French, b. Monaco, 1921–2009
Born in Monaco to Italian parents, Mario Avati has worked and lived for most of his life in Paris. He initially trained for a career in interior design at the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Nice; however, before completing his studies there he moved to Paris to explore printmaking at the École des Beaux-Arts. Avati worked first in etching and aquatint, but in the late 1950s he discovered mezzotint, and from that point engraved exclusively in what the French took to calling “la manière noire.”
Indeed, Avati initially explored the mezzotint because of its unique capacity for a rich and velvety black, a color to which he was especially drawn. In almost all of his prints, as exemplified here in Portrait d’une trompette (which curiously depicts not a trumpet but a cornet), Avati’s subjects appear to emerge from a sea of absolute, but utterly luxurious, darkness.