NITTIS, Giuseppe de
(b. 1846, Barletta, d. 1884, Saint-Germain-en-Laye)

Breakfast in the Garden

c. 1884
Oil on canvas, 81 x 117 cm
Galleria Giuseppe de Nittis, Barletta

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.

To develop his skills, De Nittis went to Paris in 1868, settled there and became established. In 1873, through Degas, he met the Impressionists, and had five pictures in their first group exhibition in 1874. He also had more conventional work in the Salon, but his brushwork, composition and technique were steadily coming into line with French Impressionist practice in paintings such as The Victoria Embankment, London or Breakfast in the Garden.