1916-1974 (ITALY) 12.01.20 - 15.03.20


ARTWORKS           EXHIBITIONS         


Championed by legendary French artist Jean Dubuffet, Carlo Zinelli is a master of art brut whose oeuvre was inspired by his personal experiences of conflict.

Born in San Giovanni Lupatoto, near Verona, Zinelli spent his early years working on the land as a farm labourer and living peacefully with his family. At the age of eighteen, he enlisted to fight in the Spanish Civil War, where he endured severe shell shock on the front line and returned unable to speak or recount in any way the horrors, which he had experienced.

In 1947 Zinelli’s family suggested he move to accommodation at a hospital in San Giacomo, near Verona. An art studio located on the grounds encouraged patients to draw, paint and sculpt. Zinelli lobbied to be included and, once accepted, dedicated his life to painting.

Working for up to eight hours every day, Zinelli began to create a bold individualistic body of work. Impressionistic recreations of the landscapes and characters of his youth were set against the brutal backdrop of war.

Memories of the countryside and travelling circuses were presented within frames of swirling repetitive text, echoing Zinelli’s own faltering speech patterns. It was as if the man himself had become a symbol of his own disaster.

Zinelli’s distinctive double-sided works were brought to the attention of Jean Dubuffet, who crowned Zinelli a master of the genre and, inspired by Zinelli’s free-spirited autobiographical gouaches, incorporated the unknown Italian’s aesthetic into his own prolific oeuvre. Zinelli’s work was soon being included in private and museum collections across Europe and America.

When the San Giacomo Hospital closed in 1971, the 55-year-old Zinelli was transferred to a new institution where he was no longer able to continue his daily art practice. He died in 1974.