Famous brush strokes

Providing a comprehensive list of Italian painters is a titanic mission. Trying to provide a general background is a more realistic approach. From Etruscans to Greek, let’s go through the centuries and stop in the XIIIth century, where Giovanni Cimabue stands out; it is the pen-name of Cenni di Pepo (around 1240 - 1302), who contributed to the making of the mosaics of the cathedral of Florence, a painter who impressed in his characters the psychological pathos and the typical agony of the late byzantine style.

Among his works there is the famous “Madonna and child”. Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255 - 1318 or 1319) features a lyrical and melancholic style, his art is smart and elegant with balanced symmetries while Giotto di Bondone (1267 – 1337) breaks with the Byzantine tradition and gains the “relief” and the “psychological expression” featuring a highly realistic plasticity. Giotto can perfectly works on dimensions and among his masterpieces there are the cycle of frescos of the Upper Church of Assisi and the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. In the XVth century art goes back to nature but a precise study of proportions is developed. From this clever style Masaccio (nickname of Tommaso di ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai, 1401-1428) builds his technique, his way of painting is based on the light and shade that comes from the lighting that covers the scene, almost a natural day-light that fills the place where the fresco is located. Among his works there are the famous frescos of the Brancacci Chapel in Florence. Beato Angelico - born Guido di Pietro, 1395-1455), is the highest representative of the mystic idealism and his way of painting, as well as the one by Paolo Uccello reminds the Gothic tradition, although being rooted in the Renaissance. It is worth mentioning Botticelli – born Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, 1445-1510), a complex personality whose art gathers a number of different psychological elements, current customs, the display of allegories, the search for an ideal beauty and also the charm of Lorenzo il Magnifico’s Florence, a learned, civil and generous town. Among his work “Spring”, “Venus and Mars” and “The Birth of Venus” and also 88 pen drawings for the “Divine Comedy” by Dante. On the other hand, the Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) pictures the external and showy aspects of the Florentine society and even his 14 frescos on the Choir’s wall of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.  Perugino (Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci, 1450 – 1523), the master of Raffaello and Pinturicchio (Bernardino di Betto Betti, around 1452 - 1513), one of Perugino’s pupils are wonderful painters too. They painted some frescos of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) besides being an engraver was a very good painter too and worked for the court of Ludovico Gonzaga. Giovanni Bellini, called Giambellino (around 1433 -1516) surpassed his brother Gentile Bellini thanks to his skill in using the colors – they were both Jacopo Bellini’s children –, who is considered one of the best painters of Renaissance and among his masterpieces there is the famous  “Pietà”, kept at the Brera Art Gallery in Milan. Antonello da Messina (Antonio di Giovanni de Antonio, 1429 or 1430 –1479), is the popularizer of oil-painting in Italy and also the artist who added the atmosphere, the light and the attention for details to the Italian rational use of space like the Flemish used to do. The XVIth century features the greatest Italian artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti (Caprese Michelangelo, 1475-1564), who produced a lot of works. Leonardo da Vinci (Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, 1452-1519) introduced the shading technique, light and shade that catch the images in the atmospheric environment by mixing and toning down colors while Michelangelo develops the light and shade according to the relief by taking into account precise lines. Michelangelo studies the tragic aspects of human beings while Leonardo goes deep into the mystery of life. Their works? They are masterpieces. ’“the Adoration of the Magi” (Uffizi, Florence), ’“the Last Supper” (S. Maria delle Grazie, Milan), “St. Jerome” (Vatican Picture Gallery) and Mona Lisa or “Gioconda” (Paris) belong to Leonardo while the Sistine Chapel ceiling (Rome), “the Last Judgement”, “the Conversion of St. Paul” and “the Crucifixion of St.Peter in the Paolina Chapel in the Vatican palace belong to Michelangelo. Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520) produced many works, his serenity could balance the dramatic aspects of Michelangelo and the enigmatic expression of Leonardo while Antonio Allegri, called  Correggio, (1489-1534) catches and works out all Leonardo’s, Michelangelo’s and Raffaello’s main features; every brush stroke by Tiziano (1480/1485-1576) is shape, mass and matter and this artist takes the natural movements and the warmth of realism to many sacred subjects.


Giorgione (1478-1510), who didn’t sign any works and Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto (1519-1594) also belong to the Venetian school. Tintoretto is considered the forerunner of the Baroque thanks to his dramatic use of the light and perspective. Michelangelo Merisi, Caravaggio (1571-1610) is one of the innovators of the Baroque painting, he’s featured by a clear style where light represents the true new element, it makes the volumes and fixes them in a dramatic use of light and shade by disclosing the reality from the shade. His “Supper at Emmaus ( Brera Art Gallery, Milan) and “Portrait of Pope Paul V” (Private Collection of the Prince Borghese in Rome) are amazing. In the XVIIIth century two outstanding names belonging to the Venetian School stand out: Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768) the painter of views, he painted a number of Venetian views where the perspective was perfect: he sometimes used the optical chamber to paint his works. Even the works by Giambattista (or Giovanni Battista or Zuan Batista) Tiepolo (1696-1770) are very interesting, he produced a lot of paintings with colors that weren’t dark and gloomy anymore but they were bright and light in different shades. Even Francesco Lazzaro Guardi (1712-1793) deserves to be mentioned, unlike Canaletto, he offered a subjective and real interpretation of reality. In the XIXth century within the Realism Giovanni Fattori (1825-1908) from Livorno stands out, he often pictures the sea and the nature inhabited by human beings and animals. Even the “Macchiaioli” belong to Realism, this movement was born in Florence between 1850 and 1860.  Serafino De Tivoli, Telemaco Signorini, Raffaello Sernes are among the most famous representatives.  Among the most famous representatives of the Italian Divisionism Giovanni Segantini stands out (1858-1899) while the Futurism is represented by Umberto Boccioni (the theoretician of the movement, 1882-1916), Giacomo Balla (1871-1958), Carlo Carrà (1881-1966), Fortunato Depero (1892-1960). The restlessness of the Italian futurist painters can also be found in the works by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), famous for his female portraits with long necks and stylized faces. Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) is the representative of the metaphysical painting while Renato Guttuso (1911-1987) focused on the refusal of the middle-class culture.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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