BOLDINI, Giovanni
(b. 1842, Ferrara, d. 1931, Paris)

Portrait of Mlle Lantelme

Oil on canvas, 227 x 118 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome

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.

Boldini moved to Paris in 1871. He adopted only certain features of French Impressionism, notably the emphasis on plein-air painting. He largely remained a skilful painter of society portraits, something which had been his forte as early as in his Macchiaioli 1860s. In France he relaxed his technique considerably, though to a significant extent he retained the Italian chiaroscuro effects and broad brushwork. Boldini was an acute observer of his fellow beings, and one of his finest works is the virtuoso Portrait of Mlle Lantelme, with its arrestingly bold, unconstrained brush-strokes.

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