The Macchiaioli movement: the Italian “anti-academy”

That of the Macchiaioli is a pictorial movement, born from the activity of a group of Italian artists in the second half of the nineteenth century. The movement, which is part of Realism, represented – therefore – the Italian way to the widest European artistic renewal, and linked its name to the revolutionary technique of the “spot”.

This term was attributed to the new current in 1862, and appeared for the first time on the pages of the Gazzetta del Popolo, in a derogatory sense. In fact, on the newspaper, there was talk of “macchie” exposed to the Florentine Promoter. The painters of the movement, however, decided to do the term justice, and to adopt it to rename the group. The term Macchiaioli derives from the use of strong contrasts of shadow and light obtained with the drawing and the chiaroscuro, as well as the combination of different tones of color.




Image Source:Stile ArteFattori, Mandrie maremmane

Theirs was an anti-academic position, which rejected the use of drawing in favor of an art capable of reproducing “the impression of reality”. For them, the shape was created by light, and therefore – pictorial – represented through distinct color spots or superimposed on other color spots. Moving at the same time the attention and the gaze not only to nature but also to social reality. Their intent was to renew Italian painting, sensing the need – in the period immediately following the war – to follow the changes taking place on the European scene, with particular reference to France.

The Macchiaioli were mainly active in Tuscany, and among their ranks were the painters Cristiano Banti, Serafino De Tivoli, Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega and Telemaco Signorini. And a sculptor, Adriano Cecioni, who was considered the theoretician of the group.

Giovanni Fattori was undoubtedly the greatest representative of the movement. He participated in the Competition for the celebration of the Second War of Independence, in 1862, proposing his Italian Field after the battle of Magenta – now on display in the Gallery of Modern Art in Florence – considered the first Italian painting of contemporary history. His works on canvas – which frequently recall the theme of battles, but also the landscapes of the Tuscan Maremma – are distinguished by the counterpoint between parts illuminated by the sun and shaded areas. A technique, that of color contrasts, which sees the predominant use of the “light spot”. Among the most famous paintings by Fattori we point out Libecciata, Portrait of the stepdaughter, and Great maneuvers.

Among the Macchiaioli, Silvestro Lega and Telemaco Signorini, along with Fattori, were the leading artists of the new current. Silvestro Lega was active in Florence, where he opened a studio that soon became a point of reference and meeting point for all the Macchiaioli. Among his works, where the theme of bourgeois life and the family prevails, Il canto dello stornello, La scellerata and La popolana stand out. Telemaco Signorini, for his part, founded the School of Pergentina, focusing on nature and realistic-social themes. In fact, La sala delle agitate belongs to this style. In Paris he was particularly influenced by the meeting with Edgar Degas, whose influence can be seen in paintings like La toletta del mattino. Other painters who were part of the furoo movement were Cristiano Banti, Ferdinando Buonamici, Giovanni Costa, Giuseppe Abbati, Serafino De Tivoli and Raffaello Sernesi. Their work influenced the movement of the French Impressionists, thanks also to the frequent journeys that the Macchiaioli made to the French capital.

Main Image: Silvestro Lega, I fidanzati, 1869, Olio su tela, 35,5 x 79,5 cm
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci. 
Source: ArtsLife
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