Ottaviano was born in Vichy in 1924. His father is Sicilian, his mother French. He studied at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs and the Beaux Arts, but began to paint only when he left them, around 1947. His first paintings—of emaciated women in desperately barren rooms—are evocative of Gruber and bear the mark of his life, a difficult one, and of his dominant mood, melancholy. Lurking in the background, is the danger of sentimental expressionism. Ottaviano avoids it by turning fully to objective reality: the stones of Paris, the hills of Auvergne, desolate beaches, two fish on a table.