Dionisio Del Santo (1925 - 1999)


    Dionísio del Santo studied at the seminary of São Francisco de Assis in Santa Teresa, Espírito Santo (1932 - 1939), teaching himself technical drawing from observation in the 1940s. He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1946, and began to work in advertising design in 1952. After more than a decade of working commercially, producing advertising proofs and art reproductions, del Santo held his first solo exhibition, of abstract prints, in 1965 (Galeria Relevo, Rio de Janeiro). He went on to participate in the Bienal Internacional de São Paulo (1967) and the Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro (1968), winning prizes at both.

    The most significant solo exhibition of his early career was held in 1973 at the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro. The show included more than 300 abstract works, all of which were produced using silkscreen. Del Santo had used silkscreen reproduction in his years spent working commercially, but this exhibition demonstrated that the artist had made the technique his own creatively. His uniquely developed use of the media drew considerable praise from Brazilian art critics, including Mario Pedrosa and Ferreira Gullar, and this exhibition was awarded the APCA Prêmio de Melhor Exposição de Gravura do Ano (the São Paulo Association of Art Critics' Prize for Printmaking Exhibition of the Year).

    As was the case with many of the artists associated with Brazilian constructivism (for example Alfredo Volpi), del Santo first encountered the movement as a self-taught outsider and went on to become an important part of the history of abstract art in Brazil. His work was included in the historical exhibitions Projeto Construtivo na Arte (MAM/RJ, 1977); Tradição e Ruptura: síntese de arte e cultura brasileiras (Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, 1984/85); Abstração Geométrica 2 - Projeto Arte Brasileira (Funarte, Rio de Janeiro, 1988) and Bienal Brasil Século XX (São Paulo, 1994). Two retrospective exhibitions were organised in his lifetime, at MAM/SP, (1990) and at the Museu de Arte of his home city of Vitória, Espírito Santo (1998), and several posthumous exhibitions have been held since his death in 1999.

    Parallel to his career as an artist, del Santo was an enthusiastic advocate of the use of silkscreen as a fine art technique, and his courses at MAM-RJ and the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage have inspired several generations of painters and printmakers to investigate the media in their own work.

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