The project "Looking for Hemingway" started in 2000. Azzinari met Gregorio Fuentes, a friend of the famous American writer during a visit to Cojimar, Cuba. The captain of the Pilar was a companion on Hemingway's adventures at sea. Gregorio's stories captured Azzinari's imagination. He fell in love with Hemingway's life and began to portray other fishermen (Osvaldo and Pedro) and to paint the beautiful Cuban landscapes loved by the Nobel Prize winner in Literature.

In December 2008, the University of Calabria organized an exhibition of the first forty works of "Looking for Hemingway" and published the catalog of the show with a critical essay written by Fernanda Pivano, one of Hemingway closest friends. On December 10, 2010, an exhibition of twenty works dedicated to the American writer opened in the White Tower of the Hemingway Museum, in Finca Vigia, Havana.

In September 2011, Azzinari and his friend Michelangelo La Luna, Professor of Italian Language and Literature at the University of Rhode Island, went to Montana to visit the writer's son, Patrick Hemingway. It was a warm and friendly meeting. Patrick and his wife Carol invited Azzinari and La Luna on a tour by minivan to Yellowstone Park, an oasis of natural beauty and wildlife. Hemingway's son walks in his father's footsteps in his love for the out-of-doors. Azzinari's imagination was captured by the bison and elk. The artist intends to return to Montana to revisit his friends Patrick and Carol and portray the wildlife they love so much.

In Cuba at Ernest Hemingway - Fernanda Pivano

Azzinari_PivanoThese memoirs of the great Master and friend Ernest, came from the joy of my first encounter with the artist Franco Azzinari: the presentation at the Feltrinelli bookstore of a book by Gore Vidal. He was present on that magic day. Azzinari, artist of colour, spoke to me of his love for Hemingway, a love transferred to those places where the great writer spent many days and which he too had visited, so as not to forget the light and the smells of a magnificent country: Cuba. Azzinari has been on this island with the children of the wind and the sun, with their poverty, portrayed in their faces, their expressions, their attitudes, the roughness and the nobility of their feelings.

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On 25 March, 1956 I arrived at the Rancho Boyeros airport in Havana where, to meet me, I found Mary Hemingway who had immediately declared it the place as similar to hell as could possibly be imagined and she showed me the marten stole which her husband had just given her. Two years earlier, Ernest Hemingway had received the Nobel prize and the scores of journalists who had wanted to interview him had now died down. The factotum driver Jean-Juan took me to the Finca Vigia and it was only then that Mary told me that Hemingway would be arriving the following day but she hadn't told me that he would be arriving from the seas of Peru, where they had been filming the fishing scene of The Old Man and the Sea, as in that area the marlin were bigger than in the sea in Havana: probably because she thought that I would not have believed her. Instead, the next day he arrived. He had interrupted his fishing and the film to come and meet me, a gesture which for me is unforgettable, much more than I deserved. He arrived on the boat Pilar on the long golden beach bordered by palm trees and banana trees and he stepped onto the shaky wharf, which stretched immobile into the warm sea towards a haphazardly built cabin in the middle of the bay, and he hugged me with one of those movie-style hugs. As always, he was wearing Bermudas miraculously held up by a piece of string across his taught 'gin' belly, his face framed by a white beard. «I cannot shave», he said as if in apology. He then said: «After the infection in Venice my skin is no longer healthy»; but we all knew that he had ruined his skin by exposing to the sun and the seas. While we were chatting as if we had seen each other the day before, Juan drove us to the Finca along the tropical luscious green road, scorched by the sun, up to the gate with the sign "Uninvited guests will not be received", and then along the wide uphill driveway bordered by mango and hibiscus trees, with the Little House "la Casita" (the lodge which was the guesthouse), and the white Tower, decorated and furnished by Mary, where Hemingway sought refuge from his sadness. (3 floors; on the ground floor about 30 cats, each with its own name, and above, a floor where Hemingway, according to Mary, would work quietly without being disturbed by the everyday house chores: in reality he preferred to write accompanied by the sounds of the vacuum cleaner, the bells and the discussions of the servants in Spanish) and storms of climbing flowers, the buzzing of the humming bird among the heavy puffed out leaves and at the top of the driveway, the Spanish colonial style single-storey house, yet to become famous in the photos of the mass media and among the disconsolate tourists of the Cuba of Castro. I do not know now how the house was adapted for those sightseeing tours. At the time, we walked straight into a large living room with three armchairs and a sofa, a bookcase with seven shelves for records, three lamps, the stuffed heads of several victims of African safaris, five André Masson, a Paul Klee and two Juan Gris: all immersed in the light and the smells of the tropics. At the end of this large living room there was a dining room with a long brown table which Mary would still lay with the red glasses bought in Murano and on both sides of the living room there were two bedrooms, one for Mary and one for Hemingway with a room for the bookcase which contained his nine-thousand books and a dozen large drawers for the photographs and the correspondence; next to the bed, an enormous table strewn with medicine bottles («he's a bit of a hypochondriac«, Mary would say smiling) and piles of letters, on one wall the famous "Fattoria" (the farm) by Mirò and leaning on a shelf, a Still Nature by Braque (stolen later, as told by Mary, by two Cuban government inspectors while Hemingway was in the Mayo clinic), a sagging shelf with a manual portable typewriter on which he had written, while standing, there in Cuba, the novel Venezia Across The River and Into the Trees and The Old Man and the Sea. Early in the morning we would go into the kitchen where Hemingway arrived ater a stroll in his 16 acres of fields (not much for one who had changed the face of American and European narrative), dressed in his usual Bermudas held up by a string, a white canvas beret, large framer's sandals and a knotty walking stick (probably and tree branch) which made him look like an oneiric shepherd. He would wander around the kitchen with an air of indolence so as not to attract Mary's attention and as soon as she wasn't looking he would take, from the enormous fridge, the best pieces of fish, which he had caught the day before on the Pilar, to give to the fifteen or so cats surrounding him (he had about thirty on the ground floor of the Tower). Of course Mary noticed, but pretended not to, a technique which allowed her to maintain a long-lasting relationship with him. In the evening we would dine in the living room, each of us with his tray taken from a large shelf, which Mary had had built by the "carpenter of the house", and the sandwich that we had chosen. There was the problem of fruit, the only Mediterranean habit which I could not give up. The first evening Hemingway went into the kitchen in search of an apple for me and he solemnly declared: «There will always be an apple for you in this house, daughter». He always sat in the same armchair and at his feet Black Dog, his favourite dog, who followed him everywhere and who Hemingway watched with tenderness as his face was marked by those shadows of desperation; forebodings of death. «He's very old», he would whisper, «and he smells» he would say «But you don't mind if he smells, do you»? «No, not at all», I would answer, patting Black Dog; and Hemingway with his typical sarcasm would say with a false "tough" smile and leaning on one side: «Don't be so Christian, Daughter». During the day we would sit out in the open on the white crumbling steps which led from the driveway to the house; Mary had to have them repaired every year (who knows if someone has repaired them in these past decades) and we talked and talked and talked, of our love problems and our Venetian friends and the Nobel Prize which he had received two years earlier and of Black Dog who was about to die and of his problems with all those editors in the world and all those translators and all those letters that he received (two or three flour-sacks full a day and which remained there at the bottom of those white crumbling steps). Occasionally he would take one, rummaging through the heap in search of those with Italian stamps so that I could read them as I had done in Cortina. During those days Spencer Tracey, protagonist of The Old Man and the Sea, and Katherine Hepburn arrived from the seas of Peru, curious to meet this stranger who had caused the interruption of the shooting of the film. She was dressed in a white men's suit, he was stone drunk and Hemingway was trying to keep him calm (before he himself got drunk as well) and he said to me: «Don't take any notice, he can't hold his alcohol. It's because he gets drunk on Dubonnet». It was a terrible accusation because, just as he was a food connoisseur, especially of those super sophisticated dishes, now prohibited by his diet (and he loved both traditional and populist dishes), he was also a real specialist in refined alcoholic combinations, innumerable brands of champagne or Cuban Daiquiri: At the Floridita, his favourite club near Havana, he was honoured by the preparation of cocktails in his name, for example the Pope Double, which consisted of Daiquiri without sugar; but at times when he was alone in the sweet-smelling silence of his Finca, he would look for a drink invented by his faithful chauffeur and handyman, gin diluted with coconut milk. The cinema troupe who had arrived from Peru immediately started urging him to get back to work: Spencer Tracy had not forgiven me for not getting drunk with him and possibly something more, so they all decided to leave. The night before, Hemingway had shown me the albums of his Valentines of when he was a boy (emotions that cannot be put into words) which his mother had preserved and which he kept in the large drawers at the bottom of the bookcase, while Mary insisted on taking me to see the black percussionist , Chori, who played his six drums in his bare torso, in a dreamlike state produced by who knows which drug, with a large cross on his chest, his rhythm spellbinding. Today, I am touched by the thought that Azzinari has been to Cuba and Kenya, the two places where Hemingway found his strength through the simplicity, the reality and the purity of nature of its inhabitants. Suddenly the gulf of Cojimar reappears, as if in a magical calling, where the flamboyants reign undisturbed, a plant which was so loved by Hemingway that he had 26 around his house in S. Francisco de Paula "Finca Vigia": 26 good luck charms with those bright red flowers which exulted the horizons of every land, of every boundary. Thank you Azzinari. Thank you for having followed the dreams of "Mr Papa" and for having told them with your colours so violent and sanguine, with your moving passion sustained by your great love of the writer who the bright red flowers have now taken to the fragrant spaces of eternity.

Artworks made in Cuba

Artworks made in Kenya

Pictures of the Hemingway Museum. Torre Bianca, L'Havana, Cuba, December 10, 2010

Cuba Pictures

Montana, USA, Pictures

Kenya Pictures