CONNERSMITH is pleased to present the first U.S. exhibition of works by the celebrated Tuscan painter Gualtiero Passani (1926-2019). As Passani launched his career in the 1940s, the young Italian Modernist emerged at a momentous time in European history amid the artistic inspirations of Surrealism, Cubism, Futurism, and German Expressionism. Pablo Picasso, Renato Birolli, Autoro Dazzi, Moses Levy, Ardengo Soffici, and Ottone Rosai were among his associates. By the 1950s, Passani had developed his own style, creating captivating dream-like images of figures and familiar objects in intimate scenarios composed of interlocking colors, shapes, and volumetric forms. Maximizing the capacity of color for emotional expression, he painted scenes from an imagined theater of life.
One of Passani’s most distinctive qualities as an artist was the empathy he demonstrated toward his subjects, often women, not perfect, idealized, remote versions, but women who have lived, and sometimes suffered. Many works exclusively portray female figures, whose sensual qualities the painter amplified with graceful contour lines. Some scenes include a male observer, invariably less prominent in stature than the high-heeled women commanding the situation. Thematically Passani was drawn to personalities functioning outside of mainstream society. He portrayed prostitutes, cross-dressers, alcoholics, circus performers, and curious onlookers in their orbit, with sensitivity, understanding, and touches of compassionate humor. Evoking the powerful humanity of his characters, Passani instilled them with a sense of freedom which is unique to themselves.
The Gallery is honored to collaborate with the Estate of Gualtiero Passani to share the artist’s work with a new audience.
Gualtiero Passani was born in 1926, in the Tuscan town of Carrara, where he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1943, the 17-year-old artist was taken from his family home by a German patrol unit. In custody, he was transported to Poland, then to a labor camp in Vienna, Austria. Once liberated, at the end of World War II, Passani continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna, specializing in watercolors.[i] He exhibited at modern art venues across the city before returning to Carrara, where, in 1948, at the age of 22, he established the “Sodalizio Artistico d’ Arti Figurative.”[ii] In 1950, Passani was commissioned by the Vatican to paint a series of frescoes on the life of St. Francis in the Sacristy of the Chiesa delle Grazie in Carrara.[iii]During this period, his work found favor with the President of the Italian Republic, Giovanni Gronchi, who collected his paintings and displayed them in the Presidential Palace Art Gallery.[iv] In 1954, he exhibited at the Galleria Moderna Palazzo Pitti, Florence.[v] In 1956, Passani’s work was presented at the Venice Biennale and the Rome Quadriennale.[vi] In 1971 he was awarded the Michelangelo d’oro prize at the Ducal Palace in Massa, Italy.[vii] In 2018, Passani received the Medaglia della citta di Lucca and his works were exhibited halls of the Comune of Pietrasanta.[viii] In 2019, shortly before his death, the Palazzo delle Arti, Napoli (PAN) inaugurated a showroom dedicated to Passani’s art.[ix] In 2020, the Museum of the Villa Paolina Bonaparte in Viareggio honored the artist with a retrospective exhibition.[x] In 2022 a retrospective was held at the Complesso di San Micheletto in Lucca.
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[i] Bertini, Elio. “Vicende di Gualtiero Passani e delle sue opera” in; Gualtiero Passani: L’arte nella sua vibrante passione, Edizioni d’arte (Lucca 2014) pp. 9-17. See also: Casentini, Luigi. “Al pittore Gualiero Passani la Medglia della citta di Lucca,” NOI tv Cronaca Cultura e Spettacolo, 20 gui 2018.
[ii] Pacini, Lorenzo, “Gualtiero Passani: Vita e Colore,” exh. cat. (sala delle Grasce Pietrasanta/Edizoni D’Arte/Fondazione Versilana/Commune di Pietrasanta/sTart 2018), p. 5.
[iii] Ibid., p. 5.
[iv] Gualtiero Passani: L’arte nella sua vibrante passione, Edizioni d’arte (Lucca 2014) pp.217.
[v] Ibid., 217-218.
[vi] Casentini, Luigi. “Al pittore Gualiero Passani la Medglia della citta di Lucca,” NOI tv Cronaca Cultura e Spettacolo, 20 gui 2018.
[vii] “Stamani la premiazione del Michelangelo d’oro” La Nazione, 20 giugno 1971.
[viii] Casentini, Luigi, “Al Maestro Passani la Medglia della citta,” NOI tv Cronaca Cutura e Spettacolo, 20 Giugno 2018; “Gualtiero Passani: Vita e Colore,” p. 17.
[ix] Pacini, Lorenzo. “I Colori di una Vita: Gualtiero Passani,” exh. cat. (Centro Studi d’Arte, Lucca / Museo Villa Paolina, Viareggio, 4 Ottobre 2020 al 10 Gennaio 2021) p. 14.
[x] Ibid., passim. See also: Arte al Plurale. Agosto 2019. XII Edizione. Opere di Paolo Grigò, Gianfalco Masini, Gualtiero Passani, Giancarlo Vaccarezza, Paolo Vannucchi. A cura di Lodovico Gierut. Stampa Kosana sas, Viareggio 2019.