The“Retablo” in Silkscreen

Living in the aura of a Master Artist has been a life-changing experience . . .

I am almost ashamed to admit
    (even to myself!)
that only now do I realise the importance of the “Retablo” in silkscreen prints that SIMBARI created in the ‘80s.

Retablo in silkscreen
Printed on canvas
and / or
100% cotton-rag Fabriano paper

I travelled with him to Fabriano (famous world-wide for its exquisite paper), where he chose the magnificent paper on which his ‘creations’ were to be ‘printed’. This paper has his ‘signature’ running through it, as a watermark, to avoid any false copies being made.

I watched him work on the plates, with which he used to “PAINT” his chosen subjects, using the silkscreen process.

Retablo in Silkscreen
Printed on canvas
and/or 100% cotton-rag Fabriano paper

I was dazzled by the superb quality of the colours and “feel” . . . the look of being hand painted one by one . . .

I have heard many suppositions about how he achieved the “painted” quality in this series of outstanding prints . . . so unlike the earlier silkscreen prints (or serigraphs) he had had printed for him, from his colourful subjects.

If you are lucky enough to own one of this last series of prints, created by him personally, in his own printing studio, then you will be aware of the thickness of enamels and inks, which give the “feel” of being hand-painted.

This was to be SIMBARI’s “invention”, and sadly, never to be repeated, by him, later . . . in the 90s . . .

“Balcony in Amalfi”
Retablo in silkscreen
Printed on
100% cotton-rag
Fabriano paper
He wanted to achieve the magic of his paintings . . . the impasto, that he used in his canvases . . .

Here he is working on “Lily”. . . .
 A very popular example of his “invention” - - - Retablo in Silkscreen

Retablo in Silkscreen
Printed on 100% cotton-rag
Fabriano paper

SIMBARI studied Art at Rome’s Academia Delle Belle Arte. Having won a special scholarship to go there at the age of 13. He passed out with honours at 17. He then won a scholarship to go to Rome University to study Architecture.

It is often overlooked that he has always been a consummate and passionate artist, from the age of 6, when he would draw for his classmates, illustrating the subjects being taught in class. . . . sadly, I have no examples to show you of his amazing drawings of “Pinocchio” or “Moby Dick”, from his school days!

His exceptional talent was recognised, and nurtured, by his teacher, Maestra Marcellini, until he left school . . . . and afterwards . . .

He is steeped in the History and Mystery of Italian Art . . . Perhaps THAT is why an article written in the mid-80s, in a New York magazine called him

« ”The Avant-garde Renaissance Man” »

It is so true - - - he was always ahead of his contemporaries and yet full of a deep respect for the important lessons of the Great Masters of the past . . .

To quote from this article by Aline Franzen ;

« “The personality of the well known Italian painter, Nicola Simbari, is divided between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” »

« “His double personality consists as an artist with the Renaissance technique and touch, and his overall knowledge of an artisan, with which he can express himself, through every facet of his work, yet at the same time he is a totally modern Avant-garde painter, sculptor and print-maker using the most up-to-date techniques and materials available in the 20th Century.” »

Somehow, these few words sum up The Magic, which is SIMBARI . . . mercurial, full of passion and Life, which he translates into his Art, whether a painting, a print, or a sculpture . . . never following a ‘trend’ . . . ignoring the ‘critics’ . . . . his own man.

When he was working he was focused on the ‘work’ at hand . . . and then, it would be ‘time to play’ . . . and he DID!

“Blue Marina”
Retablo in silkscreen
Printed on
100% cotton-rag
Fabriano paper

When a restless SIMBARI told me he was going to buying ‘a special place’ to make into his Printing Studio, I was not surprised . . .

Over the years, when creating his earlier Lithographs, Etchings and Silkscreens, he was often unhappy and frustrated because the printing studio (or shop) he was using, did not seem to ‘understand’ the outcome that HE, the Artist, wanted to achieve . . . trying new techniques and inventing his own methods in order to arrive at the effects that he wanted to give . . . . . with La Bottega Simbari he could create his own Graphic art . . !

This ‘technique’ he called ‘Retablo in Silkscreen’

The word “Retablo”, so Nicola told me, means ‘painting’ in old Neapolitan (or Spanish). It usually referred to a ‘painting’, often taken on the travels of a noble gentlemen, from the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, of which Naples was a major city.

He explained that he would be using the printing process to “paint his subjects, in multiples, so that they had depth and substance” - - - as if
painted, rather than ‘printed’.

“Afternoon in Procida”
Retablo in Silkscreen
Printed on canvas
And/or 100% cotton-rag
Fabriano paper

‘ART’ - - - Visual Art . . . was ‘just’ a subject I studied in the last year of school! Learning about the Great Artists of the Past, visiting Museums and Galleries to witness magnificent works left by such artists as Vermeer, Rembrandt, Da Vinci . .
sadly, I had no talent in translating what I saw, and moved me, into Images. Yet, how lucky I was to have ‘some knowledge’ when I became a part of the “SIMBARI-experience” and his Life !!!

My life had been dedicated to the Theatre and Opera . . . my mother, an actress before she married my father, taught me the value of ‘language’ and ‘intonation’ and read to me, as a young girl. Shakespeare and Wordsworth and many other great English writers were recited to me by a passionate ‘wordsmith’. I love Poetry . . . it is like Music, lilting through my head - - - Perhaps this is why so much of SIMBARI’s work equals the magnificent sound of a great symphony . . . !   The blending of Colour clashing like cymbals or the soft blues and whites of his seascapes bringing the sound of distant violins . . .

I have had a unique “View” of the ‘workings’ of this Magical Artist. . .
I think few have ‘understood’ the importance of his dedication to the making of his famous Retablos in Silkscreen, has had in the overall ‘description’ of this 20th. Century Genius - - -

“Il Sogno”
Retablo in silkscreen
Printed on 100% Cotton-rag
Fabriano paper
Retablo in silkscreen
Printed on 100% cotton-rag
Fabriano paper

I wish to share this incredible experience, and journey, with you
so you may see “Mediterranee”, “Sylvie”, “ Capri”, or “Afternoon in Procida” and the other beautiful Retablos in Silkscreen, printed in those years, on superb paper and canvas.

Every minute detail was controlled by Simbari - - - subject - - - preparation - - - colours - - - the ‘pulling’ and numbers. He Signed, only after he was completely satisfied with every final detail. Although a Retablo is one of a series, it could be said that he ‘painted’ each one - - -!

The quality is superb.

In Fabriano he ordered the magnificent hand-made paper, with the watermark of his signature ‘Simbari’ running through each piece, in order to be sure there would be no ‘false copies’ once the works were on the print market.

He flew to Germany, where he saw the most up-to-date silkscreen printing machines and investigated the best ‘inks’ and enamels of the highest quality. He returned to Rome full of excitement and had difficulty awaiting the deliveries of his purchases!

Nicola had been making prints ever since I knew him, so it was ‘easy’ for him to have his own printing Studio, and work on his own Vision of
painting with the printing technique.

Retablo in silkscreen
Printed on canvas and / or
100% cotton-rag
Fabriano paper

He searched for a place to make his ‘dream’ printing studio, near his beautiful house and studio in the Alban Hills, outside Rome - - - finding it in Frascati . . .
He invited a Master Print-maker to join him in his “Experiment” . . .

La Bottega Simbari was ‘born’ .

The Retablo prints were the birth of something NEW in our life . . .

and many more . . .

plus . . . Quadriums (Nicola’s method, using 4 colours)
Etchings and Lithographs

Do I have a favourite? - - - yes!

The amazing success of the Retablos is history . . . I feel honoured to have had a part in their ‘birth’ !

Perhaps it is


Or - - -


© Elfrida 2010

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