Pio Santini 1908-1986


Pio Santini Alias Mario by Anne Brandebourg. - [21/08/05 by piosantini]

1933, Pio Santini received advice and encouragements from his compatriot the well known illustrator and poster designer Cappiello. It’s possible to believe that this meeting was been the starting point of Santini’s career in illustration,
a rich but unrecognized work, because he rarely signed it, or under a pseudonym.
He certainly wanted to distinguish his vocation for painting from graphic work necessarily linked to the material constraints he had to assume, as head of the family, during that historically troubled period.

Colour engravings and pen drawings used up his time and creativity during the Forties and Fifties, and represent a fully artistic activity. His “masterpiece” that kept him busy for nearly one year after the war, was the illustration, in the manner of Quattrocento, of a de luxe edition of the Tales of the Virgin by Jerome and Jean Tharaud, containing twenty or so miniatures, of which he also carried out illuminations and cap letters. Lots of press illustrations would follow: serials in the weekly newspapers of the time, illustrated with Indian ink or walnut stain drawings, and gouaches for the covers of the fashionable reviews.

There Santini displayed his drawer’s qualities as he still did it in the middle of the Fifties, under the pseudonym of Mario (first name of his third son), with the elegant series of the front pages of La Vie Parisienne (Parisian life) , until this famous Nude in 1955, beautiful studio model which he claimed as a painting of his and signed Santini. Several Parisian publishers often asked him to realize book covers and he produced tens of them by using the most varied techniques very skilfully.

Whether they are Illustrations for the press or the edition, these both lively and accurate sketches show the same panache and vivacity. One cover of “La Vie Parisienne” (Parisian Life) for a well known Champagne producer earned him his reputation, then edited in lots of theatre programmes for more than a decade. The illustration (ill. 29) - signed Mario- shows a beautiful lady’s face, the heroine of the party, revealing the elegance and the style of the after-concerts evenings, in a dream atmosphere, where actors and fashionable circles meet.
In addition to its plastic qualities, the illustration work of Pio Santini allows to grasp some of the sociological aspects of an era of which the artist successfully recreated the style and atmosphere between reality and magic.

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