Giuseppe’s father Antonio was owner of a glassworks that was to have a strong influence on giuseppe’s artistic career. from when he was very young, giuseppe was enchanted at seeing the workers who formed and transformed the glassy material in the large furnace, which was always working.
The factory employed a number of people, producing daily objects in addition to the characteristic bottles of the most varied and unusual shapes. Antonio Picone was also a fair collector, buying pictures by 19th century neapolitan painters in particular.
Giuseppe was educated in the religious institutes of the Jesuitsand drew great freedom of thought from this. his critical sense enabled him to make the most of the teaching of those ‘illuminated’ men of the church.
Immediately after the war, he enrolled in the faculty of law, probably driven more by the habit of that choice rather than a clear vocation.
When he wasn’t studying, he spent a lot of time in the glassworks and it was there that, in the heat of melting, he experimented with the use of colours for glass on other supports. His passion for ceramics started at that time.
His first ‘artistic’ traces date to 1954, when he took part in the ‘Mostra d’Oltremare’ (overseas exhibition) in Naples. his first works were made with the sand of vesuvius ‘sprayed’ onto white slip-finished surfaces. the ceramics of this period condense the sun of naples, the fire of the furnace and the sand of the volcano harmoniously meeting in a simple, ‘casual’ manner. In a very short time, his work started to spread in italy and europe.
The following year, a company in Stockholm bought a series of decorated dishes. in 1956, he had an exhibition in Malmö, Sweden.
His craftsman production met with success because of the limpid lightness and originality of the decorative motifs which, from uncertain shapes of pretini, were slowly becoming graphic icons that Picone arranged, rearranged, added to and coloured in a thousand different ways. In just a few years, his production was bought by many collectors throughout Europe – from Belgium to France, Sweden to Germany.
Giuseppe presents his work to the editorial staff of Domus which was to publish several pages with his dishes.
In 1957, as a result of these articles, he was invited to take part in the XI Triennale of Milan. He displayed ceramics and decorate fabrics for five consecutive editions, until 1973.
The visibility of his work led Giuseppe to meet Adriano Olivetti, the businessman who was starting a project of industrial innovation in Ivrea. artists, architects, designers, technicians and factory hands shared the same place and exchanged skills.
Giuseppe took part in this experience which ended in 1958 with a personal exhibition at the centro culturale canavesano, a Ivrea (near Turin).
After this experience, Giuseppe decided to spend a few months in the fishing village of sant’angelo d’ischia to find what he had always loved – the sun, nature and the sea once more. in the spring of 1958, the meeting with regina relang, that he defined as a turning point in his life, took place. the photographer, with the awareness of those who sense true talent, suggested that he pass from ceramics to fabric. she was enchanted, like many, by all those ‘little priests’ that decorated jugs, dishes and bowls. being a fashion photographer, she wanted to see them appear on summer tunics, so that she could wear them.
Giuseppe didn’t waste time in a few days, he produced a series of fabrics painted in the open air, using an absolutely empirical technique.
He created the first garments with this fabric with the help of Elena Wassermann, owner of the only boutique on the little island. they were immediately sold, but above all photographed by relang, drawing attention to the young Picone no longer just as a ceramicist but also as a ‘creator of fashion’.
In october 1958, he moved definitively to Rome, to Piazza del Popolo. he chose this square because it reminded him of the sea, he saw that large empty square as though it was a beach. here, the ‘good life’ awaited him, with all the per- sonalities that populated rome at the time and over the next ten years, the painters, directors, writers and intellectuals in Piazza del Popolo and the international stars in via Veneto.
In the early years in the studio in Piazza del Popolo, Giuseppe was always in search of material to produce his fabrics made entirely by hand. his drawings and tunics were much liked and always greatly valued. demand increased, just like the interest and curiosity in his characteristic brand – the sun with the pretino.
Fashion journalists published articles on his collections and the editorial staff of women’s magazines continually asked him for garments to photograph and comment. some actresses were portrayed in his studio while they were trying clothes that ‘seemed pictures to be worn’. these were mainly tunics in cotton canvas that Giuseppe would also design for important brands of the time (Cole of California in the USA and Krizia in Milan).
The production of fabrics printed with screen-printing frames started with the 1960s.
Giuseppe found the best suppliers in Como and he could work on materials that were not just cotton. So here were the first wools and silks printed with his patterns which, for a short while, became high fashion clothes.
Studio Picone, officially set up in 1967 with the boutique in via Dei Greci, started distribution of his ‘pret à porter’ collections in an increasingly greater number of foreign countries.
It was the start of the promotion of ‘made in italy’ around the world, and the clothes with the ‘pretini’ showed alongside those of the great italian tailors.
At the end of the 1960s, he met Dominique Giroud. she would become his wife but also the ‘stylist’ of studio Picone, designing the models of the collections and deciding the ‘colour charts’.
Japan discovered Studio Picone Roma in 1968. Unlike other stylists who, in those years, drew closer to the first multi-nationals for industrial production, they stayed in the craftsman sphere.
When biki Japan obtained the licence to produce in Japan to studio Picone designs in the mid-1980s, the production commitment halved and Giuseppe went back to ceramics. so he went to the umbrian factories in deruta from where a series of works in ceramics with different shapes – castles, ladders, chairs and coloured bowls and vases came out.
In the first 20 years of cooperation, studio Picone designed and produced more than 15,000 garments a year for sann Frère- Biki Japan.
Over the years, Japanese buyers, enamoured of the graphic sign of the pretino, asked Picone to apply it on the most varied accessories – glasses, watches, bags, umbrellas, ties, shoes, key-rings, ceramics etc.
In 2000 there was a new series of ceramics ‘oggetti ritrovati dai fiori’ (articles found again from flowers)’, vases in which the linear form of the pretino returned, displayed in Rome by Spaziosette.)
In addition to the ceramics production, he also created an almost infinite series of ‘sketches’, whose thread is still the pretino, at this time. In these illustrations, his personality comes out of the abstraction of the graphic sign to start a new figurative style. these are the designs that Giuseppe sent to the biki Japan group in Japan each year (about 120) from 1985 to 2008, the year he died. They were to be used as a source of inspiration; 3,000 pretini doing all sorts of things – playing table-tennis, drinking coffee, swinging above a spider’s web, and hanging out the washing. they have to be seen all together to perceive the inventive ability and the difficulty in continuously finding new subjects.
In the last period of his life, Giuseppe worked and designed in his country house in Umbria, where he collected most of his archive material.
There, a source of inspiration for him, he unleashed his beloved obsession – on sofas, cushions, curtains, pictures, tiles, dishes, breakfast cups, table clothes and towels – his pretino everywhere.