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Norberto Proietti (1927-2009)




Norberto Proietti, known as Norberto was an Italian painter of Naive art, known worldwide by his works that contain dozens of industrious "little monks".
Norberto was born in the close knit and charming hamlet of Spello in 1927. His father was an agent in the livestock trade who also sold olives and grain and at the same time, he managed a modest trattoria. His mother helped out in the trattoria and was also a dressmaker of outfits for first communions.
He went on to immortalize the fairytale-like collection of ancient stone houses of his home town in most of his paintings: paintings that were set in delightful medieval villages framed by the sky and countryside.
As an adolescent, Norberto was sent to his uncle in Trastevere, a district of Rome, where he learned the tailoring. He returned to Spello in 1951 and opened his own tailor's shop.


By chance, one day Norberto found himself on this road as he was playing with and molding a piece of plaster that a workman had left behind. He went on to carving and coloring it and subsequently embraced this art form with such passion that ten years later, in 1961, it became his life's work.
In 1962 he held an exhibition in Luxembourg and shortly after he participated at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto.
Norberto's art is set within the naive style and the major promoter of this movement, Cesare Zavattini, became the strongest supporter of Norberto's work. Zavettini campaigned to have the artist receive the National Oscar for Naive Art, the Suzzarra Prize, in 1971.
The label "naïve" does not entirely do justice to Norberto's style, however, and it is actually preferable to refer to it as drawing on the traditions of the primitive style.
The stylistic trademark that has particularly characterized the artist is the use of his "little monks".


Tiny, overactive figures that fill the paintings like busy little bees tell of a world of prayer and work, of contact with nature and manual work.
Norberto's passion for the little monks grew out of his admiration for Saint Francis of Assisi who was the artist's moral and intellectual inspiration, appreciated for his ability to intertwine the intimate beauty of things with the creator, animals and nature in all its complexity.
The simplicity of the monks that inhabit a dimension of daily life, work and devotion evokes the fairy tale of a world finally reduced to human proportions, of a world in which we are obliged to feel reconciled with ourselves. Norberto died in Spello on August 9, 2009.






Proietti è nato a Spello da padre commerciante di bestiame, poi anche cuoco, mentre la madre con 5 figli aiutava il marito e cuciva abiti; molto rinomata a Spello perché creava modelli particolari e poi li eseguiva. Poco più che dodicenne Norberto andò in Trastevere a Roma, dallo zio per imparare un ‘mestiere’ che potesse dargli la possibilità di mantenersi. Non a caso si scelse un mestiere manuale e creativo.
Nel 1942 tornò a Spello, dopo questa esperienza cominciò a guardare le innumerevoli bellezze pittoriche che lo circondavano, con una luce diversa. Dopo un esperienza come sarto a Bergamo, nel 1950, riuscì ad aprirsi un laboratorio nel suo paese.
Nel 1951 dipinge il primo quadro, opera che suscita l’ammirazione dei suoi visitatori. La svolta avviene all’improvviso, da dello stucco lasciato per caso da alcuni imbianchini, prepara il fondo di una tavoletta, lo incide e lo colora, iniziando a delineare una forma espressiva del tutto personale.


Nel 1962 espone in Lussemburgo, nel 1965-66 in America a Memphis; si era aperto il mercato internazionale.
Dal 1967-1974 è presente quasi ogni anno al Festival dei due Mondi a Spoleto.
Cesare Zavattini convinto estimatore di Norberto, gli fa attribuire nel 1971 il Premio Suzzara, l’Oscar dell’arte ‘ingenua’ nazionale. Da allora la sua storia artistica non ha mai conosciuto interruzioni.
Il Medioevo è lo sfondo su cui si svolgono le scene che il pittore dipinge, ci sono quadri, tra i più conosciuti, dove c’è la una parte superiore occupata dal solito borgo turrito e nella parte inferiore ci sono campi lavorati. Qui vi appaiono continuamente frati che pregano e lavorano, vicoli, uliveti. Immagini medievali che raffigurano i mestieri o le opere.