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The Macchiaioli

The Macchiaioli


The Macchiaioli, one of the most poetic movements of the second half of the nineteenth century, is very similar to the visual experiments of the Impressionist artists and contributed to the widespread influence of painting in that period.


They were a group of Italian painters, mainly from Tuscany but also from other parts of the country from Venice to Naples, who did much of their painting outdoors in order to capture natural light, shade, and colour.


The Macchiaioli believed that areas of light and shadow, or “macchie” (literally patches or spots) were the chief components of a work of art.


The most notable artists of this movement were Giuseppe Abbati, Cristiano Banti, Odoardo Borrani, Vincenzo Cabianca, Adriano Cecioni, Vito D’Ancona, Serafino De Tivoli,Giovanni Fattori, Raffaello Sernesi, Silvestro Lega and Telemaco Signorini.


In its early years the new movement was ridiculed. A hostile review published on November 3, 1862 in the journal Gazzetta del Popolo marks the first appearance in print of the term Macchiaioli. The term carried several connotations: it mockingly implied that the artists’ finished works were no more than sketches, and recalled the phrase “darsi alla macchia”, meaning, idiomatically, to hide in the bushes or scrubland. The artists did, in fact, paint much of their work in these wild areas. This sense of the name also identified the artists with outlaws, reflecting the traditionalists’ view that new school of artists was working outside the rules of art, according to the strict laws defining artistic expression at the time.


The Macchiaioli are regarded as the initiators of modern Italian painting.


From 10 April till 22 July 2013 you can admire the exhibition “The Macchiaioli 1850-1874. Italian Impressionists?” in the Musée de l’Orangerie, in Paris.
The exhibition organized by the Musée d’Orsay will be also shown in Madrid, at the MAPFRE Foundation, from 20 September 2013 to 5 January 2014.


I had the pleasure of voicing part of the Italian audio guide for this interesting event in The Musée de l’Orangerie.


Simonetta Ronconi


Sources: Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie and Wikipedia.


Featured image credits: Niccolò Cannicci – Le gramignaie al fiume

Attribution: By Nicola Quirico [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons