Here is a selection of paintings by Giovanni Fattori, featuring Tuscan landscapes and views of Maremma – themes that the Livorno-born exponent of the Macchiaioli movement (1825-1908) often explored throughout his artistic life.
“I am such a scrupulous observer of nature,” he wrote about himself, “that since I was young I always studied, and always carried with me a small pocket sketchpad where I could take notes, walking and noticing everything that struck me.”
Critic Emilio Cecchi recalled this habit of his:
“While he walked to the Academy [Florence’s Fine Arts Academy, editor’s note] or returned to his dark little house on Via de’ Servi, you could meet the old professor with his hesitant gait, constantly stopping to look at something because he always observed and studied, while walking, and every two steps had to write something down in a notebook only slightly larger than the palm of your hand.”
“Passersby encountered his cheerful look, as if he was prepared for judgment and good-natured folk humor, for his perpetual pondering with his pencil…”
Fattori’s style was effectively summed up by Turinese writer Mario Soldati (1906-1999) in a passage of a novel of his, in which one of the characters notices one of the painter’s small works:
“It was a view of the seaside in Maremma, during the fall. A deserted, gray beach; a wide sky full of gray and black clouds; a dark and greenish sea under the south-west wind, with long silvery breakers and, in the foreground, dark green bushes scattered on a small hill, branches bent by the wind…”
“Something makes me very interested in this small board, as indeed in all of Fattori’s works […]. His technique, the way the paints: the effect is realistic, mimetic, but the technique is abstract. There is nothing realistic in the sharpness and black dryness of these outlines: they are almost medieval, Gothic I would say.”
“They are clearly arbitrary signs, insignificant per se, not mimetic at all: and it is in this madness that we find beauty, and art” (translated from M. Soldati, “The Emerald”, Mondadori, Milan 1974).