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Dino Martens

( Venezia 1894 - 1970 )


    Dino Martens

    Dino Martens was born in Venice in 1894 and participated in various national exhibitions as a young man. In 1913 he exhibited two oils Tra i cenciosi and A San Geremia at the Esposizione alla Ca’ Pesaro in Venice, and in the same year he participated in the Esposizione Nazionale di Napoli with the painting Pulpiti d’oro (Milan Cathedral).

    His training took place at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice under the guidance of Ettore Tito. His early works were influenced by verism and post-impressionism and then adhered to those early 20th-century instances that saw a revival of 15th-century Italian stylistic features, enveloping his characters in a magical and rarefied atmosphere of stillness.

    The Venice Biennale and national exhibitions

    Dino Martens participated in several editions of the Venice Biennale: in 1924 he exhibited Old Fisherman; in 1926 he participated with Young Bride, a probable portrait of his young wife Amelia Toso; and in 1928 he exhibited Bowling Players, a painting of great dynamic vivacity. The artist participated again in the Biennale in 1930 exhibiting the work I costruttori (The Builders).

    He also took part in other national exhibitions such as the Regional Exhibition in Treviso in 1921 exhibiting Impression of a Feast in Naples, Bluettes campestri and Il vetraio. He was then present at the National Exhibition of Maritime Art at the Palazzo dell’Esposizione in Rome in 1926 with the work La cena dei pescatori (The Fishermen’s Dinner); in 1929 he exhibited three works Natura morta (Still Life), the portrait Ginetta Carrara and Cortile (Courtyard) at the Mostra del Sindacato fascista della Campania in Naples. He returned to Venice in 1932 to the Fascist Syndicate Exhibition, again participating with three works: A Sant’Erasmo, The Hunter and Vignole.

    Dino Martens: glass designer

    In 1952 he returned to the Venice Biennale in a different guise, with works made of glass. Dino Martens in fact exhibited in the decorative arts pavilion, at the glass exhibition, Saul, Eldorado, Osellaria, Vaso Eldorado, Vaso Zanfirico, Vaso Zanfirico giallo. Glass was to be a very important chapter in his career. In fact, in the 1920s, he moved to Murano and flanked his painting activity with glass-working. He began to create designs and drawings for the SALIR company and from then on he would dedicate most of his production to the applied arts. He understands the potential of glass and learns how to shape it, initially starting with a déco line, and then arriving at visionary designs for the early 20th century, bordering on abstraction. It is also possible to recognise an influence of African craftsmanship in his glass, suggestions from a trip Dino Martens made to Africa in 1935. From this experience, the artist brought back colours and shapes derived from the textures of African fabrics, which he translated into his glass works. He continued to work mainly as a designer until around the 1960s. He disappeared in 1970 in Venice.

    The Magic Realism of Dino Martens

    In his artistic research, Dino Martens also devoted himself to landscapes, sceneries with a clear Tuscan influence, with bare mountains and bare trees, lands lashed by the winds and a village world with archaic memories, but his favourite subject is the human figure, and it is in the figure portraits that Dino Martens reaches the highest levels of his production. He tries to get as close as possible to an objective reality, taking care of every detail, an attention to detail that is combined with a very intimate and sensitive rendering of the subjects’ expressions, as for example in the aforementioned Old Fisherman.

    His is an impeccable technique, which starts with a clean and precise drawing, and the use of cold, flat colours of extreme sobriety. His subjects are immersed in a blocked dimension. Everything leads us back to that climate of a return to order, to the Magic Realism of Antonio Donghi and Cagnaccio di San Pietro. Even in character-rich works like The Builders, silence reigns, the workers are intent on their work, but no effort is perceived: the builders are frozen in an ethereal, suspended time.

    Dino Martens, in his return to order, looks in particular to the old masters of the 15th century, in fact in his works we can see a close look at the painting of Paolo Uccello, but above all at Piero della Francesca.


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