Piero Donadio

My father was born in Tarantasca  in the province of Cuneo, at the foot of Monviso-as used to remember 23 May 1934. Passionate about drawing since childhood, achieving  paintings  from the mysterious confines of music and poetry. He was self-taught, art for painting was inherented in him and he was able to tap into it with great passion and innate ability. At the age of twelve he attended the gymnasium at the Salesian Institute of Cuneo and after that  high school in the same town where he had to pay for  his tuition, he cleaned the floors and worked  as  a waiter at the tables in the cafeteria, devoting to study at night. In 1959, thanks to a scholarship, he made a long journey to the Holy land where he learned the Arabic language. For the following  three years he  lived in Cuneo, at the Institute Amedeo Rossi, where he used to give private lessons.  Later he moved to Mirabello (AL) at the Institute  San Giuseppe and, soon after winning the competition for the rural security  guard, he settled in Castellazzo Bormida , where he died at the age of sixty-two years, on 28 November 1996, when I was 29.  My father disliked formal  sleazebags  lists,  that each curriculum had to include. He  always loved the small and simple things, ignored by many. He  loved the humble, the helpless and the outcast, the town  was called “the advocate of the poor.” He loved animals and the mountains without ever having to paint them (in his paintings there are rare animal figures and naked sceneries). He nurtured a great passion for books that, from an early age, with his inseparable bike, he went to buy important odd books at the  market stalls of Turin and Cuneo, which now, together make up the prestigious and extensive family library.

I remember the imag  my father bent over  books, in front of the easel or the artifacts catalogue  of all kinds, the result of a previous collection, or in a traffic warden’s uniform  always with his bicycle in both summer and winter (he was the only traffic warden  of the town without a license), but of him,  I also  have a painful reminder,  if I think of the hard life he had,  because of health problems that today would be easily detectable : the crisis of hypoglycemia, never recognized causing strong tremors and sometimes fainting.

When I was little, he always took me with him exploring and looking for mosses, lichens, clay minerals and which also,  often had mixed up colors. Or he covered me with layers  of clothes, such as a cloak, scarf or hat and he would ask me to act or  to accomplish some business (I have conserved a charcoal drawing, where I am painting using his easel).

He used to do the same thing  with my maternal grandfather: he made him wear a shapeless coat, and he would give him a glass of wine in his hand (which my grandfather  usually drank) after two quick squirts and  a few sketches to capture the essence, the spirit was immortalized forever. My father was fascinated by scenes of rural life and daily lifestyles, barnyards, drying laundry, taverns and the old gnarled that they visited …  He would  always carry a notebook in which he wrote down his  thoughts and portrayed people or glimpses of the cities or countries.

In his paintings the chairs often  had two legs (and the tables two or at the most three), men are getting elderly and women almost quite young. He always changed the business colors by adding aniline  or powdered animal bones or other mysterious ingredients.

In his paintings the Red is never red, blue is never just blue and Green does not exist. He never painted landscapes or plants, despite his great passion for nature and botany (the trees are leafless or even dried). Its colors are the ochres and lands, the light explodes from his paintings, flooding the observer with rare evocative power, the light and shade interiors permeate the atmosphere of what  it was. His experimental research was wide enough to obtain new painting techniques on canvas and cardboard ( I  remember the technique “huile chauffèe” – meaning heating oil) I also remember the silence, shyness and self-effacing but also brilliant and with great irony.

Serious and introverted, just after he had  finished the service, he would close himself up in his Office where, in his thoughts he would, stand to paint, study, write … Far be it for me to say that it was free from defects, in which it exactly reflected the many aspects of artists, a bit untidy, melancholy, distracted … who walked into his study, smelt of scorched resin, you would have the impression of being in another world, surrounded by canvases, easels, colors, day books, minerals, odd or part of the books and various objects to the point of thinking about being in the hall of a naturalist during  another era.

My father was not a lover of mammoth works, his paintings were always a measurement of normal people, just like how he was, being  a supportive person of himself,  that concept  made him unique, which is no longer seen today. During his artistic life he  obtained many awards both in the working and literary field.  I remember when my mum  went  with my father for  twenty days to Marseille  as they received an invite for a solo  exhibition  by Unesco.

Like most real artists, he never really knew how to get the benefits of his  profits from his shows,  despite the excellent reviews and the numerous exhibitions in which he participated with great success. The fact that his work was loved by people, was  enough for  him to feel fulfilled.

An intelligent and modest man, of deep Christian faith, of exceptional brilliance, often misunderstood, he was a painter, poet, musician (as composer of piano pieces), writer, naturalist, ethologist, botanist, inventor, climber …

A unique man and father, with a huge artistic and humanistic culture, he lived all his life pervaded by an insatiable hunger for knowledge.  He always told me, ever since I was a little girl, “I  will never die” and I believe him.

By Maria Elisabetta Donadio.