Dante Liberi (1919-2004)
Dante Liberi is the product of a wide variety of influences and experiences. There is a clear kindredness to the works of Marini, Picasso, Braque, and Matisse, as well as stylistic likenesses to both Impressionism and Expressionism. Another important contribution was made by the Bulgarian artist Abracheff, for Liberi was a member of the Abracheff school. Ironically, perhaps his first influences were his father’s caricatures.
Liberi’s experiences are diverse. After finishing his formal education, the artist proceeded to gather artistic training wherever it could be found. He has extensive experience in scenery painting, including work with the New York Theater, the Geoffrey Ballet, the New York City Ballet, as well as the original sets for Sesame Street. His experience and training are also international. Born of Italian parents in New York, he has retained both personal and artistic connections with both countries. His art has a decidedly European feel, and is artistically most at home in the Tuscany area where he comments that “Art is everywhere.”
In Liberi’s art is the sense of a mastery present in so much of the art of High Renaissance and the Classical periods, but so conspicuously absent in much of the art of today. It begins with what he thinks is central to his art, the skill of drawing. He is a superior draftsman capable of producing works of obvious strength. Liberi’s intent is in part to create works that will appeal to his fellow artist in their technical expertise. He is also a colorist, choosing to work with vivid hues that excite and please the mind.
In Dante Liberi’s view, art is a creative activity. Man cannot exist meaningfully without creative activity. Thus, the primary impetus, and the raison d’être of his artistic life is the need to create with his mind and hands. The purpose of the work of art is to give pleasure and to express emotion, and that is intimately tied with technical skill, for it is through drawing and color that these aims are achieved. For that reason, Liberi’s primary medium, although he is accomplished in pencil, ink, pastel, and sculpture, is oil painting. Painting permits an infinite variety of techniques. This variety allows unlimited resources to draw upon.
Liberi is not a symbolic artist. His works are expressive, featuring readily recognizable objects. “I was never a theoretician, but rather an emotional painter.” These are the images of his daily experience, children, flowers, horses, and nudes. Art is an investigation of life. It also must, for a representational artist, seek a figurative language. None of this suggests a primarily conceptual endeavor, though. The principle problems presented to Liberi in the execution of his artworks are technical, rather than philosophical. Art is also irreducibly aesthetic, and almost mystic, for Liberi. Art must aspire to capture a beautiful quality that is itself ineffable.
There is a clear tie between the masters of the past and Dante Liberi. In the obvious skill, as well as demanding aesthetic, his work clearly has a historical context that is not tied to contemporary fashions. His are is also autobiographical, the “mirror of his life.” Through it shines an inner strength, a harmony, and a serenity, as well as a ubiquitous vitality. Effortlessness is important, not only that the painting should be effortless, but that it must also appear so. “I must strive to erase all visible traces of effort.” The product is a warm and easy sharing of his experiences and Liberi’s ever optimistic view of life.
Douglas Deaver, Ph.D.