Ernesto Ornati was born in Vigevano, a Renaissance fairy-tale town in northern Italy.
Ornati's family was devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and culture, and his father, Mario Ornati, a renowned painter of the time as well as a professor at the Royal Fine Arts Academy of Milan (now Brera), was also the young Ornati's first art teacher. Ornati remembers his father's drawing and painting lessons as his most important introduction to art, although not the easiest. The academy professor was a strict and demanding master, and ..."he would never compliment me. I would never know if he was pleased or not," says Ornati. "But then my father's friends would tell me how proud he was of my progress."
In his late teens, Ornati learned and practiced the secrets of the affresco technique created by the great painter Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770). As an apprentice to the master painter Angelo Galloni he assisted in the frescoing of various churches in Lombardy. Working conditions with Ornati's strict master were not much different from those of the Renaissance: long hours of work at dizzying heights in the cupolas, heavy loads to be carried up and down rickety wooden ladders, and scanty food.
At the age of 18, Ornati began studio courses at the Brera Fine Arts Academy with the noted sculptor Francesco Messina. He graduated in Sculpture with highest honors in 1953.
After military service with the Granatieri Corps in Rome, Ornati was invited to teach life drawing at the Brera Fine Arts Lyceum.
In 1963, Ornati left his teaching position and began to travel. Seeking new knowledge, emotions and techniques, he visited Africa, Canada, Mexico, and the United States, where he lived from 1976 to 1980 in Arizona and New York.
In the meantime, his work evolved: portraits of people, figures in sculpture, paintings. In 1964, Ernesto Ornati begun the collection "Personages of the XX Century" by sculpting the portrait from life of the futurist painter Carlo Carra'. The collection - a unique corpus historically and artistically - now includes portraits in polychrome terracotta and bronze of internationally renowned cultural figures such as Ezra Pound, Graham Sutherland, Carlo Carra', John Cheever and Hans Richter.
Since his very first exhibitions as a young art academy student in 1953, and his first one-man show in Vigevano in 1958, Ornati has been invited to present 30 one-man shows in prestigious art galleries and museums in Italy and abroad.
In fact, Ernesto Ornati's work has been featured not only in privately owned galleries but also in prestigious one-man exhibitions in public spaces. Ornati's shows at the Sforza Castle in Vigevano, Villa Mirabello Civic Art Museum in Varese, Municipal Palazzo of Tradate, Palazzo Circolo della Stampa in Milan and the Contemporary Art Museum of Gallarate were public exhibitions sponsored by those respective cities.
Sculpture and painting created by Ernesto Ornati have been exhibited in over a hundred group shows.
In 1988, Ornati's work represented Italian art in a group exhibit from Varese which toured the former Soviet Union, attracting record crowds in Kiev, Moscow, Tiblisi and St. Petersburg.
Ornati has received prestigious recognition and awards; the Art Academies of Italy Prize, the City of Milan Prize for Young Artists, the Rotary International Prize awarded by the Milan Rotary Club and the Bergamo Prize given by the Artigiani Association of Bergamo, to cite a few.
Ornati sculpts and paints in all techniques, mastering materials such as bronze, steel, wood, stone and marble; his innovative polychrome terracottas are renowned for their refined and masterful modeling and subtle colorings.
Whether creating portraits, still life sculpture or paintings, Ernesto Ornati's innovative style has gained wide appreciation. Year after year, critical acclaim confirms his ability to transform each and every one of his artistic accomplishments into a newly modern and important artistic medium.
Ornati's vast bibliography includes exhibition catalogue essays, press reviews and magazine articles by art critics, historians and journalists. Catalogue essays have been written for Ornati's exhibitions by the eminent Italian art critics Gian Alberto Dell'Acqua, Elvira Cassa Salvi, Roberto Tassi and Giovanni Testori, among others. The book "Contemporary Still Life", written by the famous Italian art critic and senator Vittorio Sgarbi, features an Ornati still life sculpture on its cover.
Beginning in the early years of his career, Ornati has collaborated with many architects, decorating public and private buildings by commission in Italy and abroad. In 1962 Ornati was commissioned by a major architectural firm in Houston, Texas to sculpt the bronze group "The Reformation", composed of the figures of Luther, Calvin and Knox, for the new Central Presbyterian Church on Richmond Avenue in Houston. One recent public commission is a large polychrome terracotta composition commemorating the Bersaglieri, in Mediglia, Milan, Italy.
Ornati's sculpture and painting is found in private and public collections in Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the U.S.A.
Ernesto Ornati lives and works in Northern Italy. He is married and has two children.
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Ornati with his wife and first baby, 1962