Devoting his energies primarily to literary activities, Ernesto Treccani founded the anti-Fascist magazine Vita Giovanile, later renamed Corrente, in Milan in 1938. He made his debut as a painter in 1940 in the Corrente group, establishing solid friendships with Aligi Sassu, Renato Birolli, Ennio Morlotti and Bruno Cassinari. The 1950s saw works of great political and civil commitment focusing on the themes of the poor urban areas and the peasant struggles in southern Italy. A regular participant in the Venice Biennial as from 1950, he held numerous shows in Italy and other countries. The 1960s saw a turning point in his work with the abandonment of realism for new expressive approach influenced by abstract painting and Arte Informale. At the same time, he addressed new subjects drawn from the world of nature, including the celebrated series of Hedges, and portraiture developed with a spare pictorial approach verging on abstraction.
Treccani founded the Fondazione Corrente in Milan in 1978 as a centre for the gathering and study of material regarding the period between the birth of the Corrente movement and the years of realism. The Foundation also houses the Studio Treccani with works and materials documenting his artistic career.