Thursday, May 24, 2012

Artist of the Week: Francesco Clemente

Francesco Clemente 

b. 1952, Naples

Francesco Clemente is best known for the signature themes of the human form, particularly women’s bodies; his own image; sexuality; myth and spirituality; non-Western symbols; and dreamlike visions. In the United States, where he has a residence in New York City, Clemente is often categorized as a "neo-expressionist", otherwise known as Italian Transavantguardia. Clementes paintings also contain visual elements of Surrealism. He is said to eschew such labels.


I'm at the age where I don't need an acid trip to feel naked.. to feel that I don't exist. Now a self-portrait is almost a reminder to me that I do exist."

Clemente's earliest works were ink on paper.

Harlequin Close Up  1978
 Ink and colored pencil on nine sheets of paper, mounted on linen
Francesco Clemente first traveled to India in 1973 in search of “somewhere else.” The acutely contemporary world of India that he encountered, whose antiquity had been transformed and reinvented by a lively popular culture, enchanted him. The artist would find himself at home there over the next four decades.
oil on linen
(the shift to oils and watercolors in the 1880's)

Clemente-Basquait-Warhol Collaboration





Current Works
A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows (III)  2009


"To me the poets are closer than I am to the idea of voice, to a sort of primeval song that we all participate in. Maybe they express more directly a sense of sympathy for other human beings. Painting is a little bit more of a retreat from human beings in real life; painting is more about the extreme moments when speech doesn't help anymore."

After Attar’s “The Conference of the Birds” II 



Winter Women I  2011

"The original impulse in my life as an artist was to write and to break from writing into image."

Note:  It was incredibly difficult for me to choose which works of Francesco Clemente to include in this feature. Having discovered his work within the last few days and being entirely smitten with it, I perhaps gathered too many images, almost liking them all in one way or another. I chose to post them chronologically in an effort to not only reign in my enthusiasm and create a post of sensible length but also to discover in what ways his work has evolved.

Here are a few more works of Clemente's for which I don't have exact dates but that are too visually and intellectually exciting (at least to my eye) to leave out.

" There's poetry in the world. Poetry doesn't belong just to the poets. You know, you can look at the most premeditated, cold blooded movie and find poetry in it."

The Portraits

Alba, the artist's wife

 "When you sit for an hour and a half in front of somebody, he or she shows about twenty faces. And so it's this crazy chase of, Which face? Which one is the one?"

Allan Ginsberg

Keith Haring

Toni Morrison

William Burroughs



  1. I really enjoyed these, more than is typical for me. But I'm terrible at talking about art, so I won't try to explain why I loved them; I just did! I adore the one with the fish. And the yellow man holding a leaf. :]

    Great choice. Thanks for posting.


  2. Dang! What a career, what a narrative!

    Friendly Aloha from Waikiki
    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } (°>

  3. Very interesting how you tell the story of Art, and the Art is mind benders too.

  4. I wasn't particularly taken by his work until the portraits. Now those I like!

  5. Wow, this guy blows me away. Some amazing stuff he does. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. I didn't realize you had a post up until I dropped by a little while ago. These truly are amazing to see and deserve more words than I have time for right now when I must go to bed. I just want to thank you for choosing so many beautiful images.
    much love xoxo

  7. hi Gina! it is good to see you ;)

    these are great...very mind-bending and I could use a bit of that!


    and I cannot figure out what the hell the word at it again.

  8. I've never been to India, missed my only real chance in 1967 and another never came, but I can easily understand how it inspired Francisco Clemente. His works are mysterious yet very vibrant and colorful.

    Son almost looks like a print. Does he use watercolor and oil on the same piece sometimes? The Clown is magnificent too where his control is just enough to have the image appear spontaneous rather than contrived. The Tree is the next one I really like - yes, we're each one of us an individual but our connections to others more powerful than we may admit.

    He's become very light and magical by the time he painted the rainbows. i love this one and the birds as well. I agree with his summation about painting being more of a retreat from people than poetry (or music). Sometimes art is inexplicable even to ourselves. Yes, the recent ones move me most of all.

    I don't know when it was painted by the only image of his that I've seen somewhere previously is the picture of the man seeming to be pulled up to heaven except for the fact he's held back by a rock. I don't even know why I like it so much but for the fact I've had that feeling myself.

    The portraits are fine too and depict the characters of his sitters far better than a photograph could manage. Thanks again for posting such a great collection with the sensitivity only you can render.

  9. Thank you all for taking the time to comment! It so helps my blogging morale, which goes up and down, tremendously. :-)

    Susan - what a wonderful and thoughtful comment.

    The man weighed down by the rock is one of my favorites as well. And the clown that I am not sure is supposed to be a clown...

    I like the portraits a lot but with those, it is the subjects I find interesting. What a lot - Burroughs and Morrison and Haring. Wow.

    Having said that, I don't find Clemente's genius to be in the portraits but rather in the other works I posted - the ones that are most expressionistic.

    Being a lover of the German Expressionists, it heartens me that there is someone painting today who is capable of his own vision in that style, without compromise or imitation. A hug for you, dear Susan.

    Linda - sending love!

  10. Thanks for introducing me to this amazing talent!

  11. this art is mind-blowing. thank you for sharing because I'm not familiar with this artist. I'm in love with Friendship, 1990's, 2010, oh so many of them. His work is really trippy, I could look at it forever. I want Tree, 1993 for my wall. How much do you think it would cost me? Ha!
    I hope you're having a beautiful June Gina. take good care now. I'm not around as much as I'd like, but I'm trying to do more blogging these days. Always something.

  12. Sandy - :-) Always nice to hear from you!

    Becky! My June is just beginning to turn around toward wonderful and will be even more so when school ends on the 19th!

    I've got a lot of projects going on which have been keeping me busy around The Empty Nest. Check your facebook! xxoo

  13. Ricardo KugelmasJune 19, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    I am not sure how many of you are in New York, but Francesco has a beautiful exhibition open until June 30th at Mary Boone gallery at West 24th street.
    The first time he ever uses objects in the paintings, truly fresh. Not to be misses if you are in or near NYC.


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