pino daeni
Pino Daeni

Pino Daeni

Giuseppi Dangelico Daeni is better known as Pino Daeni or simply Pino. He was a romance industry icon who created over 3,000 book covers in about 15 years. He spent almost the last twenty years of his life working as a fine artist of great acclaim.

Pino’s childhood visual memories consisted of females left behind to keep the home fires burning. His mother, aunts, grandmothers, and cousins became a universe of attractive women in aprons. Throughout the uncertain times of World War II, they maintained domestic tranquility. Pino would always cherish the feminine ideal. That appreciation shone through his paintings.

Pino created portraits that celebrated the beauty of women, children, and families. A talent in the tradition of his Italian forebears, Pino’s artwork was a bridge between classical romanticism and contemporary realism.

“Almost Ready”

Early Life

Pino was born in Bari, Italy, on November 8, 1939, to a large family with numerous children.

His first-grade teacher recognized his talents and advised his father to encourage Pino’s gifts. His father was initially skeptical of this recommendation but changed his mind when he saw his son’s artwork.

“When I was eight, my older brother would have to draw for school. My father would wake me up after preparing all the colored pencils, and tell me to draw a boat with a fisherman and a sunset or some other scene.”


Throughout his early years, Pino would sketch in his school books. His older brothers and soccer teammates offered him 30 lire per drawing to help them with their high school design projects. Pino relished the earned income by doing something he loved.

He enrolled at the Art Institute of Bari in his late teens. At 21, armed with nothing but a few pencils, Pino left home to study at Milan’s Academy of Brera. There, he honed his skills by painting live nudes.

Soon Pino was drawing historical scenes for textbooks. Later he joined the staff of Fabbri, an established publishing firm where he illustrated history books and women’s magazines.

When Pino’s father died suddenly at 52, he moved his mother and five siblings to Milan. Pino was the sole supporter until his family could provide for themselves.

In 1970 Pino married Chiara. In 1971 their first child, Paola, was born.

pino at work
Pino at work

Early Career

Later that year, his contract with Fabbri expired. The enterprising artist made his first trip to the United States on a visitor’s visa. He spent three unsuccessful months in New York seeking a sponsor and employment. Upon his return to Milan, Pino and Chiara had their second child, Massimo.

From 1960 to 1979, his work was prominently displayed throughout Italy and Europe. He won several prizes and awards, and commissions to illustrate books for Italy’s largest publishers, Mondadori and Rizzoli.

Pino dreamed of being free of art directors and account executives. Their demands to paint their ideas rather than his own was a constant drain on his creative energy.

He had grand ambitions, but familial responsibilities forced him to seek commercial work in a field where publishers were more interested in consistency than originality. His use of subliminal devices, color, composition, and detail, pushed the envelope.

Pino had grown up with faded glories of renaissance art and architecture in Italy. He was also in tune with the energies of the new era. Despite his phenomenal success as one of the leading European illustrators of all time, Pino wanted to be closer to the dynamic art center of the world, New York. He also wanted to release his art from the restrictions of others and be free to explore new avenues that had been opened by the abstract expressionists of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Untitled Portrait of a Woman, Drawing w/ Charcoal on Paper

An Italian Comes to America

After visiting Manhattan and experiencing the freedom of the art scene there, Pino became acutely aware of the restrictions in Milan. The New York museums opened his eyes to America’s rich history of figure painting.

In 1978, Pino moved his family to New York. He was eager to partake in significant opportunities within a more unrestrictive environment. Although he had achieved acclaim in Europe, he was unknown in American circles. Pino spoke in broken English and owned only a bicycle for transportation. He had to take what jobs came his way.

“I needed $325 to pay the rent, so I went door to door to Manhattan galleries trying to sell some paintings. I stumbled upon a gallery with an Italian name and in broken English, asked if they work with Italian artists. The owner said he did but only offered $300 for the painting. So I left and walked 50 more blocks without success until I turned around and went back to him. By then, the owner offered to pay only $250. I took it.”


Pino knew New York was not only the center of fine art but also the world publishing capital. It was where big deals were made and new concepts and original styles were rewarded.

Cover Artist Extraordinaire

Accompanied by a friend as a translator, Pino began knocking on the doors of America’s top publishers. In 1980 he would receive his big break as a cover artist.

Zebra books were the first to hire him. His covers were distinct from the usual clinches, as they would display a heroine in a solo pose with the couple embracing beneath. The success of his first covers for Zebra soon had Dell, Simon & Schuster, Bantam, Harlequin, Penguin eagerly seeking his distinctive style. That style would dominate the market and exert a profound influence on other artists’ work from 1980 to 1995.

love stone
Love Stone, Deana James, Zebra, 1983

Pino was the highest-paid illustrator in America during this period, with over 3,000 book covers, movie posters, and magazine illustrations to his credit.

Here is an early cover for a Danielle Steel:

Once in a Lifetime, Danielle Steel, Dell, 1982

Pino’s art graced the covers of many big-named talents in the romance genre: Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Laurie McBain, Christine Monson, Deana James, Shirle Henke, Sylvie F. Sommerfield, Janelle Taylor, Virginia Henley, Mary Balogh, Amanda Quick, and many, many others.

Pino Covers

Like Harry Bennett, Pino was one of the first artists to use a style of illustrating called the “wraparound.” He would paint a continued image around the cover that left space on the back for the description and the front for the title.

Camberleigh, Evelyn Grey, Zebra, 1985
Margaret Normanby, Josephine Edgar, Signet, 1984

My Opinion Of Pino

“An art director might say, ‘Pino, we need a mansion.’ We talk about the period, the mood. I try to put myself in the male’s shoes. It’s very easy for me. I’m good because I’m a romantic.”


I often hear readers of the romance genre comment on how cover art has improved over the years. Many say that modern covers are more mature and artistic. Frankly, I can’t help but wonder if people see reality through distinct lenses because my eyes don’t view it that way.

raven sunrise
Raven at Sunrise, Claudia McCormick, Diamond, 1991, Pino cover art

Yes, the digital artwork created by artists like Gregg Gulbronson, Alan Ayers, Chris Cocozza, Jon Paul Ferrera, James Griffin, and Victor Gadino looks incredible.

But for every master artist like the ones mentioned, dozens of Adobe Illustrator users create weird-looking or oversexualized covers. Some people complain the old clinch covers were embarrassing. I find the headless torso covers of men with eight-pack abs far more egregious. There’s little appreciation for fine art in the age of the Kindles and iPhones.

The majority of covers today look crisp, overproduced, and impersonal. Unless an artist’s style is incredibly distinct, it isn’t easy to deduce which covers are made by whom. Pino’s brushstrokes, the curves of his feminine subjects, and facial expressions are uniquely recognizable.

He was as talented as any of the old greats: da Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael, or Titian. Romance aficionados should be honored such an artist is part of its history.

A Contemporary Master Painter

A Time To Remember, Pino

In 1992, the strain of tight deadlines became too much for Pino. He was ready to leave the world of illustration behind and return to his impressionist painting roots. After contacting a highly regarded gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, he was encouraged to send several paintings, which were well received. His illustrations appeared in Hilton Head Island, SC, and Garden City, Long Island, NY. Pino made several appearances on major TV networks and was interviewed in national and international journals.

As digital artwork became more widespread, Pino’s cover art output slowed down significantly. A classic at heart, he deplored the sterility of computer-generated images. By 1994, Pino was no longer just a book illustrator, but a professional painter. He would spend the rest of his life living his dream as a world-renowned fine artist.

In 2001, Max, Pino’s son, began representing his father, despite his father’s initial reluctance. Max successfully grew his efforts into a profitable marketing company, helping his father expand beyond his regular gallery representation to include magazines, books, and limited edition fine art prints.

Pino was a great success whose paintings broke the mold. Park West Gallery Director David Gorman compared Pino’s journey from illustrator to fine artist to the career of American painter Norman Rockwell.

“Rockwell bridged the gap between illustration and fine art, and Pino did the same.”


Pino’s Legacy

“By the Mirror

From the time he could first hold a pencil until his very last days, Pino remained an exemplary artist. He worked tirelessly with prodigious output.

Pino worked in oils and preferred to stand while painting. After being diagnosed with cancer and enduring 18 months of grueling chemotherapy treatments, the artist no longer had the strength to stand for long periods of time. Instead, he would rest on the couch to draw and paint with watercolors.

“His career had come full circle. As a young boy he dabbled in watercolors, switched to oils at 18 and never went back until he became sick with cancer. Amazing how life works like that.”


On May 25, 2010, Pino died at 70 due to cancer.

He is survived by his family, including his son Max and his nephew Vittorio Dangelico, aka Vidan. Vidan was also a romance cover illustrator and is now a fine artist in a style after his uncle.

His work appears in art galleries worldwide, and his giclee prints sell into the thousands of dollars.

Through his art, the memory of Pino lives forever. Pino proved that commercial artwork need not be derivative and sterile but beautiful and worthy of admiration. While, unfortunately, some people still harbor shame or express mockery for romance covers, Pino was one of the influential artists who elevated them to true artistry.

More than a mere illustrator, Pino is celebrated as a master painter of the 20th century.

"Birds of Paradise" (2008), Pino

“Birds of Paradise”

On the best part of creating a new painting…

“When I get an idea or a solution, that’s the best part of the day. Number one, it means you’re still alive. Number two, that you will improve the quality of the painting.” (“Pino: Timeless Visions,” 2006)"Gypsy Dancer" (2010), Pino

“Gypsy Dancer”

On the relationship between the artist and the models for his book covers…

As a fine artist, Pino is remembered for his sensual portrayals of women and warm depictions of family life. The artist’s innovative technique precedes him, blending a mixture of impressionism with realism to create an intoxicating style of his own.Oil painting, designed for cover of the novel "Passions Reign" (Zebra, 1983)

One of Pino's famous book covers displayed next to the artist's original painting for the cover.

One of Pino’s famous book covers displayed next to the artist’s original painting for the cover.

On how he defines himself as an artist…

“I am attracted by the abstract, but my sensibilities are fundamentally classical. If you put those together, you get Pino’s style. I am a psychological expressionist. I combine elements of academic, impressionistic, and abstract painting to depict the human condition.” (2010)

On his evolving art style…

“I used to paint in the academic way. Then I changed. I could no longer stay with just one school. Everything was interesting to me. I was curious about various schools of thought.” (2006)

On the difference between painting book covers and painting fine art…

“When I paint for a book cover for a company, there are so many limitations… When I paint in fine art for myself, of course, it’s totally free. No restrictions. In this, I can fly.” (2012)"Esther," Pino


On the message of his art…

“The common denominator for my work is a focus on interior situations, moments when the spirit remains quiet and still to the noise and activity of nature and everyday life.” (2006)

On the nature of beauty…

“At the Academy of Brera, everything was drawing. I was obsessed with anatomy, sometimes fat people, sometimes skinny people. But the beauty comes from your imagination, the beauty is subjective.” (2010)"Spring Flower"

“Spring Flower”

On why he often leaves a blank white spot on his canvases…

“I use it to emphasize the center of the painting, from the unfinished to the finished. Undefined areas emphasize the focus. That’s what abstract artists in the ’50s and ’60s did. I don’t want to be so literal, to finish everything. It’s graphic design; it’s complementary.” (2006)"Secret Sharer"

“Secret Sharer”

On whether his wife ever grew envious of his romantic subject matter…

“She doesn’t get jealous. I’m very square. I don’t give her the opportunity to be jealous.” (1996)

The quotes from this article are taken from: “Of Brushstrokes and Bodices” from the February 19, 1996 issue of People Magazine; the book “Pino: Timeless Visions,” Classic Publications, 2006; the book “Pino: Master Illustrator,” Classic Publications, 2010; and the 2012 video “Pino: A Contemporary Master.”

Take an Inside Look at Pino’s Innovative Book Cover Illustrations

 Posted January 9, 2017  In Art & Gallery NewsArticlesArtists & Special CollectionsCurrent PromotionsPino 5

Before Pino dazzled collectors with his Impressionist-inspired artwork, he made his mark on the publishing industry as a prolific illustrator. Pino’s illustrations introduced inventive ideas and iconic imagery continue to influence cover artwork today.

Oil painting, designed for cover of the novel

Pino: An Innovative Illustrator

Oil painting, designed for cover of the novel "Margaret Normanby" (Signet, 1979)

Oil painting, designed for cover of the novel “Margaret Normanby” (Signet, 1979)

During his career, Pino illustrated more than 3,000 novels. Pino’s son Max Dangelico tells Park West Gallery his mother would read the stories and recount the plot to Pino to keep up with the artist’s high demand.

“It’s just amazing. When you’re so close to it you don’t realize the gift that people have around you,” Dangelico says. “Now that he’s no longer with us I appreciate it even more”Untitled oil painting design for a novel by Dorchester (1987), Pino

Untitled oil painting design for a novel by Dorchester (1987)

Collecting Illustration History

The debate of whether or not illustration is considered a fine art form is a long-standing argument. Because publishers dictate the criteria for illustrations to the artist, many do not consider them to be a true work of art.

As an artist who incurred success in the fine art world, Pino’s illustrations break the mold. Park West Gallery Director David Gorman compares Pino’s journey from Illustrator to the career of fine artist to Norman Rockwell.

“Rockwell bridged the gap between illustration and fine art, and Pino did the same,” Gorman says.

The connection is clear between Pino’s vivid illustrations and classic paintings. With overlapping subject matter like women and romance, Pino’s detailed illustrations exudes the same sensuous air of mystery as his later independent work.Oil painting, designed for cover of the novel "Flame Run Wild" (Avon, 1987), Pino

Oil painting, designed for cover of the novel “Flame Run Wild” (Avon, 1987)

“You clearly see where Pino came from as far as his painting,” Gorman says. “When you look at his newer works, you can see how he really excelled in creating faces and hands—really tough subjects to paint.”

Unlike a painting or drawing, Pino’s illustrations were never meant to stand alone. Because of this, the artwork only exists in its original form.

“It was never intended to be sold. It was created as a means to an end and the end was the book cover,” Gorman explains.

Today, the vast majority of book cover artwork is created on the computer instead of by hand, making Pino’s colorful illustrations a true piece of history.

Oil painting, designed for cover of the novel "Love Needs No Reason" (Avon, 1985), Pino

Oil painting, designed for cover of the novel “Love Needs No Reason” (Avon, 1985)

“When you look at these new methods of creating cover artwork, a lot of the time people will look at the earlier works and methods as sought after and collectible,” Gorman says.

There’s something indescribable about moms. They exude a calm comfort, this sense of maternal caring and nurturing. Even those of us with moms who are more inclined to chase us around the kitchen with a wooden spoon than bake us cookies find ourselves unexpectedly soothed by just being near our mothers.

It’s one of the many reasons we devote a whole day to celebrating moms.

That ethereal sense of “mom calm” is a major component in the artwork of Pino, truly one of the greatest illustrators of the 20th century.

Pino was born in Bari, Italy during World War II. Most of the men in his city were off fighting or had been killed in the war. He fondly recalls growing up surrounded by the women of Bari—his mother, aunts, grandmothers, and cousins—strong women who radiated domestic tranquility in such uncertain times.

“I remember them as being wonderful and beautiful,” Pino said.

When viewing Pino’s body of work, it’s impossible not to notice his recurring motif of mothers caring for their children. His paintings do a remarkable job of bringing that indefinable sense of comfort we associate with our moms to life.

"Vivian" (2009), Pino

Pino: 6 Facts About the Legendary Artist

 Posted November 25, 2019  In Art & Gallery NewsArticlesPinoVideo 2"The Outsider" (2007), Pino

“The Outsider”

Known around the world, Pino has inspired countless collectors and artists alike with his exceptional style and unmatched emotional gravity.

Get to know the celebrated artist with these 6 facts about his life and career:

1. Pino was fired from his first commissioned job

Pino discovered his love of art at a young age. When he was a teenager, Pino was hired to illustrate a church calendar. After seeing his illustrations, the priest fired Pino for depicting the virgin Mary with bright red lips and pink cheeks."By The Mirror"

“By The Mirror”

2. Pino’s art first appeared on books

At the age of 18, Pino traveled from his home in Southern Italy to study art at Milan’s Academy of Brera. His striking depiction of the human body made him an instant standout.

He was later commissioned as a book illustrator by Italy’s two largest publishers, Mondadori and Rizzoli. In 1978, Pino moved to the United States and produced illustrations for top publishers Zebra, Bantam, Simon and Schuster, Harlequin, Penguin USA and Dell."Family Ties (Berkley, 1983)"

“Family Ties (Berkley, 1983)”

3. As an illustrator, Pino helped Fabio rise to fame

After moving to the United States, Pino quickly became a sought-after illustrator and strong influence in the publishing industry.

While working as an illustrator, millions of books bearing Pino’s illustration were sold featuring now-famous Italian model Fabio. With his flowing hair and signature muscles, Fabio is known as the face of modern romance novels.Untitled oil painting design for a novel by Dorchester (198), Pino

Untitled oil painting design for a novel by Dorchester (1989), Pino

4. Although world-renowned, Pino was never satisfied with his work

In an interview with Park West Gallery, Pino’s son Max Dangelico described his father as a perfectionist. He recalls his father pulling out paintings and showing them to the family, pointing out criticisms and perceived flaws. Although Pino was highly critical of his work, his paintings speak for themselves.

“You can really feel the passion and emotion behind my dad’s work,” Dangelico says. “I think that’s why people are drawn to it because these paintings are alive.”

“Original Mixed Media Drawing #78” (2009), Pino

5. Pino listened to music while he painted

When Pino’s family walked through the door of their New Jersey home, there was a dead giveaway that Pino was painting: music. As an Italian-born artist, Pino enjoyed listening to 1950s and 1960s Italian music while he was working. Along with his mother and sister, Dangelico witnessed the creation of Pino’s artwork firsthand.

“It was really cool having him at the house,” Dangelico said. “A lot of these paintings he created I watched him paint.”"Memories of Yesterday"

“Memories of Yesterday”

6. The inspiration behind Pino’s paintings comes from his childhood

Women, children, and family are consistent subjects throughout Pino’s artwork. To create the scenes in his paintings, Pino drew from his personal memories of growing up in Southern Italy surrounded by the women in his family.

“The family scenes are what everyone held dear, and that’s what he held dear until the last day of his life. That’s what was important to him.” Dangelico says.

10 Most Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni

By Ejaz Khan

Here are 10 Most Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

1. Remember when.

Most Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni
Remember when: Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

2. Mystic dreams.

Mystic dreams
Mystic dreams: Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

3. Long day. 

Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni
Long day: Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

4. Close to my heart

Pino Daeni
Close to my heart: Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

5. Evelasting beauty.

Evelasting beauty
Evelasting beauty: Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

6. Dreaming in color.

Dreaming in color
Dreaming in color: Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

7. At rest.

At rest
At rest: Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

8. A soft place in my heart.

A soft place in my heart
A soft place in my heart: Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni.

9. Wispering heart.

Wispering heart

10. Anticipation.

Beautiful Paintings by Pino Daeni