Fornaro and His Work

II

THE CARICATURES of Carlo De Fornaro are entirely different from anything we know. They are absolutely original in their method and viewpoint and reflect the personality of the man. There is no invention, no pose, no affectation in his work; it is an art that springs directly from the subconscious nature of the man. They reflect a manner of feeling more than a manner of thinking, which is not to say that his work is not intellectual. The brain feels as well as thinks; it has its emotions as well as the heart. It is still an open question whether there is any such thing as thought at all. What we call a thought is merely a certain manner of feeling about a thing translated into an image or a word. Fornaro feels with his brain. His caricatures are the record of that feeling.

His work is the philosophy of the concrete. Each figure is complete in itself. Each pose is definitive, struck off firmly, positively, inexorably. Each caricature is a dogma of perception. “My truth is the truth; there is no other truth” might stand as the metaphysical formula to base his art. He is not related to any one else. He is more Anglo-Saxon than Latin, more artistically brutal than delicate, though sometimes in some of his caricatures one catches a sly and mordant politeness deeper than the frank contempt of Sem.

The evolution of his art in the last ten years has been toward a greater simplicity. With a single stroke he can focus a characteristic; a single dot reveals a thought. The caricature of Theodore Roosevelt is an extraordinary piece of work, as is that of Senator Bourne. Here character is reduced to geometrical lines. Fornaro and Picasso have found the secret of the straight line, the poetry of logic. It is the absolutism of Spinoza applied to art.

The caricatures in this book are literature. They are a record of the men of the hour. They are a composite of America. Divine the secret of these caricatures and you are at the heart of America’s secret. The soul of it all is the Practical. And Fornaro, because he is of another people, has divined this. The United States is giving us the romance of the Real. These faces, these forms are the epiphany of the practical, the utilitarian. Here are the Voyagers in the new Western sky, the Vikings of giant corporations, the Samsons of Wall Street, the butter-mouthed orators that make our laws and shorten our incomes. It is a saga of the West in black and white. It is real literature, great literature.

The face is the palm of the mind, and Carlo de Fornaro is a palm-reader. Before the ideal—the innocent enough looking Trojan horse wherein there is secreted a savage, starving, murderous horde—he plays Merryandrew. Before the hierophants of seriousness he squats satyr-wise and pipes a merry ditty. Civilization—the great crime against nature—has perverted mirth. Puck is dead. The daily newspapers laid on one another for a single year would be a palimpsest of unimaginable humbug. The work of Fornaro in its essence, like that of De Zayas, says Oh, go to!

It will be noticed that there are no women caricatured in this book. That is quite proper in America, for when we speak of women we are either satyrs or asses.

I peered into the face of the creator of all things and I saw therein indifference over which there had come the patina of irony; and I peered into the face of Satan and I saw therein irony over which there had come the patina of ennui; and I peered into the faces of caricatures done by Fornaro and I saw hypocrisy over which had spread the patina of power.

BENJAMIN DE CASSERES.

 

Source: Mortals and Immortals, by Carlo de Fornaro, The Hornet Publishing Company, 1911