Article Content

In conversations recorded in 1911, Auguste Rodin,1 the renowned French sculptor, discussed mystery in art:


People believe that we (artists) live only by our senses and that the world of appearances is enough for us. People take us for children who become inebriated by iridescent colors and who play with forms as if with dolls. People understand us poorly. Lines and shades are only signs of hidden realities for us. Beneath the surface (of things), our gaze plunges to the spirit, and then when we reproduce contours, we enrich them with the spiritual content they enclose. The artist worthy of the name must express the entire truth of Nature, not only the truth outside, but also, and above all, that of the inside.


Dino Cavallari's life work as a contemporary artist is in the spirit of Rodin. Gazing at his art, one senses a deep reverence for nature, a keen understanding of human suffering, and appreciation of the human story.


He draws out of the viewer a hidden empathy. His human forms are sculptural, and his use of vibrant color is compelling.


Born in Bondeno, Italy, in 1923, he is a long-time resident of France. He began his vocation as a painter at age 12 years. After his incarceration for resistance activities during World War II, he studied sculpture at the Institute d'Art Beato Angelico of Rome. Arriving in France in 1949, he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but his health, as a result of his incarceration, prevented him from continuing as a sculptor and he turned his attention entirely to painting.


The range of subjects and the media he has used in his expressive art are both captivating and astounding. He has illustrated political uprisings on large corrugated paper in oil pastels, painted scenes of the Apocalypse on shapes of free-form wood, created icons in gold leaf and stained glass colors, made large crucifixes of wood with an image of Christ painted in oils, painted scenes of Muhammad's life and Whirling Dervishes, captured dreamlike scenes of his long-time residence in Burgundy, captured the essence of Beaulieu and Eze Village in precise pen and ink sketches, created large beautifully decorated boxes to hold his 170 illustrations of verses of the Bible, and has also illustrated book covers for many authors.


Dino expressed his own view of art and nature in conversations this summer at his home and studio in Sennevoy le Haut, Burgundy, France.


My art is the expression of my appreciation of nature in all its manifestations, including the life, movement, color and form of animals, trees, rivers, valleys and human beings all kindred in nature and spirit. For me this means the grasp of the richness of earth in our hands and in our spirits as artists. Thus, a work of art is a fusion of matter and spirit captured by the imagination but with care to technique and respect for the material that one uses in one's art.


My own method is simple; I work every day on any material available, be it wood, carton, paper or canvas. I am a compulsive painter. I paint on walls, I've painted many subjects almost without limit and they are on view here in my studio, my bedroom, the kitchen, on furniture and cabinets. My home is my gallery. In other words, I believe art is both a work and a passion. And it is a passion as strong as love for one's family and one's friends. It is a love at the deepest level of creation itself.


Dino Cavallari's paintings can be found in private collections and museums in France and abroad. In addition, he has illustrated works of literature by Sacha Guitry, Jean Cocteau, Paul Vaillant, Jean Larteguy, and Cervantes, as well as editions of the Bible, both Old and New Testament; The Life of Muhammad; and Herbert Mason's retelling of Gilgamesh and his The Death of al-Hallaj. He has said that the story of Gilgamesh opened up his imagination to then illustrate the Bible.


Two of his book cover illustrations can be viewed in full color at




1. Rodin A. Art: Conversations With Paul Gsell. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press; 1984. (First published as L'Art: Entretiens Reunis par Paul Gsell. Paris, France: Bernard Grasset, Editeur; 1911). [Context Link]