By Costanza Beltrami

Painter Telemaco Signorini died on 10 February 1901 in Florence. He was the main theoretician of the Macchiaioli group, a movement which flourished in central Italy around the mid nineteenth century.

The Macchiaioli focused on simple scenes of ordinary everyday life. Painting en plein air, they attempted to portray the changing lights of the Italian landscape as faithfully as possible. Stylistically, their work is characterized by macchie, splashes or spots of vivid color.

Nevertheless, the Macchiaioli were also politically progressive and patriotic: for example, Signorini took part in the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859 and later turned his frontline experiences in The Cemetery at Solferino, one of his masterpieces, now in a private collection.

Knowledgeable and well-traveled, Signorini was an habitué of the Parisian artistic circles, where he made friends with Édouard Manet, Émile Zola and Edgar Degas, important influences on the painter’s theory and practice of art. The artist also traveled extensively in Scotland, where his paintings were highly appreciated.

Although interest for the macchia technique faded in the 1870s, Signorini’s production continued with landscapes, etchings and even poems, for example the collection of 101 sonnets Le 99 discussioni artistiche, published in 1877 under the pen-name of Enrico Gasi Molteni. These works ensured Signorini’s recognition, and he was awarded several medals at national and international art exhibitions. He also held important teaching and honorary positions at the Art Academies of Naples, Bologna, Florence and Genoa.

Reference: Nancy Gray Troyer,“Signorini, Telemaco,” Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press.

The seaside at Viareggio, 1860, oil on canvas, 20 x 58 cm. Piacenza: Galleria d’Arte Moderna Ricci Oddi. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The neighborhood of  Porta Adriana in Ravenna, 1875, oil on canvas, 66 cm x 100 cm. Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

French soldiers wounded at Solferino welcome the Tuscan artillery in Montechiaro, 1860, oil on canvas, 60 x 117 cm. Private collection. Source: The Athenaeum.

On the streets of Leith (Scotland), 1881, oil on canvas, 45 x 42 cm. Florence, Galleria d’Arte Moderna. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

On the hills of Settignano, 1885, oil on canvas, 37 x 50 cm. Private Collection. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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