Famous for his motionless paintings, Italian artist Antonio Donghi (1897 – 1963) was also known as the painter fleeing the wind. There is no movement suggested in Donghi’s paintings, as if time is standing still, his style being reminiscent of Henri Rousseau and Georges Seurat.
The Italian was fascinated by the circus life and performers, in general, frequently depicting acrobats, singers, jugglers and harlequins in his works. By depriving them of their movement and audience through his paintings, we get a rare glimpse into the performers as separate entities, sad figures resigned to live for others’ pleasure, yet with immense respect for their trade. Beneath their apparent simplicity, Donghi’s paintings can be intriguing and unsettling at the same time.
The Juggler (1936) is a representative painting of Donghi during the 1920 – 1930s, albeit more joyous, where the emphasis is on a juggler, elegantly dressed, balancing a top hat on his cigar with apparent ease. As he often did in his paintings, Donghi used the blue curtains, to the left, to tell us that we’re assisting a performance. The small table with a flower vase on top of it, set against the blue wall, gives a bit more depth to the room, while also balancing the composition. Reminiscent of classic still life paintings, the flower vase emphasizes the lack of movement in this scene and is a recurring motif in Donghi’s work.