The work of an eccentric Italian artist who has lived as a recluse for 18 years and said to possess the same level of technical brilliance as Picasso is to be exhibited in London after being hailed as a unique contribution to post-war European art.
Pordenone Montanari, 73, has shut himself away from the world for almost two decades, devoting himself to painting and sculpture and relying on his wife for food and paint supplies. At his home in Italy's Piedmont region he has created hundreds of figures, still life’s and landscapes that experts say show an original vision recalling that of Picasso, Chagall and Bacon.
This amazing story has come to light after a discovery of chance. His wife was attaching a "for sale" sign to the gate post, having decided to sell the four-storey house because it was too large, when a local Indian-born businessman, Raja Khara, and his Italian partner drove past. They stopped and asked to view the property – only to be overwhelmed by the artistic treasure trove it contained.
The house contained more than 500 pictures, stacked floor to ceiling, some piled several metres high. Khara bought the house within hours – and, in partnership with another Indian businessman, acquired the rights to the artist's estate for a further "high seven-figure sum".
The works have been shown to leading British art historian, Edward Lucie-Smith, who was bowled over by the quality and resolved to show them to the public describing them as radical and worthy of a major exhibition and representation in public galleries.
"This is a totally different voice," said Lucie-Smith. "Montanari is unique. This blows apart the conventional story of the development of Italian postwar art. Some contemporary artists pursue fame; others find it an obstacle in the path of their highest ambitions. Montanari belongs to the second category."
He described Montanari's works as "radical… a real addition to the history of 20th-century Italian painting".The still life’s, he said, prompt "comparisons to Cézanne and to Braque" and while elements of Picasso and Bacon emerge elsewhere "it's not like anything else we know about".
Montanari is described as "very controlled", a man for whom opening up does not come easily. "It's been so long." The artist told Khara's wife: "I have four muses: reading, writing, painting and sculpture. Maybe this justifies my 18 years of isolation."
Dr Rossana Pittelli, art expert at the Italian Cultural Institute, said: "Montanari has remained indifferent to the accolades. The London exhibition next month may be his big break, but he has no intention of being there."
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