May – July 2023

New York Parigi Milano

9 May – 9 July 2023

The exhibition runs through the most important phases of Enrico Donati‘s creative journey between New York, Paris, and Milan, focusing on his unique and original style developed during the evolution of Surrealism, from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Donati was born in Milan in 1909 and soon he settled in New York. During the 1930s he traveled through the South-West of the United States and visited Canada. In 1939, he moved to New York to keep his family safe during the eve of the Second World War.
Enrico Donati began his artistic career in the 1940s within the American art market. In New York, he focused his work on painting and in 1944, during his first exhibition at the Passedoit Gallery, he caught the attention of André Breton. In 1945, the poet and writer dedicated an entire chapter to him in his book Le Surréalisme et la peinture.
In 1947, in Paris, Enrico Donati collaborated with Marcel Duchamp on the surrealist group’s last major public event, the “Exposition International du Surréalisme” exhibition at the Galerie Maeght. During these years, New York and Paris became the venues for other solo exhibitions by Donati, at the Durand-Ruel Galleries (1945-46-47) and the Galerie Drouant-David (1947).
Immediately after the period of artistic exchanges with the greatest protagonists of Surrealism, Donati decided to impose a geometric rigidity on his special expressiveness, sometimes very close to abstraction. The artist began to propose more gestural works, introducing the use of a mixture of paint and turpentine oil that, spread randomly on the canvas, reached a plastic consistency once dry. It was Paris again, in 1949, that welcomed his large-scale works at the Galerie Weil.
Milan is the third important city for Enrico Donati’s artistic life. His meeting with Lucio Fontana, in his studio in Corso Monforte 23, was the beginning of his involvement in the initiatives of the Spatialist group with the signing of the Manifesto del Movimento spaziale for the Television in 1952, and the manifesto Lo spazialismo e la pittura italiana nel secolo XX in 1953. In Milan, Donati showed at the Galleria del Milione in 1950 and at the Galleria del Naviglio in 1952. By the mid-1950s, Donati’s works related to both overseas abstract expressionism and European informal art. At this stage the city of New York confirms the artist at the Alexandre Iolas (’52) and Betty Parsons (’54 ’55 ’59) galleries. While during the 1960s, he started an important collaboration with the Staempfli Gallery.
In the early 1960s, the theme of the “fossil” gained his attention, becoming an iconographic synthesis in the “Fossil Cycle”, in which Donati switched from monochrome to colour, restricted to an elegant and selective range of reds and earthy tones.

I love the painting of Enrico Donati as I love a night in May” André Breton, preface to the exhibition catalogue at Passedoit Gallery, New York 1944