Giuseppe D’Angelico—now better known as Pino Daeni, or simply Pino—was born in Bari, Italy, in 1939. His father was a technician at a local university, and although the family suffered hardships due to the war-torn country’s economic distress at the time, Pino found a refuge in art. He pursued his craft at Bari’s Art Institute, and at the age of 20 was admitted to the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arte di Brera in Milan. Here, he spent two years studying life drawing and painting, further developing his semi-Classical style. Specifically, he was greatly influenced by the works of the pre-Raphaelite painters and i Macchiaioli, a fraternity of mid-nineteenth century Florentine artists who strove to emphasize immediacy and freshness, a style which at that time stood in stark contrast to the dominant academic school of painting. These studies would later be augmented by Pino’s experimentation in Expressionism, eventually resulting in his signature style.
Between 1960 and 1979, Pino’s work was featured in a number of significant Italian and European exhibitions. Additionally, after his father’s death in 1964, he became the sole provider for his family by reproducing paintings by the Old Masters, drawing a line of Western-themed comics, and producing illustrations of Egyptian and Roman culture for a series of children’s books. Pino also worked as an illustrator for Mondador and Rizzoli, Italy’s two largest publishers, but this work proved to be frustrating and unfulfilling. Having proven his creative aptitude in Europe and craving greater artistic freedom, he immigrated to the United States in 1979 and was soon under sponsorship of the famed Borghi Gallery which held several high profile exhibitions for him in New York and Boston.
This era of Pino’s life proved to be exceedingly difficult. Although his paintings were receiving exposure, his sponsorship barely allowed him to feed his family. His English was limited and his mode of transportation was a bicycle. Still, he refused to give up, and after a significant struggle to be noticed, Zebra Books Publishers commissioned him to paint his first book cover in February of 1980. This was to be the first of hundreds of covers created for both Zebra and Dell which would define Pino’s “romance period,” featuring beautiful women in flowing skirts and a then unknown Italian model named Fabio. Pino’s classically-based technique, richly warm colors and subtle, yet simple approach to his subjects became the hallmark of his craft, and made him the artist-indemand for Bantam, Simon & Schuster, Harlequin and Penguin USA in addition to Zebra and Dell. To date, he has illustrated more than 3,000 books, including many by Danielle Steele, Sylvie Summerfield, and Amanda Ashley.
From 1980 to 1993 he dedicated himself totally to cover art. Pino’s illustrations combined the elements of his European training and upbringing with a direct and powerful American interpretation that was new, fresh and exciting. Stylistically, he placed his subjects prominently in the foreground, celebrating the human body as he had been trained in the classical Italian genre. This style of illustration proved to be so successful that his work came to dominate and influence the entire romance market.
Although he found great success as a commercial artist, Pino ultimately longed to return to his first and true love of fine art. Therefore, after thirteen years in the literary sector, he decided to branch out and sent five of his pieces to the May Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. Pino’s works were quite well-received. As word of his talent spread, his creations became a commodity in the art world, and he has since become widely collected throughout North America. “It is fine art, unlike other artistic milieu, that the brush strokes come from the heart rather than the eye,” says Pino of his true calling. Pino’s canvases elicit feelings of warmth, nostalgia, love and family. Drawing from his childhood on the sunny banks of the Mediterranean Sea, his works are frequently set in coastal, sunny, and vibrantly fl oral locales. Wrapped in a veil of nostalgia, his subjects embody life’s simple pleasures: dressed in soft fl owing fabrics, the colors of their garments in relation to the sea, sand, sky and sun eliciting feelings of warmth, a perception of preciousness and a notion of an uncomplicated world. His figures, though, are not devoid of the complexities that define the human soul. In fact his alter ego, a young boy who seems ever-present in his works, is often seen surrounded by figures representing his mother, sisters and other relatives who are pictured in states of emotion ranging from adoration to isolation. At other times, he creates lovely young women in repose in their boudoirs or dressing rooms. Regardless of subject, however, Pino’s works ultimately remind viewers of the pleasures of simpler times, of long-ago memories shrouded in pleasant nostalgia, all underscored with the ever-present theme of what it means to be magnificently human.