Born in 1927 in San Lucido, Calabria, Nicola Simbari was raised in Rome, where his father was a builder for the Vatican. After demobilisation from the army at the end of the War, he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma, and, at 22, set up a studio at Via del Babuino in the centre of the city.
From the outset Simbari undertook commercial commissions alongside work for fine art exhibitions. Many early commissions were illustrations for theatre publicity materials. Theatrical connections led to publicity work for Italian and then international cinema. Film posters illustrated by Simbari include popular films like Ronald Neame’s comic masterpiece The Horse’s Mouth, starring Alec Guinness, and the Academy Award nominated On The Beach directed by Stanley Kramer, starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. This latter poster has all the hallmarks of a Simbari illustration - abstract shapes, and layers of intense, exuberant colour.
In 1958 Simbari was commissioned to paint murals for the Italian Pavilion at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels. During the sixties he continued to undertake poster and publicity illustration commissions, notably for the Royal Ballet’s repertoire with an especially vivid series of portraits of Margot Fonteyn and Nureyev, who were then at the height of their fame. Widely travelled himself across the US and Europe, Simbari produced some classic travel posters for clients British Rail and Italian Railways.
Simbari's work is held in many private and corporate collections including the Bank of Tokyo and the Christian Dior Collection in Paris; Italian State Railways in Rome; Liberty Company in London; and in the US: Tulsa Bank of Commerce; Cincinnati Fine Arts Department; Exxon Corporation; and Pepsico. Nicola Simbari died on December 11, 2012 in Frascati, Lazio, Italy.