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Francesco Clemente, American (born Italy, active New York and India), born 1952

Possibly made in United States, North and Central America


Pastel with charcoal on Rives paper

Sheet: 26 x 19 inches (66 x 48.2 cm)

© Francesco Clemente, courtesy Mary Boone Gallery

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Hunt Corporation (formerly Hunt Manufacturing Co.) Arts Collection Program, 1984

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Clemente was born in Naples, lives in New York, and travels often to India. The richly layered and diverse cultures of all these places inform his imagery, which is dense with strange metamorphoses and fragmentations reflecting his immersion in a kind of world culture that bridges ancient and modern, East and West.

Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    From 1979 onward Clemente created an enormous number of works that depict his own face and body, as in this self-portrait, evocatively titled Italy. As Lisa Dennison aptly observes: “The extensive series of self-portraits and portraits that have emerged throughout the artist’s career are keys to understanding the nature of his vision. The enlarged, exaggerated eyes of many of his faces and figures suggest that the ocular openings allow access to the body. . . and form a reciprocal boundary between body/artist and the world. . . . In a series of dislocated situations or places, the artist depicted himself nude or clothed; truncated, decapitated, or otherwise deformed; transmuting between human and animal or between male and female. . . . The bodily cavities are themselves filled with smaller heads, creating an infinity of reflection. . . . The metaphor of the sensual bodily encounter extends to Clemente’s immersion in other cultures. His engagements with Italy, India, and America take on sexual and sensual dimensions, as does the meeting and blending of cultures and cultural narratives in his work” (New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Clemente. Exhibition catalogue by Lisa Dennison. New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1999, pp. 38-39). In the Philadelphia drawing one glimpses faces within faces, the two eyes of the protagonist becoming three faces imbedded in one head, revealing the artist’s propensity for setting forth in his self-portraits differing slants on his psychological self-perception. The pastel was created in 1983, during the artist’s second year of permanent residence in New York City and at the peak of a brief and intensely creative period (1982-84) when the power of his imagery and the virtuosity of his handling of pastel and watercolor burst out in a sequence of especially brilliant works in those mediums (many are illustrated in Philadelphia, Hartford, and San Francisco 1990-91, pp. 133-65). Clemente saw 1983 as a crucial year for himself in New York, a time when he and his new friends among artists, poets, critics, writers, and musicians--who included Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Brice Marden, Julian Schnabel, Rene Ricard, John Wieners, Allen Ginsberg, and Morton Feldman experienced a particularly intense sharing of energy and productivity (see Raymond Foye in Philadelphia, Hartford, and San Francisco 1990-91, pp. 114-15). Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 77.


    Philadelphia Museum of Art. New Art on Paper: Acquired with Funds from the Hunt Manufacturing Co. Exhibition catalogue by Ellen S. Jacobowitz and Ann Percy. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1988., no. 11, repro.;
    Philadelphia Museum of Art; Hartford, Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Francesco Clemente: Three Worlds. Exhibition catalogue by Ann Percy, Raymond Foye, et al. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1990, p. 160, repro.