Mosè Bianchi was the son of a portrait painter, and attended the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, interrupting his studies in 1859 to take part in the war of independence as a volunteer in Garibaldi’s Cacciatori delle Alpi (Alpine Hunters). In 1862 he opened a studio with the Ticino artist Ernesto Fontana, and was represented at the annual Brera exhibition with a painting on an historical subject. His frequent participation in Brera exhibitions attracted considerable popularity, and his painting began to explore romantic and literary subjects, with a marked predilection for genre scenes. Through the Parisian art dealer Adolphe Goupil, Bianchi came into contact with the international exhibition circuit, and in 1874 won the Prince Umberto Prize in Milan with a portrait, repeating this success in 1894 with a historical genre scene and in 1900 with a rustic interior.
The characteristics of the subject and its environment indicate that this lively urban scene dates from the brief period when the artist was living in Verona, between 1898 and 1899. The thin oil paint, characterised by bright, clear colours, deliberately revealing the outline of the underlying fluid design and the tonality of the wood beneath, are characteristic of the artist’s last creative period, in which, as here, he takes a renewed interest in structured spaces, with the architectural background given a primary role.
After training at the Brera academy in Milan, in 1861 Filippo Carcano participated in the annual exhibition there with paintings of historical subjects. Then just one year later he became interested in depicting the real world around him, and in the use of light, an approach far removed from the anecdotal style of painting in vogue at the time. Already in the late 1860s, he was regarded as one of the most promising members of the “Milan school”. He was one of the founders of the Famiglia Artistica group in 1873, and regularly exhibited in Milan, Turin, Genoa and Florence, alternating scenes including human figures with more traditional Milanese interiors and genre subjects. And at least from 1876, these were complemented with highly advanced studies depicting the Lombard landscape.
In the painting in the collection, Carcano returns to one of his favourite subjects, reinterpreting some years later one of his stunning early landscape paintings. The tranquillity of the lake, exhibited at Brera in 1878. Now, at the start of the last decade of the 19th century, the artist lightens his pallet and indulging in a virtuosic symphony of colour, plays on the most subtle nuances of blues, greys and whites. In a display of exemplary control of colour and composition, the scene opens out horizontally and along parallel axes: from the space of the open sky with light clouds scudding by to the backdrop of mountains to either side, and to the furthermost point on the horizon, right to the calm surface of the water. Here the painter allows himself a nod in the direction of genre painting, with the steamer and minute boat seen in the furthest depths of the painting.
Eugenio Gignous was the son of a wealthy silk merchant, and from an early age showed a strong interest in painting. He eventually obtained his father's permission to attend the Brera academy, where he remained until 1870, winning numerous prizes. His precocious association with the Scapigliatura group influenced the young man rather more than the academic course content. Concentrating on landscapes, enjoyed en plein air during long trips in the countryside of Lombardy and Piedmont, he regularly offered his canvases for display at leading Italian and international exhibitions. In the latter part of the 1870s, he became a close friend of Filippo Carcano, who took him sailing on Lake Maggiore. He exhibited a view of the lake for the first time at Brera in 1879.
Gignous was regarded from the mid-1880s onwards, as one of the leaders of the school of contemporary Lombard painting. Thanks to his plein air paintings, with their clear, strong light and congenial subjects, which he tended to paint many times over, he was identified as “the painter of the lake”. His mature works - such as the ones of the Cornèr collection – reflect this category. These paintings are characterised by more expansive brush strokes, an ever-decreasing focus on description - as seen in the skilfully executed shadows on the chalk-white surface of the wall - and the instrumental use of colour as material. At the same time, he remains faithful to the reality of the scene before him, dutifully painting the electricity lines against the sky in the background.
Emilio Gola was the son of Count Carlo Gola, a man of culture and an amateur painter, and dedicated himself to painting from his teenage years, while still managing to complete his engineering studies at the Polytechnic University of Milan. Gola was an eccentric painter, outside the domain of academic art and conventional artistic paths right from the outset, but quickly gained recognition abroad. This international success was then replicated in Italy at the Milan Exhibition of 1906.
In 1881, he decided to present at the National Exhibition of the Fine Arts in Milan this boldly stated, large-format scene with a human figure, in which the use of colour complements the composition, design and thus a “form”, with clearly defined, controlled and virtuosic execution. Gola attempts to capture an innovative, photographic and ultramodern subject, a “slice of life”, a moment in time, in which he further accentuates the oblique lines in the foreground, lifting the focal point, placed almost at the end of the canvas, up and to the centre, at the apex of the ship.
In 1867, Morbelli moved to Milan to attend the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, where he took the standard courses in the elements of figure drawing, perspective, landscape, nudes and painting, with meritorious results. In 1874, he took part for the first time in the annual Brera exhibition. After completing his art studies, he focused on subjects from everyday life, seeking to portray the reality of his social environment, while continuing to experiment with new painting techniques. He also developed an interest in landscape painting. In the last decade of the 19th century, he started to gain greater recognition in exhibitions in Italy and abroad. In 1891, he participated in the first Milan Trienniale, with his first works based on the separation of colours (divisionism) technique. In the first few months of 1901 he again started painting subjects and scenes from the Pio Albergo Trivulzio retirement home and hospital, painting the cycle of seven paintings entitled Poem of old age, displayed at the Venice Biennale in 1903.
The painting belonging to the Cornèr collection is from this cycle. Following its exhibition in Venice in 1903, the work immediately found its way to Uruguay, only making its public reappearance in 2018, thanks to the acquisition of the painting and the subsequent exhibition organised by Cornèr Bank with Musei Civici di Venezia at Ca’ Pesaro, presenting the entire cycle of seven paintings.
Morbelli’s painting is characterised by three fundamental elements: the quality of the pigments, pure colours spread in ultra-fine thread-like traces, and the meticulous application of the oils. In Vecchie Calzette(Old socks), outside the window, the yellow is superposed first on dark blue, then a lighter blue and the omnipresent white; the red in the vegetation above the outside wall contrasts with a greenish-blue colour, again applied in ultra-fine strokes or threads; while within the black scarves and shawls we see glimmers of green, pink to red, and pure orange.
Sottocornola was from a working class family, and at the age of twenty managed to enrol at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, where along with his classmates Emilio Longoni, Gaetano Previati, Attilio Pusterla and Giovanni Segantini he shared the creative and experimental ferment of a new generation of artists, ready to break onto the scene of Lombard naturalism, by now in its maturity. His work had its first public exposure in 1882 at the Brera annual exhibition, where he presented four paintings - portraits and a genre scene. At the same time, he was producing life studies, from still lives to figure paintings and interiors. Sottocornola became one of the leading figures in the glory days of Lombard painting at the end of the 19th century, distinguishing himself in still life and figure painting and landscapes, where from the 1890s he experimented with a refined divisionism technique, at times in conjunction with subjects communicating a social commitment.
The canvas in the Cornèr collection displays a clearly simplified painting technique, particularly evident in the way the colours are spread and to a lesser extent in the design of the work. Also in 1889, at the annual show of the Società Permanente di Milano he exhibited Basket of grapes, followed at the first Brera Triennale in 1891 by Grapes (private collection), a cascade of bunches of red and white grapes and vine leaves. This is a superb composition of exemplary realism, opening out on the horizontal axis, painted on wood, similar to the canvas in the collection and many of his still lives.
The exemplary life and artistic career of Emilio Longoni, one of the most significant and highly regarded artists in the latter part of the 19th century, particularly as an exponent of divisionism, spans more than half a century of the history of Italian figurative culture. After his beginnings at Brera in 1878, his allegiance to the realist idiom in the 1880s led to some early chefs d’oeuvre, while his conversion to divisionism around 1890 brought significant recognition for the artist both in Italy and abroad.
La scogliera (The cliff) is one of his first successes in the evolution of his mountain landscapes from natural representation to symbolism - although this too was just a brief phase in an artistic trajectory toward the complete dissolution of the subject, lucidly and resolutely pursued by Longoni, culminating in the canvases of the last fifteen years of his life. A contemporary photograph records a sketch for the canvas now included in the Cornèr collection, drawn at altitude. From this image, and perhaps other life studies, Longoni extracts the natural elements that transfuse the final work for presentation to the public.
In “La scogliera” (The cliff), the striking, violent chromatic intensity of the sky-blue tones is skilfully interrupted by the towering rock formation in the centre, matching the immensity of the surrounding space, caught between the reflection in the water and the mountain range beyond. The magnificent unadulterated sky-blue produced from pure lapis lazuli and the texture of subtle horizontal threads of colour, adjoining and superposed on each other, perfectly render the vibrating tones of the icy waters of the lake.
Feragutti Visconti was one of the leading Ticino artists working at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. He received his training in Milan at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, then moved to Florence to further develop his skills. After taking up residence in Milan, in 1877 he participated in the Naples National Exhibition, and in the subsequent exhibitions in 1880 and 1881, in Turin and Milan respectively. In 1891 he won the Prince Umberto Prize at the first Milan Triennale, and took part in the Swiss Exhibition of Fine Arts in Lugano. From the 1890s onwards, now as an established portrait painter and a highly regarded painter of still lives, he featured at the principal international exhibitions. After a journey to South America in 1907-1908, where he travelled around Patagonia, he returned to realistic landscape painting.
The work in the Cornèr collection dates from the years immediately before the artist's sojourn in Patagonia. The subject is inspired by memories of his childhood in the countryside. The work is also distinctive in that a realistic scene, with the children enchanted by the fleeting images seen in the magic lantern, becomes the point of departure for a virtuosic artistic performance, capturing the scene in broad, confident brushstrokes. The focal point and emotional centre of the composition is the young farm girl's face, over which reverberate the coloured shadows from inside the magic lantern, with her features emerging from the darkness thanks to a few skilful brushstrokes and splashes of colour, powerfully chromatic and volumetric rather than descriptive.
Luigi Rossi was among the leading exponents of naturalistic painting in Ticino and Lombardy at the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. He attended the Brera Academy in Milan, where his family, of liberal and democratic traditions, moved when he was still a child. After starting in the 1870s with genre paintings praised for their technical execution and gently ironic treatment of their subjects, over the next two decades he established a reputation as a painter of scenes of people working in the countryside and as a portraitist. During an interlude in France, he also became a well-known illustrator, which played a part in redirecting his art during the 1890s towards lighter tonalities, with symbolist traits. The Società Permanente in Milan and the Villa Ciani in Lugano dedicated a posthumous exhibition to his works in 1924.
This painting belonging to the Cornèr collection, depicts Elisa Perelli Viarana, the wife of a friend and one of his favourite models in the early years of the 20th century; the elegant, lightly clad female figure, her hair fastened with a pearl clasp, is sensitively portrayed in profile, beside her baby and its wet-nurse. Sunny white tones and the green hues of the outdoor background prevail in the image, while the red splash of the bow in the nurse’s hair dramatically lights up the composition at its focal point.
After his initial training in Florence and Naples, in 1899 Maggi began to frequent the Cormon atelier in Paris. He returned to Italy at the end of 1899 to attend the Giovanni Segantini commemorative exhibition, where he met the Grubicy brothers, formed a friendship with Segantini’s sons, and decided to move to Engadine. Segantini’s themes and divisionist technique strongly influenced his painting, in terms of both choice of subjects and the treatment of light. From 1904, Maggi lived and had a studio in La Thuile, Valle d’Aosta, where mountain scenes and locations dominated by the towering presence of Mont Blanc, along with the Matterhorn, became the main subjects of his canvases, even after he abandoned divisionism.
The paintings belonging to the collection, dated 1909, were made during his first brief, purely divisionist period, and belong to the small selection of Maggi's large-format paintings produced specifically for display at official exhibitions. His outstanding works in this category demonstrate a determined quest for a personal renewal of the divisionist idiom, distinct from Segantini's approach. The originality of this nocturnal landscape, boldly dispensing with the picturesque Alpine backdrop characteristic of Segantini, witnesses to his personal experimentation with divisionism, here achieving a perfect fusion of colour tones through a meticulously executed texture of juxtaposed brush strokes.
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