Peter Chinni (1928-2019)


Peter Chinni (1928-2019) enjoyed a distinguished career that began in the 1950’s and spanned two continents. Born to Calabrian immigrant parents in Mount Kisco, New York, Chinni studied at the Art Students League in New York City where he caught the attention of the great Italian critic and art historian, Lionello Venturi. With Venturi’s endorsement, he attended the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome, studying painting and portraiture. In 1949, he left the Accademia to study privately with painter Felice Casorati in Turin and later with the cubist sculptor Roberto Melli in Rome.

After two years of military duties in Germany for the US Armed Forces, Chinni worked from his studio in Manhattan and had his first one-man show of paintings at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Although he still painted and would occasionally even accept a portrait commission, it was in Rome that Chinni discovered his natural inclination toward sculpture, making his first piece in 1957. By 1959 he had his first one-man show of sculpture in New York City, with pieces purchased by the City of Saint Louis and the Denver Art Museum. 

With additional one-man exhibitions at the Royal Marks Gallery (1964), the Albert Loeb Gallery (1966), and the Loeb-Krugier Gallery (1969), together with his participation in biennials at the Whitney Museum, the Corcoran Gallery, and the Carnegie International, Chinni’s reputation was firmly established. Shows in Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Italy maintained his presence in Europe. In 1969 he returned to Italy, eventually settling into a ruined hilltop village in Tuscany which he renovated in the hope of establishing an interdisciplinary school of the arts. 

Chinni was honored by the Shah of Iran with a solo show on the Island of Kish in 1974. He continued his success with exhibitions at the Musee’ d’Ixelle in Brussels, the Beeckestijn Museum in Holland, and the Bouma Gallerie in Amsterdam. 

When an error at his foundry in Italy caused the destruction of the molds for nearly twenty years’ worth of work, it might have seemed like the final straw. But, Chinni continued to develop his art and since his move to Taos, New Mexico in 2003, had been reworking some of these earlier pieces – not recreating them – but revising and expanding their initial impulses into new territory so that along with their maker, they too underwent a phoenix-like rebirth. 

The Estate of Peter Chinni

photograph of Peter Chinni
Schools of Study

Art Students League, NYC

Accademia di Belle Arti, Rome, Italy

Partial List of Collections

Rockefeller Collection

Hirshhorn Museum

Whitney Museum of American Art

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Selected Awards

First Grand Prix de la Ville de Lille de Peinture 1937
Mural Commission for the Pavillion of the Press, Lille International Fair 1939
Pratt Graphique Scholarship
Wurlitzer Foundation Grant

Selected Exhibitions

San Marco Gallery, Rome, Italy 1955

R.R. Gallery, Denver, CO 1957

Royal Marks Gallery, NYC 1964

Albert Loeb Gallery, NYC 1966

Private exhibition for His & Her Imperial Majesty of Iran, Shah Reza Pahlavi & Farah Diba Pahlavi, Tehran, Iran 1974

Alexandra Monett Gallery, Bruxelles, Belgium 1976

Beeckestijn Museum, Velsen, Holland 1976

Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM 2006

Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM 2018

Selected Works in Our Inventory