Monday, March 29, 2010

(Social) Realism: Italy

Annibale Carracci (1560 – 1609)
Annibale Carracci ( November 3, 1560 – July 15, 1609) was an Italian Baroque painter. Annibale Carracci was born in Bologna, and in all likelihood first apprenticed within his family. In 1582, Annibale, his brother Agostino, and his cousin Ludovico Carracci opened a painters' studio, initially called by some the Academy of the Desiderosi (desirous of fame and learning) and subsequently the Incamminati (progressives; literally "of those opening a new way"). While the Carraccis laid emphasis on the typically Florentine linear draftsmanship, as exemplified by Raphael and Andrea del Sarto, their interest in the glimmering colours and mistier edges of objects derived from the Venetian painters, notably the works of Venetian Oil Painter Titian, which Annibale and Agostino studied during their travels around Italy in 1580-81 at the behest of the elder Caracci Lodovico. This eclecticism was to become the defining trait of the artists of the Baroque Emilian or Bolognese School.

Butcher's Shop (Annibale Carracci)
The Butcher's Shop are paintings by the Italian Baroque painter Annibale Carracci. Dating from the 1580s (probably 1583-1585), they are in the collection of Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The paintings are connected to the contemporary Beaneater (Galleria Colonna), as they are very early examples of Italian genre painting. The large size of the Christ Church painting is exceptional for such a subject at this date, and it has been suggested they were commissioned by a butcher's guild, or for use as a sign. Carracci was influenced in his depiction of everyday life subjects by Vincenzo Campi and Bartolomeo Passarotti, whom in fact the Butcher's Shop was originally attributed to. Carracci's ability to adapt his style is demonstrated, making it "lower" when concerning "lower", quasi-satirical subjects like the Mangiafagioli and the Butcher's Shop, while in his more academic works (such as the roughly contemporary Assumption of the Virgin) he was able to use a more finished manner with the same ease.

In many early Bolognese works by the Carraccis, it is difficult to distinguish the individual contributions made by each. For example, the frescoes on the story of Jason for Palazzo Fava in Bologna (c. 1583-84) are signed Carracci, which suggests that they all contributed. In 1585, Annibale completed an altarpiece of the Baptism of Christ for the church of San Gregorio in Bologna. In 1587, he painted the Assumption for the church of San Rocco in Reggio Emilia.

In 1587-88, Annibale is known to have had travelled to Parma and then Venice, where he joined his brother Agostino. From 1589-92, the three Carraccis completed the frescoes on the Founding of Rome for Palazzo Magnani in Bologna. By 1593, Annibale had completed an altarpiece, Virgin on the throne with St John and St Catherine, in collaboration with Lucio Massari. His Resurrection of Christ also dates from 1593. In 1592, he painted an Assumption for the Bonasoni chapel in San Francesco. During 1593-1594, all three Carraccis were working on frescoes in Palazzo Sampieri in Bologna.

Filippo Palizzi (1818 - 1899)
(b Vasto, 16 June 1818; d Naples, 11 Sept 1899). Brother of Giuseppe Palizzi. He studied from 1837 at the Reale Istituto di Belle Arti in Naples, where Morelli was among his fellow students. By this time Palizzi had adopted Realism both as a style and as a conviction. Less adapted to Smargiassi's academic style of teaching, he soon moved to the free school led by Giuseppe Bonolis, where plein-air painting was taught in relation to aesthetic principles (similar to those advanced by the literary historian and critic Francesco de Sanctis) and to the study of perspective. Palizzi's experiments in Realism were probably influenced less by the example of Bonolis, who still adhered to Neo-classical conventions, than by de Sanctis's principle that artistic form should depend on content. Such principles gave Palizzi's work a degree of ethical rigour.

The Macchiaioli
The Macchiaioli were a group of Italian painters active in Tuscany in the second half of the nineteenth century, who, breaking with the antiquated conventions taught by the Italian academies of art, did much of their painting outdoors in order to capture natural light, shade, and colour. This practice relates the Macchiaioli to the French Impressionists who came to prominence a few years later, although the Macchiaioli pursued somewhat different purposes. The most notable artists of this movement were Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega and Telemaco Signorini.
The movement grew from a small group of artists, many of whom had been revolutionaries in the uprisings of 1848. In the late 1850s, the artists met regularly at the Caffè Michelangiolo in Florence to discuss art and politics. These idealistic young men, dissatisfied with the art of the academies, shared a wish to reinvigorate Italian art by emulating the bold tonal structure they admired in such old masters as Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Tintoretto. They also found inspiration in the paintings of their French contemporaries of the Barbizon school.

Giovanni Fattori (1825 – 1908)

Giovanni Fattori (September 6, 1825 – August 30, 1908) was an Italian artist, one of the leaders of the group known as the Macchiaioli. He was initially a painter of historical themes and military subjects. In his middle years, inspired by the Barbizon school, he became one of the leading Italian plein-airists, painting landscapes, rural scenes, and scenes of military life. After 1884, he devoted much energy to etching.

Silvestro Lega (1826 - 1895)
Silvestro Lega (8 December 1826 - 21 September 1895) was an Italian realist painter. He was one of the leading artists of the Macchiaioli and was also involved with the Mazzini movement.
Lega was born in Modigliana, near Forlì, to an affluent family. From 1843 to 1847 he attended the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence, studying drawing under Benedetto Servolini (1805–79) and Tommaso Gazzarini (1790–1853), then studying painting, briefly, under Giuseppe Bezzuoli. During 1847 he attended Luigi Mussini’s school, where the teaching emphasized the 15th-century Florentine principles of drawing and orderly construction. Then and for some years afterwards he continued to attend the Scuola del Nudo of the Accademia.

As a Garibaldian volunteer, Lega participated in the military campaigns for Italian independence (1848–9) before resuming his training, this time under Antonio Ciseri, completing his first large-scale painting, Doubting Thomas (1850; Modigliana, Osp. Civ.). In 1852 he won the Concorso Trienniale dell’Accademia with David Placating Saul. He died in Florence in 1895 of stomach cancer.

Vincenzo Cabianca (1827 – 1902)
Vincenzo Cabianca (June 21, 1827 – March 21, 1902) was an Italian artist of the Macchiaioli group. He was born in Verona. He began his artistic training at the Verona Academy, and then studied at the Venice Academy from 1845–47. During the 1850s Cabianca became acquainted with the artists who frequented the Caffè Michelangiolo in Florence, who would soon be known as the Macchiaioli. He became a friend of Telemaco Signorini, whose influence led Cabianca to turn away from genre painting towards a bolder realism, beginning in 1858. Like the other Macchiaioli, he painted landscapes en plein air, but he was more reluctant than his friends were to abandon historical and literary subjects.

Telemaco Signorini (1835 – 1901)
Telemaco Signorini (August 18, 1835 – February 1, 1901) was an Italian artist who belonged to the group known as the Macchiaioli. He was born in the Santa Croce quarter of Florence, and showed an early inclination toward the study of literature, but with the encouragement of his father, Giovanni Signorini, a court painter for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he decided instead to study painting. In 1852 he enrolled at the Florentine Academy, and by 1854 he was painting landscapes en plein air. The following year he exhibited for the first time, showing paintings inspired by the works of Walter Scott and Machiavelli at the Florentine Promotrice.

In 1855, he began frequenting the Caffè Michelangiolo in Florence, where he met Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Saverio Altamura and several other Tuscan artists who would soon be dubbed the Macchiaioli. The Macchiaioli, dissatisfied with the antiquated conventions taught by the Italian academies of art, started painting outdoors in order to capture natural light, shade, and color. They were forerunners of the Impressionists who, beginning in the 1860s, would pursue similar aims in France.

Giuseppe Abbati (1836 – 1868)
Giuseppe Abbati (January 13, 1836 – February 21, 1868) was an Italian artist who belonged to the group known as the Macchiaioli. Abbati was born in Naples and received early training in painting from his brother Vincenzo. He participated in Garibaldi's 1860 campaign, suffering the loss of his right eye at the Battle of Capua. Afterwards he moved to Florence where, at the Caffè Michelangiolo, he met Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, and the rest of the artists who would soon be dubbed the Macchiaioli.

While his early paintings were interiors, he quickly became attracted to the practice of painting landscapes en plein air. His activity as a painter was interrupted during 1866 when he enlisted again in the army for the Third Independence War, during which he was captured by the Austrians and held in Croatia. Returning to civilian life at the end of the year, he moved to Castelnuovo della Misericordia and spent the final year of his life painting in the countryside. Abbati died at the age of thirty-two in Florence after his own dog bit him, infecting him with rabies.

Federico Zandomeneghi (1841 – 1917)
Federico Zandomeneghi (June 2, 1841 – December 31, 1917) was an Italian Impressionist painter. Zandomeneghi, whose father and grandfather were sculptors, was born in Venice and enrolled in the Venice Academy in 1856. A supporter of Garibaldi, his political beliefs necessitated a move to Florence in 1860. There he met a number of the artists known as the Macchiaioli, includTelemaco Signorini, Giovanni Fattori and Giuseppe Abbati, and he joined them in painting landscapes outdoors. Painting outside of the studio, "en plein air", was at that time an innovative approach, allowing for a new vividness and spontaneity in the rendering of light. In 1874 Zandomeneghi went to Paris, where he was to spend the rest of his life.

Angelo Morbelli (1853 - 1919)
(b Alessandria, 18 July 1853; d Milan, 7 Nov 1919). Italian painter. He received his first lessons in drawing in Alessandria, and in 1867 he travelled on a local study grant to Milan, where he was based for the rest of his life. He enrolled at the Accademia di Brera and from 1867 to 1876 studied drawing and painting there under Raffaele Casnedi and Giuseppe Bertini, whose influence is seen in both the subject-matter and technique of his early works. These include perspectival views, anecdotal genre scenes and history paintings. In the Dying Goethe (1880; Alessandria, Pin. Civ.) the theatrical setting, enriched by a sophisticated execution and a well-modulated use of colour, derives from the teaching of Casnedi and Bertini, while the historic-romantic quality of this painting also recalls the style of Francesco Hayez. In the years that followed, Morbelli began to concentrate more on themes such as labour and the life of the poor, influenced perhaps by Realist painters of the 1880s such as Achille D'Orsi, Francesco Paolo Michetti and Teofilo Patini. Morbelli's Return to the Stable (1882; priv. col., see Scotti p. 24) shows him progressively adopting a lighter palette with bluish shadows and rougher, more fragmented brushwork.

Attilio Pusterla (1862-1941)

Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo (1868 - 1907)

Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo (July 28, 1868 - June 14, 1907) was an Italian painter. He was born and died in Volpedo, in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Pellizza, considered a neo-impressionist artist, was a divisionist painter - using small dots of paints according to specific color theory. His most famous work is Il Quarto Stato ("The Fourth Estate"). This rich, expressive work has become a well-known symbol for progressive and socialist causes in Italy, and throughout Europe. The painting is shown during the opening credits of Bernardo Bertolucci's film 1900.

Ambassadors of Hunger

Fiumana (The Human Tide) 1895-96 (oil on canvas)

Il Quarto Stato ("The Fourth Estate")

Renato Guttuso (1911 – 1987)

Renato Guttuso (26 December 1911 – 18 January 1987) was an Italian painter. His best-known paintings include Flight from Etna (1938–39), Crucifixion (1941) and La Vucciria (1974). He was born in Bagheria, near Palermo in Sicily, but from 1937 lived and worked largely in Rome. An anti-fascist, he joined the banned Italian Communist Party (PCI) in 1940 and left Rome to become an active participant in the partisan struggle from 1943. He was also an opponent to the Mafia. In 1972 Guttuso was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. In 1976 he was elected to the Italian Senate as a PCI representative for the Sicilian constituency of Sciacca.

Renato Guttuso The Discussion 1959-60

Renato Guttuso La fucilazione in campagna (Countryside shooting) 1939

Renato Guttuso La Vucciria 1974

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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