BIOGRAPHIES OF THE ARTISTS
Milan, 1910 - Florence, 1988
Having moved to Florence when he was still quite young, in 1927 he began his studies at the Scuola Libera del Nudo at the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts), following courses by Felice Carena, Giuseppe Graziosi and Celestino Celestini. He made friends with the artists who gathered together in the Caffè dell'Accademia, among which the scholar Renzo Simi and the sculptor Mario Parri who he rendered in pencil with vivid realism in some drawings, presented at his debut exhibition in the Cavalensi & Botti gallery of Florence in 1930.
In 1932 he drew the attention of the critics and the public with his one-man-show at Galleria Bellini of Florence, followed in 1936 by his affirmation in the Milanese art scene with the exhibition at the Casa d'Artisti of Via Manzoni, presented by Giorgio Nicodemi. In the same year he received a commission for his first important decorative fresco cycle in the convent of San Marco in Florence.
During a long European tour, in 1938, his studies brought him closer to work of the great German masters: Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, Michael Pacher and Hans Holbein. In 1947, together with Gregorio Sciltian, Antonio and Xavier Bueno, he signed the Manifesto of Modern Painters of Reality, in order to promote art linked to the figurative tradition in sharp contrast to abstract painting.
In 1949 he exhibited three paintings at the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of London which were hailed with resounding success: he began intense activity for the English market, specialising in the execution of portraits of subtle psychological introspection, distinguished by a sophisticated chromatic and formal elegance and by meticulous rendering of every physiognomic detail, derived from the study of northern painting. His work had been requested more and more frequently by a rich and cultured English aristocratic patronage, thus he received the commission to make for the Fishmongers Company a painted Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (London, Fishmongers Hall): the work, which was completed in 1955 and immediately exhibited at the Royal Academy, consecrated the artist to international fame, in spite of the unfavourable judgement by part of the critics. In maturity he primarily made portraits of some of the most prominent political personalities of the era, including J. F. Kennedy (1962), then published on the cover of "Time" magazine; a production which carried on alongside drawings from life that were characterised by a lively realistic vein, on the occasion of his frequent journeys to South Africa, India, Mexico and North America, and his many works with religious subjects.
At a very young age he entered the workshop of the painter Luciano Borzone, then continued his training at the Accademia del Nudo instituted at the house of Gian Carlo Doria and under the guidance of Andrea Ansaldo, from which he distanced himself at only sixteen years of age so as to open his own studio. He made his debut around 1616, creating an altarpiece for the Genoan Oratorium of S. Antonio in Sarzano that reflects his youthful focus, which was transformed through his masters, for Cerano, Giulio Cesare Procaccini and Morazzone. The early production of the artist reveals an original pictorial language capable of combining the use of vivid colour and the light effects of the Lombard tradition with the Baroque perspective construction derived from the teaching of Ansaldo. To these suggestions one can combine the early attention shown toward the painting of Bernardo Strozzi, whose decisive influence is obvious in the Incontro di Alessandro Magno e Diogene /Meeting of Alexander the Great and Diogenes (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie) and in the sketch with the Coronazione della Vergine / Coronation of the Virgin of the Dominican convent of Taggia, reproposed in the fresco of the Giudizio Universal / Last Judgement for the church of San Domenico in Genoa, now lost.
In the Thirties he matured a personal interpretation of the most advanced naturalistic instances of the time, which must not have been untouched by the lessons from the Flemish painters and Antoon Van Dyck, and the Caravaggio inspired suggestions, introduced in Genoa through Simon Vouet and Orazio Gentileschi. Antique sources mention his trip to Rome in 1639, during which he probably visited the house of the Genovese banker Vincenzo Giustiniani, among the greatest collectors of Caravaggio, where he was able to also see the works of José de Ribera, Matthias Stomer and Gerard van Honthors, the famous Gherardo delle Notti. The latter, in particular, exerts a significant influence in the late production of the artist who experiments with more pronounced chiaroscuro contrasts that have an effect of increased formal stability in the Catone suicida / The Suicide of Cato in the Gallery of Palazzo Bianco in Genoa, refining his research in the direction of a more evident naturalism.
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni
Lucca, 1708 - Rome, 1787
After an apprenticeship in his youth as a goldsmith in his father's workshop, in 1727 he moved to Rome, thanks to the financial support of some patrons of Lucca. Unsatisfied with his brief period of study under the painters Sebastiano Conca and Agostino Masucci, he dedicated himself to the study of the great models of the classicist tradition and, at the same time, practiced the art of copying statues and fragments.
His first important commission, the altarpiece with the Vergine col Bambino e i beati Pietro, Castora, Forte e Lodolfo / Virgin and Child with blessed Peter, Castora, Forte and Lodolfo for the church of San Gregorio al Celio (1733), reveals the young painter to the demanding Roman environment. He quickly affirmed himself in the sphere of religious painting, obtaining prestigious commissions from the papal court, among which Cristo consegna le chiavi a san Pietro / Christ Hands Over the Keys to St. Peter of 1742 for the Caffeaus of the Quirinale and the monumental altarpiece with the Caduta di Simon Mago / Fall of Simon Magus, painted between 1746 and 1755 for Saint Peter's Basilica.
The Trionfo di Venere / Triumph of Venus dates from 1737. It is a demanding debut work of his extensive production of historical and mythological inspiration, destined for Marco Foscarini, ambassador of the Republic of Venice to the Holy See. During the fifth decade of the century the execution of elaborate allegories continued, dense in mythological and literary references, overcoming the Baroque and Rococò language in favour of a classicism that better responded to the new Enlightenment approaches, precursor of the neoclassical reform that established the taste of the era.
To this production belong the paintings made for the Russian court Chirone restituisce Achille a Teti / Chiron returns Achille to Teti (1768-1770) and La Continenza di Scipione / The Continence of Scipio (1771), both at the Hermitage; and those for the Prussian court, including Alessandro e la Famiglia di Dario / Alexander and the Family of Darius (1764-1775), undisputed masterpiece of the artist.
In the same years, during which he made a name for himself in the major European courts and with the connoisseurs for his extraordinary historical, allegorical and mythological paintings, he ensured himself enormous professional success as portraitist, in great demand by Italian and foreign patrons. Starting in 1750 he specialised in the execution of portraits of young aristocrats who were staying in Rome on the occasion of the Grand Tour, depicted in informal poses with the background of the Roman countryside or surrounded by antiquities. This was an activity that provided him with significant earnings and international success, in addition to the affirmation as the principal portraitist of Rome, one who was in demand by members of the royal families of Europe and of the pontifical aristocracy.
Cagnaccio Di San Pietro (Natalino Bentivoglio Scarpa)
Desenzano del Garda, 1897 - Venice, 1946
He attended for a short time the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, a student of Ettore Tito who introduced him to the study of photographic models. His production, during the years of his training, reveals his interest in pointillism in painting. In 1911 he became part of Futurism, widespread in Venice through the exposition L’Opera Bevilacqua La Masa in Ca' Pesaro: in 1919 two of his Futurist paintings were included in the exhibition at Palazzo Pesaro together with the works of Felice Casorati, Gino Rossi, Tullio Garbari and Pio Semenghini.
1920 is the year of breakthrough for the artist who, returning to the village of San Pietro in Volta, on the island of the Venetian lagoon where he spent his childhood, defined a personal figurative language that finds its full expression in the painting La Tempesta / The Storm (1920, private collection). The production of these years joins together the recovery of the great painting of the past - the Venetian tradition of the Fifteenth century, the impulse garnered from the German masters and Albrecht Dürer, in particular - with aspects of contemporary painting of the return to order. The recovery of the Italian primitivist and Renaissance tradition and the value of form are the same principles that had inspired the magazine by Mario Broglio "Valori Plastici" and animated the group that he led. The outcome of his artistic research, characterised by sharp and precise drawing and by strong realism, are in part comparable to the German New Objectivity. His first important exposition opportunity dates back to 1923, with the personal exhibit in the setting of Ca' Pesaro; the following year he was present in the 14th edition of the Venice Biennale in which he participated with continuity until 1942.
Among the protagonists of Magical Realism, in his vast repertoire are many portraits that set themselves apart by the fixedness of gestures and glances, often made with the aid of photography; in addition to scenes from life and themes of social inspiration and to a large number of religious subjects inspired by Venetian painting of the Renaissance. In the Thirties and Forties he dedicated himself to the execution of lagoon landscapes constructed with an extremely rigorous composition, appreciated by critics for their enchanted immobility and dreamlike atmosphere.
In 1948, just two years after his death, he was commemorated with a retrospective exhibition held at the Venice Biennale.
Quargnento, Alessandria, 1881 - Milan, 1966
He began working as a decorator in Milan when he was still very young, in 1899 he visited Paris and then London.
In 1906, thanks to an artistic prize, he enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti of Brera, studying under Cesare Tallone. In the same years he approached pointillist painting, attracted to the works of Gaetano Previati and Giovanni Segantini.
In 1908 he met Umberto Boccioni and Luigi Russolo, with whom he drafted the Manifesto of Futurist Painters (1910) on the thrust of the subversive and radical theories of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. The intense participation in Futurism, felt as vital impulse capable of inputting new energy in the Italian artistic panorama, finds an exemplary synthesis in the vast canvas I funerali dell'anarchico Galli / The Funerals of the Anarchist Galli (New York, Museum of Modern Art), a demanding work (the first idea dates back to 1904) revised in 1911, upon his return from a trip to Paris during which he had the opportunity of meeting George Braque and Pablo Picasso, getting the latest on cubist painting.
The Futurist experience ended toward the conclusion of 1915 and the following year the painter approached the Florentine group "La Voce", directed by Giuseppe De Robertis, publishing some writings (Talks about Giotto and Paolo Uccello builder) in which he exalts Italian painting of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth century. In these years he began a reflection on the relationship between antique and modern that translated into a new elementary and primitive pictorial language in works such as Il fiasco / The Flask (1915, Milan private collection) and La carrozella / The Carriage (1916, Rovereto, Mart).
His research gained new impetus starting from 1917: his works are dense in citations and references to the paintings of Giorgio De Chirico, whom he had known and frequented intensely in Ferrara, and at the same time, he brought to his work his personal interpretation of the metaphysical, understood as recovery of pictorial values of Italian tradition. Among these we remember La camera incantata / The Enchanted Chamber and La musa metafisica / The Metaphysical Muse of 1917 (both at the Pinacoteca di Brera, Jesi collection).
He closely collaborated with the magazine "Valori Plastici", directed by Mario Broglio, publishing articles and reproductions of his drawings.
In 1921 he opened a new phase of his artistic career during which he devoted himself to the execution of transfigured landscapes in mythical and mysterious places, through the extreme synthesis of the natural elements. In his production he followed the Ligurian landscapes of Moneglia and Camogli, and, subsequently, of Forte dei Marmi and the Cinquale, in which he reached a perfect balance between the geometric simplification of the composition and the lyrical interpretation of the landscape.
In 1933 he was among the signatories of the Manifesto of Mural Painting, also signed by Mario Sironi, Massimo Campigli and Achille Funi, simultaneously he was engaged in the construction of large decorative cycles of revetments for the 5th and 6th Triennale (respectively in 1933 and in 1936) and for the Court of Milan (Palazzo di Giustizia) (1938).
His artistic career obtained complete recognition with the vast retrospective exhibition held at the Pinacoteca di Brera and his appointment as a professor of painting at the same academy in 1941. In 1948, the 24th Venice Biennale dedicated to the artist, along with De Chirico and Morandi, the exhibition Three Italian Painters, suggested by Roberto Longhi and curated by Francesco Arcangeli. In 1950 he obtained the Grand Prize for Painting on the occasion of his personal exhibition space in the Venice Biennale. Lastly, in 1962, a major exhibition of his works was staged at Palazzo Reale in Milan.
Bologna, 1628 - Forlì, 1719
He trained in the studio of Francesco Albani and, at the same time, he attended the private Accademia sponsored by Count Ettore Ghislieri, presided over by the most eminent local artists, including Alessandro Tiarini and Guercino.
Sources document a good reception for his many early works, created between Bologna and Livorno, many of which are now lost. In 1658 he received his first important commission when the Cardinal Envoy of Bologna, Girolamo Farnese, commissioned him to execute some scenes of the painting cycle dedicated to the glories of citizens in the Council Chamber in the City Hall.
The success of the effort is such that, in 1662, the same patron invited the painter to Rome with the intention of hiring him to decorate a gallery in the Farnese lodge outside Porta San Pancrazio: his exposure with the stimulating and diverse culture of the papal capital strongly influenced the development of the successive activity of the artist, attracted to the neo-Veneto painters, to the inventions of Pietro da Cortona and above all to the classicism of Maratta. Moreover, in these years, he painted two large frescoes on the walls of the main chapel in Sant'Andrea della Valle, alongside the works of Domenichino, and he dedicated much effort to the execution of numerous "chamber pictures", among these some Venuses.
On his return to Bologna, in 1665, he executed four medallions for San Michele in Bosco, in collaboration with the painter Domenico Santi, which obtained extraordinary success among contemporaries, sanctioning his fame as refined interpreter of the Emilian tradition, and an heir of Correggio for his subdued and graceful naturalism.
In the Seventies his reputation was of international renown: in addition to the works commissioned in Bologna, Rome and Parma for the most important aristocratic families, he received prestigious commissions from the European courts, among which his Baccanale con Sileno irriso / Bacchanalia with Sileno Mocked and Giove e Danae / Jupiter and Danae for Prince Johann Adam von Liechtenstein.
From 1683 he devoted himself to the decoration of the dome of the Madonna del Fuoco in the cathedral of Forlì with the grandiose Assumption of the Virgin: the work that had continued for over twenty years and among the most challenging for the artist, which is compared to the masterpiece of Correggio in the Cathedral of Parma, restoring an agile and refined interpretation.
As definitive confirmation of his role as an actor in the artistic scene of Bologna, he was the promoter of a local workshop in which a generation of young painters were trained, in 1706 he obtained an appointment as a perpetual prince of the Accademia Clementina of Bologna which was being formed, but whose courses began only in 1710.
Astolfo de Maria
Rome 1891 – 1946
Son of the famous painter Mario De Maria, who was among the founders of the Venice Biennale, from a very young age he frequented a cultural and artistic climate of international significance.
In 1913 he enrolled in the first year of the Scuola di Libera Pittura of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, therefore he studied under the painter Luigi Nono. With the outbreak of the First World War he was forced to abandon his studies to enlist: he was aggregated to the General Staff of the III Armada at the service of Gabriele D'Annunzio as motorcyclist and designer. Dating from these years is an interesting nucleus of drawings of great expressive power, drawn from life with a nimble and secure hand.
In 1917 his pictorial language was interwoven with references to the Austrian Secession and to the refined graphic production of the English artist Aubrey Beardsley.
He made his debut at the Venice Biennale in 1920 presenting Il Rospo / The Toad (1919-1920, location unknown), a crucial work in his artistic path, distinguished by a meticulous realism and an unreal and suspended atmosphere taken from the German New Objectivity. He approached a line of research, shared with Guido Cadorin, Bortolo Sacchi, Cagnaccio di San Pietro, which has its own references in Magical Realism and since 1924 he looked with interest at the Italian Twentieth century.
In the Twenties he specialised in the execution of portraits which show the influence of the German models in the dry and rough rendering of the subjects, often wrapped in a rarefied and alienating atmosphere: in this period he executes the portrait of Grubicy de Dragon (then in the Toscanini collection) and that of Gabriele D'Annunzio, exhibited at the Venice Biennale of 1930; in the middle of the next decade he made a Portrait of Benito Mussolini, subsequently destroyed by the artist.
In the Thirties he accentuated his interest in advertising graphics and, at the same time, he started painting views of Venice defined by a crisp and clear light, through broad flat fields of flat enamelled colours, which is in clear contrast with the local artistic tradition that valorised the atmospheric rendering and the luminous and chromatic vibration of the landscape. Borin in laguna / Borin in the Lagoon (1931, location unknown) was awarded the gold medal at the 22nd exhibition of L’Opera Bevilacqua La Masa and was bought by Giuseppe Bottai, future Italian Minister of Education.
In 1942 the critics favourably reviewed a new orientation in his production that evolved toward a pictorial conduct that was softer and more fluid.
(Venice, 1885 - Ghiffa, Verbania, 1975)
Between 1903 and 1905 he attended the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, studying under Cesare Tallone. He became friends with Anselmo Bucci, with whom he went to Paris for a stay of six months between 1906 and 1907, and came into contact with Gino Severini. Initially he approached the research of pointillism, attracting the interest of the art dealer Albert Grubicy de Dragon, later his language evolved toward a painting of Futurist orientation, well exemplified in the works presented on the occasion of the exhibition of the group of Nuove Tendenze / New Trends in 1914 in Milan.
Starting from 1919 he assiduously attended the artistic salon of Margherita Sarfatti, with Luigi Russolo, Mario Sironi and Achille Funi. He participate with fifteen works at the National Futurist Exhibition, set up in 1919 at the Galleria Centrale d'Arte (former Caffè Cova) obtaining the attention of the critics; in 1920 he signed the manifesto Against All Returns in Painting. It was an important written programme that appealed to a renewed search for volume and the synthesis of forms, which would find its complete definition in subsequent theoretical statements in Italian Twentieth century art. At the end of the 1919 he painted Il caduto / The Fallen, a work that was a personal milestone, which marked the definitive distancing from Futurism, toward a new pictorial figurative language showing the signs of naturalism.
Starting from 1921 the exhibition activity intensified with the participation in the I Roman Biennale, in the collective exhibition "Peintres futuristes italiens" in Paris and, lastly, the exhibition Italian Contemporary Art at Galleria Pesaro in Milan. In these years, his painting is oriented toward an almost photographic objectivity in the meticulous and defined rendering of every every detail. He is among the Severn Painters of the Twentieth Century that exhibited in 1923 at the exhibition of Galleria Pesaro and the following year he was present at the Venice Biennale, where he showed, Amore: Discorso Primo / Love: First Discourse (Milan, Art Collection of Fondazione Cariplo).
From 1924 he consumed the progressive distancing from the group, the artist participated in both the III Biennial of Rome in 1925, where the artists of the Twentieth century were shown in a single hall, and with the I Exhibition of the Italian Twentieth century with three still lifes that show the debt to German New Objectivity in the rendering, almost Flemish, of every detail; from 1927 he continued his own exhibitions in complete autonomy and in relative isolation. From the Thirties he defined his own personal stylistic focus and devoted his time to the execution of portraits, landscapes, small and precious still lifes, exhibited on the occasion of the important personal exhibition staged at Galleria Dedalo in 1936.
(Ferrara, 1890 - Appiano Gentile, Como, 1972)
After attending the Scuola Municipale d'Arte in Ferrara, in 1906 he moved to Milan where he followed with success the courses of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, student of Cesare Tallone.
In contact with the lively Milanese artistic world, he formed friendships with Leonardo Dudreville, Carlo Carrà, Antonio Sant'Elia and his interest in Furturism was strong. In 1914 he participated in the exhibition "Nuove Tendenze / New Trends" at Famiglia Artistica in Milan, with nine works that reflect his interest for the breakdown of shapes, derived from the suggestion of the coeval research on dynamism by Umberto Boccioni, in a personal interpretation of the painting of Paul Cézanne. At the outbreak of the First World War, he enrolled in the eighth platoon Volunteer Cyclists, as did Umberto Boccioni, Antonio Sant'Elia, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Luigi Russolo.
From the Twenties he experimented with a new pictorial language derived from the suggestion of the Italian Renaissance tradition, in line with the artistic trends promoted by Margherita Sarfatti, who he had the opportunity to know and frequent starting from 1920. This meeting marked a fundamental change in the artistic research of Funi who in 1922 was among the Seven Painters of the Twentieth Century, with whom he exhibited in the Galleria Pesaro in Milan in 1923 and at the Venice Biennale in 1924. Strong supporter of the need for a recovery of the classical tradition in painting, he was part of the executive committee of Novecento Italiano, participating in both the exhibitions promoted by the group in Milan in 1926 and in 1929. He obtained complete affirmation on the artistic scene as fresco painter and front line exponent among the supporters of a return to mural painting: in 1933 he signed the Manifesto of Mural Painting by Mario Sironi, together with Carlo Carrà and Massimo Campigli, and from 1930 he was engaged with continuity in the decoration of the Triennials in Milan. Between 1934 and 1937 he devoted himself to the execution of a cycle of frescoes in the Counsel Hall of the Palazzo Comunale in Ferrara, inspired by the tales of knighthood of Torquato Tasso and Ludovico Ariosto, known as Il mito di Ferrara / The Myth of Ferrara. It is his most challenging work, in which he illustrates the classic poems, conferring upon himself the character of a heroic transfiguration of reality, assuming the role of public and poetic cantor of contemporary civilisation.
In 1939 he completed the frescoes for the church of S. Francesco in Tripoli, realised the fresco Mosè riceve sul Sinai le Tavole della Legge / Moses Receives on the Sinai the Tablets of the Law for the Court of Milan and, in April of 1940, he obtained the qualification of department head of scenography at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, changing it then in fact into teaching of the techniques of the fresco.
In the period following the Second World War he continued teaching at the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo and the Accademia di Brera in Milan, and at the same time, he carried on with his artistic work in important commissions for public and private buildings, by proposing a vast repertoire of mythological figures and characters from everyday life, in an atmosphere suspended between tradition and magical metaphysics.
(Savona, 1654 - Turin, 1709)
After studies in literature and theology, he worked for a short period of time on the decoration of majolica in the workshop of his father, Giovanni Antonio Guidobono. Around 1679 he decided to devote himself to painting, forming a close bond with Gregorio de Ferrari and Domenico Piola, godfather of his brother Dominico, who at the time constituted a team that was among the most requested in the execution of large decorative works and frescoes. Attracted by the spectacular pictorial language of the masters of the Genoese Baroque - in which there was the combination of the scenic painterly framework of Bologna, the creativity of Pietro da Cortona and the softness of the chiaroscuro deriving from the classicist tradition - Guidobono quickly developed a personal style of refinement and grace, evidenced since the beginning of his pictorial works in the chapel "Capella della Crocetta" in the sanctuary of Savona, completed in 1680. He continued his training on the study of works by Correggio during a trip to Parma, followed by a sojourn in Venice and, conceivably, in Bologna. In Savona he painted the ceiling of Palazzo Gavotti and the refectory of the Convent of the Capuchin Friars; in 1680 his activities were documented at the Hall on the second floor of Palazzo Rosso in Genoa.
The execution of the Storia dei Savoia / History of the Savoias dates from 1685, located in the sanctuary of S. Maria di Casanova at Carmagnola. Upon establishing himself in Turin, he painted a cycle of frescoes in Palazzo Reale, in which are one sees the inspiration from painting of the Emilian and Veneto traditions, with a brand new effect of softness and lightness, accentuated by the uninterrupted joining of stuccoes, frames and paintings. Despite the activity at the court of Savoy, he maintained close contact with his city of origin, as attested by the sending of the Annunciation to the sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Misericordia, currently exhibited in the Art Museum of Savona.
Having returned to Genoa between 1689 and 1690, he was engaged in the decoration of many suburban villas and, again, in Palazzo Rosso (1692), where once again he proposed the decorative elements - vases, garlands, cherubs - already used in Palazzo Reale in Turin, accentuating the interweaving of sculpture and painting in a scenographic function. Alongsie his activities as a fresco painter, he began a considerable production of paintings with allegorical and mythological scenes and paintings with religious subjects.
The sources document his return to Turin around 1702, when he executed the fresco decoration of an octagonal dome in Nostra Signora del Pilone (already referred by part of the critics to 1685 for stylistic reasons). Since 1705 he began an intense collaboration with his brother Domenico in the execution of a large number of works for the convent of S. Francesco da Paola and Palazzo Reale.
Coira, Switzerland, 1741 - Rome, 1807
She began to study art and music from her father, the modest painter Johan Joseph Kauffmann, revealing remarkable talent and extraordinary intellectual qualities even at a very early age. After having spent good part of her childhood in Morbegno in the Valtellina, she began a series of study trips through Italy: visiting the most important public and private collections of art, she attended the Accademia del Disegno in Florence and executed reproductions of famous paintings for the British travellers of the Grand Tour.
Between 1763 and 1765 she was repeatedly in Rome: an already renowned painter, cultured and polyglot, she came into contact with the most advanced neoclassical artistic circles and established friendships with Gavin Hamilton, Anton Raphael Mengs, Benjamin West and Pompeo Batoni. In 1764 she executed the portrait of Johan Joachim Winckelmann (Zurich, Kunsthaus).
After a short stay in Paris, in 1766 she moved to London, where she frequented with intensity the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, of whom she admired the portraits of great psychological introspection, marked by a strong allegorical component and dense with references to antiquity. Admitted to the Accademia of Bologna, Florence, Rome and Venice, in 1768 she was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy, the only woman along with the painter Mary Moser (1744-1819). During the English stay she was engaged with the execution of numerous paintings of historical-mythological subject matter and she affirmed herself as a brilliant portraitist, requested in the most exclusive aristocratic circles. Skilful and careful in the promotion of her image as an artist, she proposed herself as an interpreter of a new female sensitivity with her numerous self-portraits and portraits, in addition to the scenes of literary inspiration in which there is the emergence of the intimate sphere of the feelings of the protagonists, exemplary figures of virtue and feminine morality.
Having returned to Rome in 1781, the following year she opened a studio close to Piazza di Spagna: the atelier and the Roman salon of the painter were to become an important point of reference of the artistic and intellectual life of the city, frequented by the pre-eminent personalities of the scientific and literary spheres and by an international clientele of the highest level. She established an important connection with Wolfgang von Goethe, of whom she executed a portrait in 1787 (Weimar, Goethe Nationalmuseum). In 1782 she went to Naples where she received the prestigious commission to do the Ritratto della famiglia reale di Ferdinando IV di Borbone / Portrait of the Royal Family of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon (Naples, Museo di Capodimonte).
Its refined pictorial language, marked by simplicity and naturalness, was influenced by the Neoclassical research marked by a stringent archaeological taste during the decade between 1780 and 1790; in late works the artist participates in the nascent interest in the primitive, as confirmation of her constant ability to update on the most innovative instances in contemporary painting.
London, 1744 - Paris, 1816
Son of Augustin Ménageot, art dealer and advisor of Denis Diderot, he moved at a young age to Paris. Student of Jean-Baptiste-Henri Deshays and, starting in 1765, François Boucher, he frequented the studio of Joseph-Marie Vien. In 1766 with the painting Tomiri immerge nel sangue la testa di Ciro / Tomyris Plunging the Head of Cyrus into a Bowl of Blood (Paris, Ecole Normale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts) he won the Prix de Rome, which included a scholarship for further training at the Accademia di Francia in Rome.
In 1777 he made his debut at the Salon, in which he would participate without interruption until 1785, presenting Il sacrificio di Polissena / The Farewells of Polyxena to Hecuba (Chartres, the Musée des Beaux-Arts). He made a strong impression on the Parisian artistic scene in 1781, when he presented the large historical painting Il morte di Leonardo da Vinci alla presenza di Frrancesco I / The Death of Leonardo da Vinci in the Arms of Francis I (Amboise, Musee de l'Hôtel de Ville), obtaining extraordinary success and the appointment as professor of painting of the Académie Royale. Alongside the more renowned production of historical subjects, he carried out the activities of portraitist and the execution of mythological and religious paintings, among which, La Vergine mette santa Teresa d'Avila sotto la protezione di San Giuseppe / The Virgin puts St. Teresa of Avila under the protection of St. Joseph (1787, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) and La sacra famiglia / The Holy Family, currently at the Museum of the Hermitage.
From 1787 to 1792 he was appointed director of the Accademia di Francia in Rome. Having left Rome following the sudden political changes that brought about the fire in Palazzo Mancini, the headquarters of the Accademia, he took refuge in Vicenza where he executed the altarpiece for the sanctuary of Monte Berico and many portraits for the local aristocracy.
Upon his definitive return to Paris in 1801, he participated in the Assembly of the professors at the National Schools of painting and sculpture, resumed teaching and continued the exhibition activity, but his production is no longer favourably met by the public.
In 1808 he executed the large canvas Il matrimonio del principe Eugène de Beauharnais e della principessa Améliede Baviére a Monaco / The Marriage of Prince Eugène de Beauharnais and Princess Amélie de Bavière in Munich, currently at the National Museum of the Chateau de Versailles.
In 1814 he was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honour.
Scipione (Gino Bonichi)
Macerata, 1904 - Arco di Trento, 1933
In 1924, following the meeting with Mario Mafai, he enrolled at the Scuola Libera del Nudo of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. At the beginning of the following year the two painters met Antoinetta Raphaël, with whom they would give life to the "Scuola di via Cavour" (definition coined by Roberto Longhi in 1929), later renamed "Scuola Romana" or "Roman School". It was a human and artistic connection, one of the most significant of the culture of the Twentieth century, which brought together such completely different personalities, united by the strong refusal of monumental paintings of classical inspiration and by an interest in experimentation of a pictorial language of explosive expressiveness.
He made his debut in the Roman Biennale in 1925 with a painting that is not recorded in his catalogue, but is remembered by the painter Francesco di Cocco. In 1929 he exhibited in Palazzo Doria, then at the Prima Mostra Sindacale exhibition, and lastly, at the "Casa d'Arte Bragaglia".
In the autumn of 1929 his style reached full maturity in an important core of paintings distinguished by a fantastic and visionary vein, made with an unusual pictorial material that was rich and vibrant, marked by incisions carried out with the handle of the paintbrush; the bright colours, taken from the Venetian and Baroque tradition, succumbed to a darker chromaticism, markedly expressionist. A turning point can be found in Il sogno di Ferdinando / The Dream of Ferdinando, exhibited in 1929 at the Mostra d'Arte Marinara in Rome and in the successive series of still lifes.
Starting from 1930 his exhibition activity intensified: at the Venice Biennale was his Ritratto del Cardinale Decano / Portrait of Cardinal Vanutelli (the Cardinal Deacon) (Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna, Rome), one of the masterpieces of the artist, executed on the inspiration of the works of El Greco, while at the First Rome Quadrienniale he was present with three paintings (Apocalisse / Apocalypse, Ritratto di Ungaretti / Portrait of Ungaretti, Via che porta a San Pietro / The Road to San Pietro). The exhibition at the Galleria di Roma established his definitive affirmation in the eyes of the critics and the public.
With the intention of bringing a new opening in Italian culture, together with Renato Marino Mazzacurati, he founded the magazine "Fronte", where texts of Carlo Carrà, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Alberto Moravia, Alberto Savinio were published along with reproductions of works of contemporary art.
In his final production he reached an extraordinary expressionist violence: the cycle inspired by the Apocalypse evokes the incumbent catastrophe on a world close to destruction, leaving us with a dramatically prophetic vision of the tragic events which would have not long after devastated Europe.