, of contact with nature and manual work. Norberto's passion for the little monks grew out of his admiration for Saint Francis of Assisi who was the artist's moral and intellectual inspiration, appreciated for his ability to intertwine the intimate beauty of things with the creator, animals and nature in all its complexity. The simplicity of the monks that inhabit a dimension of daily life, work and devotion evokes the fairytale of a world finally reduced to human proportions, of a world in which we are obliged to feel reconciled with ourselves.
Norberto died in Spello on August 9, 2009.
There is a museum in Spello dedicated to his works. Il Museo Norberto houses many of his works and a gallery of various other works.
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