14--SITE: Death of the last of the Surrealists(?)
From: Rich <email@example.com>
Subject: SITE: Death of the last of the Surrealists(?)
Date: Sunday, April 27, 2008, 12:45 PMNot necessarily DADA, but noteworthy:April 26, 2008
Enrico Donati, Surrealist Artist, Dies at 99
Enrico Donati, an Italian-born
American painter and sculptor considered by many in the art world to be the last of the Surrealists, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan.
He was 99.
The cause was complications of injuries sustained in a taxi accident in July, said David Oxman, a spokesman for the family.
Mr. Donati survived Surrealism and moved through other art
movements, including Constructivism and Abstract Expressionism, and
became a successful owner of a perfume company.
After receiving a doctorate in what would now be called sociology at
the University of Pavia in 1929, he first turned to music. Unhappy with
the state of musical education in Milan under the Fascists, he moved to
Paris and for a time composed avant-garde music in a Montmartre garret.
He developed an interest in anthropology and in 1934 traveled to the
American Southwest and Canada to study and collect American Indian
After dabbling in commercial art and printing in New York, he
resolved to commit himself to painting and returned to Paris, where he
was drawn to the flourishing Surrealist movement.
When war broke out in 1939, Mr. Donati returned to New York for
good, along with his first wife, Claire Javel, and their two daughters,
Marina Donati and Sylvaine Mahis of Paris, who survive him. He was
divorced from Ms. Javel in 1965 and married Adele Schmidt, who also
survives him, as well as a daughter from his second marriage, Alexandra
Donati of New York; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
Mr. Donati attended the New School for Social Research and in 1942 had his first one-man show at the New School's
gallery. His work impressed the art historian Lionello Venturi, who
introduced him to the writer André Breton, often considered the father
of Surrealism. Breton brought him into the circle of prominent European
artists, many of them Surrealists, who had gathered in New York at the
outset of the war.
"You are one of us," he recalled Breton saying to him. The group included Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy, Arshile Gorky, Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio de Chirico, Fernand Léger and the American sculptor Alexander Calder.
"We met for lunch every day at Larré's French restaurant on West 56th Street," Mr. Donati later told an interviewer.
At his death, he was the only survivor of the group.
Duchamp became a particular friend. They collaborated on various
projects, including the Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme at the
Maeght Gallery in Paris in 1947. They devised the exposition's program,
decorating the cover of each copy with a foam rubber breast.
As Surrealism faded, Mr. Donati moved on. "He reinvented himself
four or five times," said his biographer, the artist and critic
Theodore F. Wolff.
There was his Constructivist phase and, for a time, a focus on
Abstract Expressionism. In later years, Mr. Donati became fascinated
with surface and texture, mixing his paint with sand, dust, coffee
grounds and, at times, the contents of his vacuum cleaner, which he
mixed with pigment and glue and slathered on his canvas.
"It opened up a new world for me," he recalled in a 1968 oral history interview for the Smithsonian Institution. "I kept on using the vacuum cleaner dirt for years."
Mr. Donati's work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Art in Houston and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.
Mr. Donati was for many years as engaged in the business world as he
was in the world of art. In the early 1960s, he joined the board of
Houbigant Inc., one of the oldest purveyors of French perfumes and eau
de cologne. In 1965 he bought the company, which was privately held.
In 1978 Fortune Magazine reported that as chairman and chief
executive, he had "revived the sagging fortunes" of the company, then
worth $50 million. His first wife was a member of the Houbigant family,