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October 11, 2005

Popular Artists (1): Pino

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

This posting is the first of what I plan as an occasional series dealing with artists who seem to be important in the gallery scene yet tend to be ignored by the Art Establishment for reasons valid or otherwise.

I'm not sure how this will evolve. I'll certainly include artists whose work I like, but my present plan also calls for presenting some artists I'm not sure about and maybe even a few of those whose paintings I can't stand.

Here are some of my biases (which I'll probably repeat from time to time for future Blowhards readers): I'm an amateur painter with a degree in commercial art, and therefore I'm a pushover for artists who are also good technicians -- folks who can accomplish what I can't. This means I like representational -- especially figurative -- art. And I prefer paintings that fall on the side of draftsmanship as opposed to colorism. To give a rough example, contrary to how I'm "supposed to think," I prefer the early Monet to the late Monet. Heretical? So be it.


As I pursue my study of artists active since 1960 or thereabouts, I find it striking that many of what I consider the better ones were (surprise!) once commercial artists. An extreme case is Everett Raymond Kinstler who painted several official presidential portraits, yet got his start in comic books.

This posting's featured artist followed such a path, making his name painting cover art for romance novels, then switching to fine arts when he (probably) got sick and tired of doing endless variations of babes in the arms of hunks.

To set the scene, below is an example of the sort of art you're likely to find in a gallery that carries the work of Pino. (Actually the name is Pino Daeni. He was born Giuseppi Dangelico in Bari, Italy, 8 November 1939. I don't know when or why he changed his name, but his son Max (Massimo) retains the Dangelico last name.)


Pino's biographical information is sketchy. Most information on the Web doesn't go far beyond what's on his site. In a nutshell, somewhat against his father's wishes he went to Milan to study art, supporting himself doing commercial projects. When he was around 40 he moved his family to the U.S. where he felt there was more opportunity than in Italy. Much of his commercial work here was in the form of cover art for romance paperbacks, a kind of continuation of the book illustration he did before leaving Italy.

Fabio cover.jpg
Book cover by Pino

The book cover shown above is from an Italian site. The hunk depicted might look familiar because the model was probably the well-known male model Fabio who Pino came across when Fabio was still an unknown; Pino used Fabio on lots of covers to their mutual financial benefit.

He submitted some sample paintings to Scottsdale's May Gallery in 1992. This work was well-received and he was able to make the transition from commercial art to fine art painting. His Web site biography indicates that he was influenced by the likes of John Singer Sargent and Joaquin Sorolla.


Here is a sampling of work done in the last five years:

The Dancer.jpg
"The Dancer"

Pino signing for fan.jpg
Pino doing a signing.

Note "The Dancer" in the background.

Afternoon Stroll.jpg
"Afternoon Stroll"

Beaches and mothers-daughters are common Pino themes.


Another mother-daughter painting, different setting.

The Professor.jpg
"The Professor"

Pino also can paint men.

Now for the finale...



The illustrations above ought to offer a fair idea as to the impact Pinos’s work gives the viewer. Original paintings and Giclées seen in a gallery can be riveting even if you might not care for the subject-matter. His technique simply overpowers most competing paintings in the battle for the viewer’s attention.

I saw some original Pinos at the Galleria di Sorrento in Caesar’s Forum last fall. (Full disclosure: while there I bought a copy of his book Pino: Contemporary Realism which he was kind enough to autograph.)

Original Pinos tend to feature plenty of impasto (thick paint) on backgrounds, clothing and other non-flesh parts of the painting. As the examples show, these areas are usually sketchily painted, but with enough detail to seem real enough when first glanced. But this sketchiness doesn’t much matter because the focus is on the human form depicted –- the face especially, if it is full view.

The face(s) of the main subject(s) are painted thinly – no impasto. As a matter of fact, I get the impression that he masks off the face and other key fleshy parts before attacking the remainder of the painting with loose brushwork and plenty of thick paint. And of course faces receive the finest detailing and small-brush work; this textural contrast and detail leads the viewer to focus on these parts of the painting.

One peculiarity found in many Pino paintings is the use of a bright red as a flesh undertone and as accents to fleshy areas. Occasionally this can be found on other parts of the painting too. At times this strikes me as being overdone, but it is usually effective in giving his works a distinctive "look" that the casual viewer might not consciously notice, yet picks up on nevertheless.

Most of his paintings feature attractive young women -- often the same women again and again, because he seems to have a set of favorite models. However, he does sometimes paint men and older women as well as the occasional landscape.

The commentary in the book mentioned above points out that Pino’s subjects tend to be shown in a detached, meditative state.

When more than one person is shown, aside perhaps from a few mother and child combinations, the people are captured at a moment when their attention is diverted from one another. This psychological undertone gives the paintings some "heft": they aren’t simply about pretty people. Also note that he places his subjects in everyday –- not glamorous –- settings, another note of "seriousness" on his part.

If memory serves, a Pino original can set you back $20,000-40,000. Giclée reproductions are more affordable: seems to me I saw some priced as low as $4,000. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Pino has started to go the "enhanced" Giclée route –- adding a few strokes of impasto paint to a Giclée to provide a personal touch that adds to the purchase price and presumably increases the Giclée’s investment potential.

The reason I think this is unfortunate is that the added paint can be quite prominent, taking some attention away from the true focus, the subject’s face. In short, the artistic balance tends to be lost and the aesthetic value is lessened. Given a choice, I’d prefer to buy a Giclée that was artistically superior and less expensive than to shell out hundreds more dollars for an aesthetically inferior piece that might have better investment value.

Pino Giclées and occasional originals pop up in a number of galleries I encounter, so I have to assume that his works are popular and selling well despite (or because of) their fairly high price-tags for a living-but-not-trendy artist. Sadly, popularity seems to be the kiss of death in the eyes of the Art Establishment (exceptions include Picasso and Warhol) and Pino will likely suffer for it in terms of esteem, if not his bank account, for the rest of his life and for a few decades beyond. Farther out, if Modernism and subsequent little-isms are finally rejected, I rate Pino as having at least a shot at being rated "important" in his time -- for his technical prowess, if not for other reasons.



posted by Donald at October 11, 2005


Eye-opening post, Donald. Is it me, or do I see the Professor repeated in the background of the Dancer painting?

Posted by: Chris Floyd on October 11, 2005 10:29 PM

The problem with Pino isn't really Pino's fault. It's also not entirely the art establishment's fault. It's that society seems to need painting with a certain density of ideas and a certain complexity of structure in order to take the whole enterprise seriously...even if the intellectual preconditions of such painting do not currently exist.

Once upon a time 'complex' painting was took the form of multifigured history or allegorical painting (i.e., Caravaggio's "Entombment" or J.L. David's "The Death of Socrates" or Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" or Raphael's "The School of Athens"). Unfortunately for Pino, who seems to have the technical chops to create such paintings, there is no ready-to-hand intellectual structure in place to provide him with the required ideas/context/structure for such an intellectually dense multifigured composition. Which is, presumably, one reason his compositions tend to focus on relatively few figures at a time.

Of course, the lack of any institution or ideology in contemporary society corresponding to the role once played by the Catholic Church or by Classical Antiquity--which once provided the intellectual substance for ambitious painting--isn't a problem for representational art alone. It also very much affects conceptual art, which would seem to sit at the opposite pole today's artworld. This lack of an intellectually articulated worldview is why conceptual art is so darn insular and hard to decipher. But contemporary critics, and quite possibly even posthumous ones, are so desperate for an art of intellectual ambition that they will overlook the intellectual incoherency and inarticulate crudeness of conceptual art and grant it the gold star. While Pino will be considered, if he's lucky, an extremely skillful practioner of a minor (i.e., non-intellectually ambitious) genre.

I ain't saying it's fair, but the same 'prejudice' in favor of intellectual and structural ambition has been a feature of art criticism for most of the past millenium.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 12, 2005 01:03 AM

Thanks for these informative postings. I've always been curious about the kind of gallery art that the artworld-centric artworld pays no attention to, or sneers at. Clearly there are stars and talents, even some people who make a good living creating and selling pictures and sculptures. It's a whole world of visuals, and of buying-and-selling, and I know almost nothing about it. Shame on the conventional arts press for shunning discussion of this kind of thing too. They ought to open their eyes and minds to it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 12, 2005 09:45 AM

Living Master Galleries

The Art Renewal Center selection of contemporary representational artists. Pino reminded me of Jeffrey Larsson and Steve Hanks who have galleries from that link. And maybe Steve Gjertsen. But most of the artists are more formal, dignified...I am not sure. Dark backgrounds on portraits, more classical poses, less overt emotion. Very rarely eroticism.

I can see the Sargeant and Sorolla. I like Pino.
I rotate thru a Fine Art wallpaper every 25 minutes, and I have very little in the tens of thousands that is not representational. I have lost my taste for modernism.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on October 12, 2005 07:14 PM

Chris -- Mmmm. No, I don't think I see "The Professor" there.

Friedrich -- Your comment really should be a posting in itself -- lotsa meaty ideas.

The notion of a public need for painting with density of ideas and complexities is fascinating, and one that can be kicked around for quite a while here at Blowhards. My snap reaction is that a certain (educated? elite? sophisticated?) part of the population might well have such needs. But there are other populations (what remains of the Middlebrows? intelligent but not-too-arty middle class folks?) that don't have such needs, being content with "lesser" art such as Impressionist landscapes.

The 19th Century Academy system had hierarchies of subject-matter "worth" with history usually at the top and still life as roadkill. To some degree, this persists, but with perhaps Cenceptual as top dog.

I really like your brief discussion on Conceptual Art -- concepts without coherency, what a, uh, concept!

Michael -- There seem to be two levels or parallel tracks in the arts press, maybe sorta like the gallery scene. I'm not sure about NYC, but visit a good magazine stand next time you're in Santa Barbara and you'll likely see mags such as PleinAir and Art of the West along with others with a how-to-do slant. Admittedly, these are cheerleader mags -- little or no criticism.

What interests me (and I'll try to deal with it in future postings) is the fact that lots of pretty sharp, pretty well-off people plunk down five-figure amounts to acquire representational art that most of us would agree is not kitch. So why is it that folks who are not any sharper, and who buy paintings that look like crudely-done cartoons are on the side of the angels?

And your two cents on this are more than welcome. Let's stir that pot.

Bob -- Thanks for the mention of ARC's Living Masters. I should do some research to try to find out what galleries offer their works.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on October 12, 2005 09:19 PM

Wow. All I know is these paintings are beautiful.

Posted by: annette on October 13, 2005 10:16 AM

Friedrich's first posting above is really excellent.

I would add to it that photography and film have also impoverished the intellectual underpinnings of painting. When painting was the primary means of representing the physical world visually, I think the viewer approached it with more demands in mind. The tension between the painter's artistic interpretation and realism was much more salient. Portraits, for example, were both the only way that individual's appearance would be recalled to future generations, and a way to represent something artistically about their personality. Now realistic painting is in a sense only about decoration, that saps something from the "soul" of painting.

Posted by: MQ on October 13, 2005 05:31 PM

Chris that was a brilliant observation on your part about The Professor and The Dancer. It's funny becuase the man in the Dancer is Pino himself it is a self portrait and man in The Professor is inspired by Pino's Son Max.

Posted by: Todd White's Girl on October 19, 2005 12:11 PM

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