Nicola Simbari: The Palette Knife Master

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Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm

165 Worth Avenue, 33480, Palm Beach, United States
Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm


Nicola Simbari: The Palette Knife Master

Palm Beach

Nicola Simbari: The Palette Knife Master
to Tue 30 Jun 2020
Tue-Sat 10am-6pm


Simbari Findlay Galleries feature

Virtual Viewing Room

Nicola Simbari is a phenomenon in the world of modern art. For more than fifty years, he soared from one artistic period to another. Always succeeding brilliantly, he redefined the magic of color and form. Along the way, he took on his subjects as a panorama of everyday life. Sensuality becomes an overriding theme for Simbari, causing beauty and romance to reign supreme.

As a painter, Simbari initially was interested in mainly the avant-garde movement. Braque was his first god, and later followed his admiration for Miró. Gradually, he became involved in an effort to tell a story with his paintings, so he changed to a more introverted approach. Meanwhile, Simbari began developing an admiration for Gauguin, Van Gogh and de Staël. Gradually finding himself free from influence, he developed the style now recognized as Simbaresco. He began defining himself as a representational artist who went through numerous styles of painting including Abstract Expressionism and Geometric Abstraction, yet resolutely remaining a figurative painter due to his alluring fascination in people.

Throughout his travels, Simbari sketched incessantly in pencil or pastel. The paintings were done in his own studio under the strong light of the Italian sky and to a background of symphonic music by his favorite composers, which include Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, and Palestrina. Having been trained as an architect, Simbari handled his colors with an architect’s respect for the basic form. His paintings remained disciplined regardless of the brilliance of his colors and how freely he treated his subjects. His grasp of such essential elements in a subject enabled him to work freely and assuredly.

The entire world around him fascinated Simbari, and his subjects are all-embracing. The Italian countryside, the sea, flowers, native festivals, processions, café scenes, the Isle of Ischia, fishing villages, parades, boats on the seashore, lovely women in the sun, small coastal villages, gardens jeweled with flowers – all are part of his repertoire. No matter what the subject, in each painting Simbari embodies his credo which, in his own words is, “to express in the most satisfactory way possible, and as completely as you possibly can, your truest view, your truest feelings, about life and about people.”

Café Life

Simbari was fascinated by people and thus by the moments in time that mark one life from another. It is then no surprise that he dedicated a significant part of his oeuvre focused on people walking on streets or sitting in a café.
Simbari was a keen observer of his surroundings. He would capture snapshots of life in its most concentrated form, including that of the city. Part of the success of his city life works was based on his ability to capture enough nuance to imbue his paintings with feelings that went beyond material representation.

Simbari’s paintings could easily be described as cinematic due to the introspective lull and anticipatory tension that lurks just below the surface of the painting. Correspondingly, if cinema is the angle by which Simbari’s works are to be viewed, then the Italian Cinema Verité is the cinematic style that is closest in its ethos and aesthetic. There is an immediacy that allows for the unedited to be part of the pictorial world. The focus is placed on free execution through bold palette knife strokes. It is here where Simbari’s instincts act and the result is the capture of a reality that is fleeting and in a state of constant motion.

The Allure of the Sea

Born in Calabria, Italy, Simbari’s earliest paintings ensue scenes from his daily life, fishing villages, and the surrounding countryside. His work was greatly impacted by the magical allure of the Mediterranean. From the intense blues of the sky and water to the shimmering hues of the houses and expressive colors of the flowers around them, this enchanting atmosphere served as a springboard for Simbari’s innovative style of painting. His use of color and texture complemented his vision of the environment by allowing him to evoke the feeling of the sun’s rays on warm flesh and the soft touch of an ocean breeze. Simbari’s paintings of the sea are luminous, vibrant and pulsating.

Pure Simbaresco

Simbari’s place in art history is secured in part by the unusual combination of an innovative mind with natural talent. Emerging in the decade after American Abstract Expressionism had captured the attention of the art world, Simbari was one of the European artists who absorbed and took full advantage of the new language and understanding the Abstract Expressionists had opened for the world. He merged several of the formal elements of non-representational painting such as color fields, heavy impasto and rhythm through pattern (and its disruption) with representational elements, all the while using the palette knife. The result became known as the Simbaresco.


Simbari enjoyed painting both people and the places they inhabited. Throughout his entire career, he took the time and the space to step back and capture the beauty that surrounded him. He enjoyed painting a wide variety of themes, and his focus varied from an overall vista or large architectural elements, to small details in the corner of a charming street or market. This selection showcases a group of Simbari’s early works and places them in contrast with the more colorful works that form the majority of his oeuvre.


Like several of the modern masters that inspired him, Simbari created works in an assortment of mediums. Findlay Galleries is proud to present a collection of rare early etchings. These works were printed in 1973 and are both signed and numbered by the artist. They are a perfect addition to any collection. Whether this is your first Simbari or you have several of his works in your collection, the rarity and exceptional condition of these works will expand your understanding of Simbari’s talent and artistic practice, as they clearly highlight his ability as a draftsman and his use of dynamic and rhythmic lines.


Simbari was at his core a figurative painter. As a young boy living in Rome, he had the opportunity to see some of the greatest masterpieces produced by both the classical civilizations (Greece and Rome) and by the artists working during the Italian and Northern
Renaissance. Simbari painted strong, diverse, and confident women, and it was in these aspects of their personality where he found their beauty.

Simbari used his figures to unlock the meaning of other areas of his paintings. It is often a face or a body part that gives meaning to the surrounding elements by providing the viewer with a sense of scale, proportion and context. Simbari’s figurative work also showcases his technical ability through his mastery of the challenge to represent the three dimensionality of the human form while using the palette knife. In order to create volume, Simbari had to paint in a gradient, and success depended on the artist selecting the perfect color intensity and value.

all images © the gallery and the artist(s)

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