The A-to-Z artist

The A-to-Z artist

Bernardi Auctioneers of Pretoria will honour one of South Africa’s great – but virtually forgotten – artists and decorators with the staging of The A-to-Z Artist, a retrospective exhibition of the work of Adelio Zagni Zeelie, from tomorrow until November 30.

The exhibition at the Bernardi Gallery at 65 Thomson Street, Colbyn, will open with a “champagne celebration” tomorrow at 11am and continue daily to culminate in an auction of 40 of the multi-skilled artist’s paintings with his personal furniture, mouldings and artefacts also on off er on December 1 at 10am.

Zeelie, born Adelio Zagni in 1911, painted in South Africa as “AZ Zeelie” and in Italy, under his family name, Zagni.

The A-to-Z Artist retrospective has been curated by his life-long friend, Guntram Jussel, whom Zeelie had mentored and steered into a career in fine Italianite interior and furniture decoration.

Zeelie, who died in 1991, studied fine art at the Brera Academy in Milan, with mural painting as part of his studies, and learnt restoring, gilding and furniture painting in Venetian and Florentine style in the Zagni family business in Merate, near Milan.

The family was involved in a post-World War II restoration of the La Scala Opera House in Milan. After settling in South Africa, Zeelie pioneered and became a master of painted, decorated and gilded furniture, murals and Trompe l’Oeil paintings, the restoration of painted and gilded antiques, and also produced acclaimed canvas oil paintings.

He collaborated with interior designer Imrie Lorencz on projects that included the interiors of Summer Place in Hyde Park, once the meeting place of the rich and today a conference centre.

Zeelie’s last high-profile work on walls and ceilings was in 1984, for The Lion House in Kensington, Johannesburg, meticulously restored by its new owners, the McBride family, who engaged Zeelie to restore the historic house back to its original splendour.

Originally built in 1909 by George Wallocott , an early master decorator of stucco work, The Lion House is now a national monument and national heritage site.

One of the highlights of the Bernardi retrospective will be Madonna and Child, an Italian Gothic-inspired 1955-painting in the classic Gesso gilding technique; and an Oriental inspired cocktail cabinet with Zeelie’s diverse Venitian talents on show in both art and decoration.

When and where

  • The A-to-Z Artist, which will be of major interest to art lovers, collectors, investors and interior designers, will be open daily from 10am to 5pm.
  • For more information please phone 012-430-6914 or visit bernardiauctioneers.co.za.

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