FATTORI, Giovanni
(b. 1825, Livorno, d. 1908, Firenze)

The Haystack

after 1872
Oil on panel, 24 x 43 cm
Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori, Leghorn

The mid-nineteenth century in Italy was the period of the Risorgimento, the movement that culminated in Italian unification. That movement provided the political and cultural backdrop for one of the most important and influential groups in Italian art in the second half of the nineteenth century: the Macchiaioli. This group of landscape, portrait and genre painters, flourishing from about 1850 to 1880, was based on Florence. The core of the Macchiaioli consisted of eleven painters born between 1824 and 1838, most important of them among the older painters were Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Serafino de Tivoli, and Vincenzo Cabianca, while Giuseppe Abbati and Telemaco Signorini belonged to the younger. There were some other artists associated with the group to varying extent, such as Guglielmo Ciardi, Giuseppe de Nittis, Federigo Zandomeneghi, and Giovanni Boldini. The last-named three all took their bearings from France, and eventually moved to Paris.

Alongside history paintings, the early period of the Macchiaioli notably included the Castiglioncello School of landscape art, of significance in the 1860s in particular. (The school was named after the Tuscan coastal town where the artists gathered to work.) The painters of this school, among them Giuseppe Abbati, Odoardo Borrani, and Giovanni Fattori, constituted a homogenous subgroup within the Macchiaioli. At first Abbati's art was to the fore, subsequently that of Fattori.

At Castiglioncello, Fattori painted not only a number of highly successful portraits but also enchanting landscape studies such as The Haystack. The simple compositional structure and his characteristically broad brushwork of the early period are particularly engaging in this painting.