Afro Basaldella was born in Udine on 4th March 1912.
Following the death of his father he studied in Florence and Venice, where he graduated in painting in 1931.
In 1928, at just 16, he exhibited with his brothers Mirko and Dino at ‘I Mostra della scuola friulana d’avanguardia’ (Udine), and the following year at ‘XX Esposizione dell’Opera Bevilacqua La Masa ‘ (Venice). Subsequently, thanks to a scholarship from the Marangoni Foundation of Udine, he went to Rome, where he came into contact with the artistic environment of the capital, spending time with artists such as Scipione, Mario Mafai and Corrado Cagli.
In 1932 he moved to Milan, and the following year he exhibited at Galleria di Milone. In 1935 he first participated at the Quadrennial of Rome, and in 1936 he exhibited at the Venice Biennale (later also in 1940 and 1942).
In 1938 Afro moved to Paris, where he was able to see first-hand the paintings of Picasso, an artist of great influence in the artistic maturity of Afro.
After a short lived phase of neocubism and various works of mural painting, in 1950 Afro went to the United States and began a twenty-year collaboration with the Catherine Viviano Gallery. The different cultural environment here further influenced Afro, and his work moved away from modern iconography such as still life, portraits and landscapes and towards abstraction.
In 1952 he joined, ‘Gruppo Degli Otto’, with whom he took part in XXVI Biennale; the following year Lionello Venturi dedicated a critical essay which highlighted the technical skill, precision and passion for work as well as the natural elegance and poetry of the artist.
In 1955 he was present at the first edition of ‘Documenta’ in Kassel, the Quadriennale and the travelling exhibition in the United States: ‘The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors’.
Afro’s art was now beginning to receive international acclaim, and in 1956 he won the award for best artist at the Venice Biennale as well as joining (in 1955) the commission for invitations to the Seventh Quadrennial of Rome.
In 1958 he was commissioned to create the mural of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The mural, entitled ‘The Garden of Hope’, was included in a series of works, which also contained pieces by Karel Appel, Arp, Calder, Matta, Miro, Picasso and Rufino Tamayo.
The continuation of his work saw Afro invited to the second ‘Documenta’. He also won first prize at the Carnegie Triennial in Pittsburgh, and the Italian prize at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The last painting of Afro shows significant changes between 1960 and 1975 in his approach. This final period is characterized by an increased focus on graphic work rather than painting.
He died in Zurich 1976.