Giuseppe de Nittis

At Nitram Charcoal, we always enjoy a closer look at an artist who breaks boundaries, which is why we're taking a closer look at Italian painter Giuseppe de Nittis (1836-1884). Expelled from the Neapolitan Istituto di Belle Arti for his insubordinate innovation, de Nittis enjoyed a career as a revolutionary spirit who blended Academic rigor with Impressionist ingenuity. In addition to being a pivotal member of the Macchiaioli, the Italian response to French Impressionism, de NIttis created his own unique style that, had his life not been cut short in its prime, would have undoubtedly played a pivotal part throughout the course of 20th-century modernism.


Raised in Barletta, de Nittis' early artistic talents resulted in his acceptance at the most prestigious art academy in Naples. His tenure there was short, though, as his unorthodox artistic techniques precipitated his expulsion in 1863. Undeterred, de Nittis embarked on a professional career, which proved so successful that it precipitated his move to Paris in 1868. Soon after arriving, de Nittis befriended members of the elusive Société Anonyme des Peintures et Sculptures, a group later christened as the "Impressionists" following their inaugural exhibition in 1874. De Nittis participated in that groundbreaking 1874 exhibition by displaying four works, and it was that exposure, combined with his promotion by prominent gallery owner Adolphe Goupil, that ushered the young artist into almost immediate artistic acclaim.


As de Nittis' works on paper reveal, de Nittis thrived upon the nuance of nature. Embracing the Macchiaioli penchant for spontaneity of pose and immediacy of atmosphere, de Nittis imbued his scenes with a remarkable feel of freshness. At the same time, though, one sees through these works that the spirit of a draftsman was also alive and well in his works. Carefully planned line underpins many of his charcoal, pen, pastel, and watercolor compositions, all of which relay to the viewer an arguably ideal blend of composition and creativity. An advantage of these media over oils is that of relative spontaneity, which is perhaps why de NIttis developed a preference for the medium of pastel over the course of the 1870s. The deft strokes of color wrought with both speed and deliberateness both furthered de NIttis' celebrity as an artist and brought the spotlight to the medium of pastel.


Unfortunately, though the 1870s witnessed de Nittis' meteoric rise, the subsequent decade brought catastrophe. In 1884, shortly after the completion of his most monumental work, a triptych entitled Races at Aueteil (1881), de Nittis suffered a fatal stroke. Thus, at the young age of 38, the brilliance light of de Nittis' career was dimmed. Fortunately, though, his works continue to be celebrated in museums and exhibitions around the globe, ensuring his legacy in the role of 19th-century painting endures.


Are you a fan of de Nittis' work? Did you catch his last retrospective at Padua's Palazzo Zabarella (2013)? Tell us here! Save Save Save Save

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