By Costanza Beltrami

Painter Girolamo Nerli was born in Siena on 21 February 1860. Nerli lived an adventurous life, traveling to Australia in 1885 after studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, where he was influenced by the Scapigliati and the Macchiaioli.

In Australia, Nerli exhibited in Melbourne and Sydney, meeting leading Australian contemporaries such as Charles Conder, and developing his signature theme of small-scale sketches of contemporary scenes in the region, painted in a fluid Impressionist manner. In 1892 Nerli visited Samoa, where he met and portrayed the famous Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

Later on, he lived and set up a studio in Dunedin in New Zealand, eventually becoming teacher of painting at the city’s School of Art. As a teacher, Nerli greatly influenced contemporary Australian and New Zealand art, fostering the introduction of contemporary subjects and en plein-air Impressionist landscapes.

After a brief sojourn in London, Nerli spent the last days of his life in Villa Durallo at Nervi, where he may have died. According to one of two existing death certificates, erli died on 24 June 1926 in Nervi, near Genoa. The other certificate records his death on 11 March 1947 in Siena — an intriguing and unexplained occurrence.

Reference: Michael Dunn, “Nerli, G. P. B..” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 

The voyagers, c. 1890, oil on paperboard, 32.7 x 55.0 cm. Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, inv. no. 8688. Photo: Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Beach scene, Sandringham, c. 1889, oil on cardboard, 23.2 x 31.4 cm. Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, inv. no. 9666. Photo: Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1892, oil on canvas, 61 x 35.50 cm. Edinburgh, National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, inv. PG 847. Photo: National Galleries Scotland.

First at the rendezvous, 1889, watercolour, 38.8 x 26.2 cm. Auckland, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of an anonymous donor, 1959, inv, 1959/10. Photo: Auckland Art Gallery.

View of Auckland Harbour, circa 1897, oil on cardboard, 21,7 x 34,0 cm. Auckland, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1983,  inv. 1983/62. Photo:  Auckland Art Gallery.

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