Home Magazine Francesco Clemente

Italian painter Francesco Clemente is famous for his unique personality, for the variety and complexity of the patterns and styles that can be found in his works. His life experience, characterized by the insatiable need to seek and discover artistic amenities around the world, streams directly into his paintings unveiling dialectic combinations of foreign customs and traditions. A life-long research that focuses both on the diversion and merger between invention and convention. 

Born in Naples, in 1952, Francesco Clemente soon moved to Rome, in 1970, where he studied Architecture and, most importantly, where he first got in touch with other strong personalities like Cy Twombly and Alighiero Boetti, whom will be crucial influences in his early approach to the artistic matter. The feeling of belonging to a mystical generation is a strong key point for the later development of his style, which includes both the medium of drawing, as a proof of his Mediterranean origins and the magical and eternal settings, enhanced by the empty backgrounds of his paintings, which derive from his profound love for the middle east. 

“I’m a bit astride two generations; the one older than me was a Stalinist generation... and the one directly after me the heroin generation. Mine was kind of a strange window, a bit more... I don’t know... mystical”.


Francesco Clemente, Salman Rushdie, oil on linen. Courtesy of Thaddeus Ropac, Salzburg


Besides learning about the stages that brought to Francesco Clemente’s uprising, it is important to understand how his persona built up during his numerous travels around the world, in Afghanistan, India and America, where he unconsciously started absorbing and combining his experience with the ancient rules and dogmas that were put before him. This particular process gives birth to a dialectical mixture of diverging linguistic components, which create a dialogue within themselves, playing a game of rejection and acceptance, a conversation between different time frames and artistic styles that merge into an unedited aesthetic.

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From left to right: Francesco Clemente, Linda Evangelista (2015), oil on canvas. Courtesy of Maruani Mercier Gallery; Francesco Clemente, Anna Ewers (2015), oil on canvas. Courtesy of Maruani Mercier Gallery 


Clemente’s way of approaching painting, ties him strongly to the Roman artistic movement known as Transavantgarde, for his belief in the study of ancient history as a pathway towards truth, and for the usage of contemporary languages and styles, to communicate timeless myths to the present and future generations. A well-calculated combination both of convention and invention, where the viewer can find the assumption of foreign artistic practices, labelled as conventions and transposed to the canvas’ surface with mere aesthetic purpose, being transformed by the artist’s will, into unique and unprecedented inventions, given birth by the coalescence of conflicting assonances. A way of approaching the painterly matter that creates a breach; an opening towards the possibility of unattended appearances, that dives deep into the adventure and unveils unexpected outcomes of pristine and authentic power.

Cover image: Francesco Clemente, Alba (1997), oil on linen. Courtesy of the Francesco and Alba Clemente collection, New York.

Written by Mario Rodolfo Silva

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