Franco Azzinari was born in San Demetrio Corone, in the province of Cosenza, Italy, on March 3, 1949. After the death of his parents, at the age of fourteen, he left Calabria and started a journey of personal growth across Europe. For several years he lived in Paris, where he was fascinated by the Impressionist painters, particularly by Gauguin, Van Gogh and Monet, who had a major influence on his artistic future. In France, for a living, Azzinari started to make portraits for tourists on the street.
In 1973, he moved to Lerici (La Spezia) where he made ten tables on Region Liguria. In 1974, at the gallery La Cattedrale, Azzinari had his first solo exhibition. In the same year, he opened a studio-gallery in Milan. In 1977, he began a series of trips to the Far East, in search for the footsteps of ancient Asian civilizations. Then, he traveled and painted in the United States, in the Seychelles Islands, and in Brazil.
In 1992, Azzinari found in the Cuban people and the countryside many similarities with his native land. For Azzinari Cuba was love at first sight, and the beginning of a series of extraordinary meetings. He depicted Hemingway’s sailor Gregorio Fuentes, President Fidel Castro, the musician Compay Segundo, and the sunny Cuban countryside and still life. In 2001, the work produced in Cuba was exhibited at the National Museum in Havana, and later in several Italian cities. The collection was included in a book published by the prestigious publishing Electa (Milan).
In the same year Azzinari, interested in Greek mythology, went to visit the places where the gods of ancient times lived. He painted The Cradle of Apollo (Island of Delos), Isthmus of Corinth (Peloponnese), The Bay of Poseidon (Cape Sounion), The Bay of Ulysses (Ithaca). Meanwhile, the Municipal Government of Altomonte (Cosenza) assigned him the spaces of Tower Pallotta, a monument of Norman origin, which dates back to 1052. In this ancient structure, on June 2, 2002, the “Museo Franco Azzinari” officially opened. The museum hosts a permanent exhibition called Twenty Years with Nature, which consists of forty of the most significant works made by the artist, and includes four rooms dedicated to the Cuban paintings.
In more recent years, fascinated by the life of Ernest Miller Hemingway, Azzinari retraces the steps of the American writer depicting the places and people he loved in Cuba, in Kenya and in Tanzania. In December 2008, the University of Calabria organized an exhibition on the topic, and published the catalog entitled Azzinari: Looking for Hemingway. In 2010, the Cuban Minister of Culture Abel Prieto, hosted the same exhibition at the Tower of the Hemingway Museum Finca Vigía, Havana, for the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the American writer.
In December of the same year, Azzinari started a new project dedicated to another Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel García Márquez who posed for him in Cuba. Expressions of García Márquez includes twenty portraits dedicated to the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which were exhibited in Havana from December 8, 2011, to January 8, 2012, at the Cine Latino Americano Foundation.
In July 2012, at the Casa del Alba Cultural de La Habana, Franco Azzinari and Alex Castro organized the exhibition El Rostro de la Historia, a homage to Fidel Castro for his 86th birthday. In October of the same year, Azzinari exhibited his “wind painting” collection Winds of the Mediterranean, at Complesso Monumentale dei Dioscuri al Quirinale, in Rome, which is part of the main residence of the President of the Italian Republic.
During the following year, the artist worked on another version of the exhibition Looking for Hemingway, which took place from May 20 to June 28, 2013, at the Scollay Square Gallery and the Mayor’s Gallery, at the Boston City Hall. This event was included in the program of the “2013 – Year of Italian Culture in the United States”, promoted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C.
In August 2015, Franco Azzinari met Francis Ford Coppola at Palazzo Margherita resort in Bernalda (MT), Italy. The meeting inspired the project Francis Ford Coppola’s emotional world (20 oil portraits, 100×70 cm). The first exhibition was set up at the San Francesco Convent of Giffoni Valle Piana (SA), during the 2016 Giffoni Film Festival. In August 2016, the same exhibition was hosted at Palazzo Flangini, in Venice.
In December 2017, at La Cittadella (CZ), the Calabria Region, chaired by President Mario Oliverio, promoted the anthological retrospective entitled Franco Azzinari: The Mediterranean myth of the wind. I venti del Mediterraneo (Matera, July 2019) is the title of Azzinari’s exhibition that was part of the program of Matera as the European Union Capital of Culture for the year 2019.
From 2017 to the present, Azzinari is working on the project Eyes in Colors, dedicated to the children of the Indios tribes of the Amazon, to whom Azzinari taught how to express themselves by drawing and painting their beautiful forest. The goal of the project, presented in October 2019 by Azzinari to Pope Francis during a private meeting, is to protect the rainforest and its endangered population.