Daniela Montanari


Daniela Montanari was born in Varese. After the high school, she graduated in Architecture at the Politecnic University of Milan, specialising in protection and restoration of historical and architectural heritage. In 2002, after being classified among the finalists for the second time at the Mondadori Art Prize, she abandoned architecture to devote herself exclusively to painting. Her first solo exhibit was at the end of 2003. Daniela Montinari has participated in major competitions including... [Continue reading]

Atelier of Daniela Montanari

Information about Daniela Montanari

Daniela Montanari was born in Varese. After the high school, she graduated in Architecture at the Politecnic University of Milan, specialising in protection and restoration of historical and architectural heritage.
In 2002, after being classified among the finalists for the second time at the Mondadori Art Prize, she abandoned architecture to devote herself exclusively to  painting. Her first solo exhibit was at the end of 2003. Daniela Montinari has participated in major competitions including the Michetti, Cairo Comunication and Razzano. She has also participated in  group exhibitions such as the “New painters of Reality” at the Pac in Milan, the “Contemplations in Castel Sismondo” in Rimini , the “New Italian figuration” at the Fabbrica Borroni in Milan, “Imago feminae” at Palazzo Guidobono in Tortona, “Hyper” at Restarte gallery in Bologna and “I see a pattern” organized by the American gallery Robert Lange Studio. Her work received critic recognition in various magazines such as Art and Dossier, Arte Mondadori, Elle, Juliet, Segno, Frattura Scomposta and Wall Street International Magazine.

I have painted since I was five years old, probably influenced by the works of my uncle, a landscape painter. My first oil painting depicted my cat. When I was attending high school I was struck by a huge painting by Chuck Close while visiting an exhibition. I do not remember anything else of the exhibition, only the extraordinary female portrait in front of me. That was the moment I decided I would become a portrait painter. I was fifteen years old.
The first pictorial experiments of some importance and significance go back to 1998. I had the courage to devote myself completely to painting only after I classified, for the second time, among the finalists of Mondadori Art Prize, in 2002. When I started to paint professionally, I portrayed mostly young women, with whom I identified. Each painting was closely linked to the previous one, it was an extension, as if they were part of a single story. The portraits symbolized my psyche and they were closely connected to my emotions affirming the priority of the subject and of the feeling.
The characters, all belonging to my entourage, were built from a long series of analogue photographs taken strictly by me and  re-sewed through a computer elaboration. The sketch obtained in high definition was then painted on canvas in scenes that combined both contemporary elements and classical painting. Real elements were drawn up to make them unrecognizable, highlighting the mysterious side with expressions of shadows and details. Each painting was the condensation of multiple images and revealed an existential tension that, in relatively recent works, was also reflected in the language of symbols. Painting emerged from contemporary elements and memory but also from images that come from our artistic tradition: Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Klimt, Hopper. In this way, painting became familiar and its inner space was transformed into the memory space. Each portrait was a self-portrait: imperfection, impermanence, and sense of melancholy. Each painting was a journey to another life: jumps to the continuous search of themselves, many lives linked to a single story. In the period when I lived in Provence, fascinated by the beauty of nature, I introduced in the backgrounds of my paintings the landscapes which were reworked on the basis of surrealist criteria. The beauty of the environment was so great that it did not seem real. However, in recent paintings I  have distanced myself from my inner life to turn my face to world in general, not only to what surrounds me. I'm interested in telling the story of our time, such hard times, considering social, political and ecological issues and to the new global information network. Today the process leading to the creation of a portrait is quite complex and metamorphic and it starts from the shutter click of digital photographs that are as close as possible to the original idea in my mind. Macro photos that encompass the details of the face. This is followed by the digital elaboration where almost everything is changed: from colour to chiaroscuro, from features to proportions. Then I start to paint with oil paints and brushes: after drawing on the canvas the shape and the main features of the face, I spread a first coat of colour building on the initial photographs. Lastly I freely add glazes that alter colours and design and add new details to my invention. I have been a little long on the description of the technique used because the craftwork is not only the most visible aspect of hyperrealism, but it constitutes its essence. The technique is inseparable from the meanings. Form and content intertwine seamlessly. I clarify that my intention is not to reproduce a photograph but to return the feeling of reality, the impression of being in front of a living being of flesh and blood. I want to make visible what we consider as such. Maybe I even want to open a gap in what lies beyond. I always focus on the gaze, so much so that the compositional structure of my paintings develops around the centrality of the eyes. The gaze is understood in the sense of the relationship with otherness. The gaze in a relationship that eliminates the distance between the object and the subject of the gaze itself. The gaze as a place where subject and object are related to reverse the respective roles. The face portrayed becomes a reflective surface in which is possible to recognize oneself and the other. This led me, in previous years, to portrait faces turned three quarters to the torso, it seemed they were trying to get their three-dimensional image through a mirror, running away from the inevitable and from the bounds of a frontal view; those bounds can be only solved through the confrontation with another self. To portray a person means, to me, to portray a gaze.



- “Storie Sulla Pelle”, Amste Arte Contemporanea, cur. Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Lissone, Milan


- “Storie Sulla Pelle”, stand Amste Arte Contemporanea, Miart 2004, Milan


- “Un'enciclopedia per le ferite dell'anima”, Spazio 1380 and  Annovi Arte Contemporanea, cur. Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Milan


- “Pelle”, Voghera11 Art Gallery, Milan



- “Delirio”, Castello Svevo, cur. Giusy Caroppo, Trani


- “Opening”, Spazio 1380, Milan

- “20x20”, Galleria Repetto & Massuco, cur. Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Acqui Terme


- “Santa Alleanza”, Annovi Arte Contemporanea, cur. Luca Beatrice, Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Sassuolo

- “Afrika”, Galleria 1380, cur. Alessandro Riva, Milan

- “Biennale Aldo Roncaglia”, Rocca estense, cur. Michele Fuoco, San Felice sul Panaro

- “Altre stanze, altre voci”, Centro fieristico "Le Ciminiere", cur. Alessandro Riva, Catania


- “L'immagine parola”, Museo del Territorio, Alberobello, Bari

- “Set Afrique”, Lamarque Museum & Artlab, Maglie, Lecce

- “Human@rt”, Galleria d'arte Moderna del Centro "Le Ciminiere", cur. Lucio Barbera, Catania


- “La nuova figurazione italiana. To be continued...”, Fabbrica Borroni, cur. Chiara Canali, Milan

- “Nuovi pittori della realtà”, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, cur. Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Milan


- “Nerazzurra: cento artisti per cento anni di Inter”, Mandelli Arte Contemporanea, Seregno


- “Imago Feminae, donne dipingono donne”, Palazzo Guidobono, cur. Chiara Canali, Giacomo Maria Prati, Tortona,   Alessandria

- “Centoingiro, cento artisti per il centenario del giro d’Italia”, Museo Internazionale del Ciclismo del Ghisallo, cur. Sergio   Mandelli, Magreglio

- “Contemplazioni. Bellezza e tradizione del nuovo nella pittura italiana contemporanea”, Castel Sismondo e Palazzo del   Podestà, cur. Alberto Agazzani, Rimini

- “Asta benefica”, ex chiesa Santa Maria del Buon Pastore, cur. Valerio Dehò, Raimondo Galeano, Gabriele Talarico,   Bologna

- “Centoingiro, Cento artisti per il centenario del Giro d’Italia”, Mandelli Arte Contemporanea, Seregno


- “Less is more”, Libra Arte Contemporanea, cur. Alberto Agazzani, Catania

- “Metropolitan Baby”, Galleria Previtali, cur. Chiara Canali, Emma Gravagnuolo, Alessandra Redaelli, Milan

- “Il Mito del Vero. Il ritratto. Il volto”, Fondazione Durini, cur. Paolo Lesino, Giacomo Maria Prati, Milan


- "Contemporanei a confronto”, Libra Arte Contemporanea, cur. Salvo Daniele Torrisi, Catania


- “Altrove. Luogo o poesia”, Catania Art Gallery, cur. Beatrice Buscaroli, Catania

- “In calda Sicilia 2”, Libra Arte Contemporanea, Catania


- “Iside Contemporanea”, Museo di Arte Contemporanea, cur. Ferdinando Creta, Benevento

- “Locus Animae”, Foyer of Kursaal, cur. Stefano Momentè, Lido di Jesolo

- “Wom.B”, MO.C.A. Studio Roma, cur. Massimo Caggiano, Rome

- “Aliens”, Marsiglione Art Gallery, cur. Sergio Curtacci and Salvatore Marsiglione, Como

- “HYPER”, Restarte Gallery, cur. Alberto Agazzani, Bologna


- “I see a pattern”, Robert Lange Studios -The Vendue, cur. Robert and Megan Lange, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

- “100 anni di pugilato italiano. 1916-2016”, Palaeventi, cur. Roberto Savi, Assisi

- “100 anni di pugilato italiano. 1916-2016”, Palagio di Parte Guelfa, cur. Roberto Savi, Florence


- “Resistenza e Contemporaneità”, Festareggio, cur. Salvatore Trapani and Elisabetta Del Monte, Reggio nell’Emilia 


- “L’arte della boxe in 100 anni: immagini, testimonianze, emozioni”, Casa delle Armi- Coni, cur. Roberto Savi, Rome


- “Premio Arte Mondadori”, La Posteria, Milan, 2000, Finalist

- “Premio Arte Mondadori”, Museo della Permanente, Milan, 2002, Finalist

- “5° Premio Cairo Communication”, Museo della Permanente, cur. Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Milan, 2004, Finalist

- “Premio Mario Razzano”, Museo del Sannio e Rocca dei Rettori, cur. Giusy Caroppo, Benevento, 2005, Finalist

- “Premio Michetti. Nuovi realismi”, Museo Michetti, cur. Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Francavilla al Mare, 2007, Finalist

- “XXXIII Premio Sulmona”, Polo Museale Civico Diocesano, Sulmona, 2006, Finalist

- “Premio Internazionale Limen Arte”, Palazzo comunale Enrico Gagliardi, cur. Lucio Barbera, Massimo Duranti, Giorgio Di

-  Genova, Enzo La Pera, Elena Pontiggia, Vibo Valentia, 2009, Finalist


- Chiara Gatti, “Pittori e scultori: ecco con chi mettersi in posa”, www.repubblica.it, September 2003

- Maurizio Sciaccaluga, “Indagini al cavalletto”, in Arte, Mondadori, n°363, November 2003

- Alessandro Trabucco, “Daniela Montanari”, in Segno, n°194, January/February 2004

- Sabrina Arosio, “Daniela Montanari”, in Juliet, n°117, April/May2004

- Alfredo Sigolo, Exibart, “Resoconto sul Miart”, www.exibart.com, May 2004

- Giusy Caroppo, “Due ritrattiste a confronto: Cristina Tosi e Daniela Montanari”, in Infonopoli, July 2004

- Emma Gravagnuolo, “Cinque confronti con la realtà”, in Arte, Mondadori, n°372, August 2004
 AA.VV, “5° Premio Cairo Communication”, in Arte, Mondadori, n°375, November 2004

- Alessandra Redaelli, “Scorci di perfetta imperfezione”, in Arte, Mondadori, n° 396, August 2006

- Flavia Fossa Margutti, “Ritratto di signore”, in Elle, April 2007

- Jacques Bodin, “La galerie 9: Young Italian Female Hyperrealists”, www.hyperrealism.net, July 2010

- Alberto Agazzani, “L'inganno del visibile”, in Art Dossier, Giunti Editore, n°269, September 2010

- Martina Corgnati, “Arte a bordo”, Milan, Skira Editore, 2011

- Emanuela Cinà, “Intervista a Daniela Montanari”, www.quaz-art.it, November 2011
 WSI Administration, “La sfinge che condivide l'enigma”, Wall Street international Magazine, www.wsimagazine.com, April   2013

- WSI Administration, “La verità a tutti i costi”, Wall Street international Magazine, www.wsimagazine.com, June 2013

- Giacomo Maria Prati, “La sfinge che condivide l'enigma”, Frattura Scomposta Contemporary Art Magazine, www.fratturascomposta.it, March/April 2014

- Roberto Savi, “La boxe nell'arte secondo voi”, in Boxe Ring, n. 4, November 2014

- Lucio Giuliodori, “Noumeni”, Villasanta, Casa Editrice Limina Mentis, 2014

- John Sebastian, “Daniela Montanari”, www.thenewyorkoptimist.com, March 2015

- “Daniela Montanari”, The Guide Artists, n. 18, April 2018

- Daniela Montanari,” The art in monography, Italian painters”, Vol. 10, Glasgow, Black Wolf Edition & Publishing Ltd,   2018


- “Storie Sulla Pelle”, text by Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Lissone, 2003

- “Delirio”, text by Giusy Caroppo, , Ed. Rotas, Barletta, 2003

- “5° Premio Cairo Communications”, text by Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Editoriale Giorgio Mondadori, Milan, 2004

- “Click!”, texts by Stefania Arosio, Roberto Limonta, Luca Scarabelli, Monza, 2004

- “Premio Mario Razzano per giovani artisti”, text by Giusy Caroppo, Benevento, 2005

- “Altre voci, altre stanze”, text by Alessandro Riva, Catania, 2005

- “Biennale Aldo Roncaglia”, texts by Giorgio di Genova, Nicola Micieli, Michele Fuoco, Roberto Gatti, San Felice sul   Panaro,  2005

- “Santa Alleanza”, texts by Luca Beatrice, Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Sassuolo, 2005

- “Un'enciclopedia per le ferite dell'anima”, text by Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Milan, 2005

- “Human@rt”, text by Lucio Barbera, Catania, 2006

- “XXXIII Premio Sulmona”, text by Vittorio Sgarbi, Sulmona, 2006

- “LVIII Premio Michetti. Nuovi realismi”, text by Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Vallecchi Editore, Florence, 2007

- “Nuovi pittori della realtà”, texts by Luca Beatrice, Argàno Brigante, Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Vallecchi Editore, Florence,   2007

- “La nuova figurazione italiana. To be continued…”, texts by Luca Beatrice, Eugenio Borroni, Argàno Brigante, Chiara   Canali, Maurizio Sciaccaluga, Vittorio Sgarbi, Silvana Editoriale, Milan, 2007

- “Nerazzurra: cento artisti per cento anni di Inter”, text by Sergio Mandelli, Seregno, 2008

- “Pelle”, text by Paolo Pattina, Milan, 2008

- “Centoingiro, cento artisti per il centenario del Giro d’Italia”, text by Sergio Mandelli, Silvana Editoriale, Milano, 2009

- “Contemplazioni. Bellezza e tradizione del nuovo nella pittura italiana contemporanea”, text by Alberto Agazzani,   Christian Maretti Editore, Cesena, 2009

- “Premio internazionale Limen Arte”, texts by Lucio Barbera, Giorgio Di Genova, Massimo Duranti, Enzo Le Pera, Elena   Pontiggia, Romano Arti Grafiche, Tropea, 2009

- “Imago Feminae”, texts by Chiara Canali, Paolo Lesino, Giacomo Maria Prati, Grafiche G7, Savignone, 2009

- “Il Mito del Vero. Il ritratto. Il volto”, texts by Andrea Aromatico, Philippe Daverio, Paolo Lesino, Giacomo Maria Prati,   Fabio D'Ambrosio Editore, Milan, 2010

- “Metropolitan Baby”, texts by Chiara Canali, Emma Gravagnuolo, Alessandra Redaelli, Milan, 2010

- “Hyper”, text by Alberto Agazzani, NFC Edizioni, Rimini, 2013

- “Locus Animae”, text by Stefano Momentè, Nextitalia, Lido di Jesolo, 2013

- “Iside contemporanea”, texts by  Paola Caruso, Ferdinando Creta, Ada Patrizia Fiorillo, Riccardo Lattuada, PIESSE   Grafica  & Stampa, Foglianise, 2013

- “Resistenza e Contemporaneità”, texts by Salvatore Trapani, Elisabetta Del Monte, Reggio nell’Emilia, 2015

Giacomo Maria Prati

Not rigid icons but true visions are offered to us by Daniela Montanari. Her past professional and cultural experience in the field of architecture, restoration and design becomes an added value metabolized in and by her figurative passion that deepens the constructive research of the female figure by renewing the romantic-pop type of portrait. Daniela achieves that rare and difficult dynamic balance between the meticulous attention to detail and the structure and synthesis of organic unity of vision and figure. It is not a coincidence that one of her major exhibitions in 2003 in Lissone, edited by Sciaccaluga, was titled "Stories on the skin," for the poetic and expressive intensity of  "skin" of her modern and mysterious "feminae". But the maximization of the analysis comes here to help the exaltation of the individual and not its deconstruction. The critical eye, or only an aesthetic and curious eye, does not manage to stop and break down the configuration because of the narrative and ideational power of her works, as if it invades and saturates every mental and optical space, leads to a contemplation and not to a split. As in the seventeenth-century paintings, tarot cards, stamps, holy pictures and their secular version of laic "figurines", the background is reduced to the essence of a dominant colour, or to a few signs: mysterious and osmotic language that strengthens, together with the determined and intensified choices of colour, the urge to be at the centre of attention of the person in her intriguing and disturbing femininity, and, with it, it communicates the same focus of atmosphere and vibration, contemporaneously aura and master in relation to the human figure. The whole work is esteemed "in" the image of women. These are compositions that tell us the intimate magic of the immense feminine worlds captured in their clear and specific Westernness, not otherwise resolved. Daniela goes beyond every form of duality and nominalism to give us back the taste of the appearance free from the ephemeral sense and from the duration also stripped of any conceptual or ideological intentionality. There is no rhetoric in her language because there is no theorem or imitation or second communication purposes, only passionate pursuit and refined technique that aims to regenerate the imaginary painting in the portrait. The women painted by Daniela are seductive and pervasive presences as in "Maria", corrugated and elusive as in "Megane", or ecstatically astonished and "kidnapped" as in “Sunset”. It is as if they know that someone is looking at them and so they let everybody know them gently, agreeing to the fact that their insoluble mystery is shared. The "veil" of colours, the investigated faces up to embarrassment and discomfort, the vivid clothes, the wavy hair, the bright and big eyes, open to a momentary totality, are, in Daniela’s paintings, the very substance of humanity and nature, the vital essence of the cosmos, overcoming the distance between the rift and units. The painter effectively puts back together the aesthetic and philosophical fracture between phenomenon and "noumenon", between appearance and being, intention and language, essence and occurrence. As the nymphs the women portrayed by Daniela do not cause any rift in the scene that they connote and substantiate. In the women she represents, the "surface" corresponds, in a Nietzchian way,  to the spontaneous and sincere depth of being there and the inner essence arises in its communication. From the emphasis of colours, which are concentrated, bold, accurate, spread out homogenously in "soft areas" in a precise chiasmus or intertwined with the most dynamic details, as well as a complementary visual approximation of the faces, the sense of freshness and quick compelling narrative, in addition to the idea of hallucination and surreality, today abused and trivialized, hence. An intense and passionate woman to love and embrace right in the encounter with her, hypnotic and liberating, enlightening and decisive moment. Without preamble. Without escape.

Sabrina Arosio
The life of people is a matter of human topography for Daniela Montanari. Their nature, experiences, moods: everything is reflected on the skin, as if an existential map was drawn on their own epithelium. It has to be read carefully. The search for the young artist does not go in the direction of hyperrealism, already sufficiently explored. It goes further, towards the discovery of a new way of figuration, not simply relevant to the truth, but inside the truth. It is physiognomy discipline translated on canvas, it is where the innermost self, although invisible from the outside,  comes out because it leaves clear and indelible imprints on the skin. Daniela Montanari’s artistic operation starts with a feverish work of photo shoots aimed at capturing the smallest detail imprinted on the epidermis of the chosen subjects, or on their clothes. This is because nothing should be lost in the course of performance. The rest is all in the hands and in the stubbornness of revealing remote character traits of the subjects, to provide one fully fledged cognitive map. The large dimensions of her works facilitates the collection of information which together make up the story: the accurate and complete definition of facial features affects and even if the observer comes across some imperfections he does not perceive discomfort but full harmony. And so the story of the inner self takes place in a completely natural way. The great discovery of Daniela Montanari is that there is no need to add or take away, to pretend or sublimate anything that is real. The human perfection lies in the human being as he (or she) is and it can be transmitted only with a full description without ignoring hair on the face, moles, scars or wrinkles. Their omission would write a fragmented narrative. Portraying them faithfully, on the contrary, means leaving reading levers of the framework. Hyperrealism is, for her, synonymous of absolute truth. In Daniela Montanari’s production (understandably limited because such an analytical effort does not allow the conclusion of a work per month) the range of chosen subjects is disparate, precisely because it is not relevant to portray those who are glamorous, or who live at the top or over the top, but those who are inevitably included in everyday life. The perfect normalcy. And this is the hardest thing to do: remaining relevant to what something is without being tempted by the willingness of working on what already exists. The only concession to the resolution of the hidden mystery of a life is that black veil that allow glimpses of the faces in the background, which are smoothed by the semi-darkness in some parts and completely invaded by light in others. Little Star Light strikes a chord with her shyness, her wanting to almost hide behind a tuft of hair fully depicted. In Without a Name the skin burnt by the sun on the cheeks of a young woman, the glitter dripped around the half-closed lips, the folded shirt collar tells of a hot day just passed. Daniela Montanari does not shy away from portraying an elderly woman whose deep eyes and wrinkles on the skin represent the effort of a lifetime which was so complex that half of it is devoured by the shadows of a background that does not want to reveal it.

Alessandro Trabucco
First important solo exhibit for Daniela Montanari, young painter from Varese with an extraordinary talent. This statement isn’t supposed to be gratuitous. Daniela Montanari knows not only what to paint in this era of scarce propensity for pictorial quality means, but she can also choose what, or better, who she wants to paint, who she wants to portray and how she will portray it. It seems strange, but what constituted in the past the discriminatory logic to distinguish who was an artist from who wasn’t  one at all, now becomes a kind of exceptionality into the ocean of mediocrity. The subjects chosen by the artist are part her sentimental dimension, her own life projected and reflected in the wrinkles and in the imperfections of the gigantic faces represented in her huge canvases. Imperfections, yes, but they are an authentic "eyewash" for our eyes, faces that in their hard truth disturb and, at the same time, fascinate, they attract because they are authentic, even in the attempts of the subjects itself to hide, with gimmick tricks, that Nature created. Instead of photographing these faces and cleaning them digitally with Photoshop to give us a pure optical illusions good only for advertising and fashion, Daniela Montanari gives us the real life of people, their history in a glance, in an expression, in a grimace. Their eyes are on us, they overturn the usual artistic fruition. The paintings observe, scrutinize, seek contact with our gaze of quite attentive observers, they almost try to understand our reactions, our most hidden thoughts, they create a situation at the absolute limit of the mind-reading which is persistent and annoying. These are paintings that require weeks of work, sacrifice and discipline, and this justifies, as well as the preciousness of the work, the limited production of the artist. It is true, the American Realism existed but, with all due respect, we are not interested in the photographic reproduction of their gas stations or fast food. We are not interested in their mannequins roughly dressed in the middle of an art gallery . Without wishing to force a comparison, even if it springs to mind to anyone who knows a minimum of contemporary art, I remind you that the hyper-realism, beyond the advertising Made in the USA of the last century, was born in Europe. I want to think about Montanari rather as a worthy successor of Caravaggio or Rembrandt, not only for the accuracy of reproduction but also for the wise use of light and darkness and for the life that comes out from all her works.

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