Italian Neoclassical period of the 19th Century Throughout the 19th century, Italy went through many socio-economic changes. Therefore, Italian art, architecture, and literature developed through a series of many changes during this time period. Italian Neoclassicism was the last Italian-born style, after the Renaissance and Baroque, to Spread to all Western art. Neoclassicism developed in opposition to the Baroque style in the mid 18th century and lasted until around 1850, or the mid 19th century. This period began during the rediscovery of Pompeii and spread throughout Europe as a generation of art consisting of Greco-Roman artist’s ideas.
It was originally centered in Rome with active painters such as Canaletto and Pannini, who worked in the Vedute style; a highly detailed, unusually large-scale painting, often of a cityscape. The painters of Vedute were also referred to as Vedutisti. Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, was an Italian painter from Venice. In his printmaking, he used the etching technique. Meanwhile, from 1746-1756, he worked in England where he was highly successful due to King George III’s interest in his works. Canaletto’s early works remain his most coveted and, according to many authorities, his best. One of his early pieces is (insert photo of The Stonemason’s Yard (c. 1725, the National Gallery, London), which shows the working area of a city.
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Later in his life, Canaletto painted scenes of canals of Venice. He dies in April of 1768 at the age of 70, however, because he painted large-scale landscapes, using innovative atmospheric effects and vibrant colors; true to those of the real-life colors of the buildings and scenery in his paintings, this made his works leave a long-lasting legacy and said to have anticipated Impressionism. Another early Vedute painter was Giovanni Paolo Panini, also known as just Pannini. Born in June of 1691, this Italian painter and architect worked in Rome, in which he took a particular interest in the city’s antiques throughout his life. Some of his most famous works were the interior of the Pantheon (insert photo of the interior of the Pantheon, Rome), a portrait of Pope Benedict XIV, and his many paintings of early 18th century Italian architecture.
His artistic style left a legacy, later influencing other future Vedutisti.In addition to art, Classicist literature had a great impact on the Risorgimento movement, also known as Italian unification. The main figures of the period included Vittorio Alfieri, a dramatist, and poet, considered the “founder of Italian tragedy”, Giuseppe Parini, an Enlightenment satirist and poet, and many others who were also influenced by the French Enlightenment and German Romanticism. Just like in other parts of Europe, Italian Neoclassical art was mainly based on the principles of Ancient Roman and Ancient Greek art and architecture, but also by the Italian Renaissance architecture. Classicism and Neoclassicism in Italian art and architecture developed during the Italian Renaissance, with great influence from the writings of Leon Alberti and the Brunelleschi. In Neoclassical art, the emphasis was placed on symmetry, proportion, geometry, and regularity.
Also in architecture, orderly arrangements of columns, hemispherical domes, pilasters, and niches replaced more intricate and complex profiles of medieval buildings. This popular style rapidly spread throughout Italian cities and later to the rest of Europe. Italy also developed other artistic movements during the 19th century, like the Macchiaioli, which led to being influential for French impressionism. Also, during the 19th century, Milan surfaced as a major hub of the 1800’s Romantic art period, with one of the most famous pieces of the period, “The Kiss”, by Francesco Hayez, being held in Milan at the Brera Academy. (insert a photo of The Kiss by Francesco Hayez). The Macchiaioli were a group of Italian painters from the mountainous region of Tuscany, being active during the latter half of the 1800’s. The painters were acclaimed for their idea of painting outdoors, which was unlike what many of the Italian academies of art taught.
The Macchiaioli painted outdoors in order to properly capture nature’s organic depth of light, shades, and colors. They believed that areas of light and shadow, or “macchie” in Italian, were very important factors in their art. Later, the word macchia was commonly used by Italian artists and critics in the 19th century to describe the craftsmanship and overall quality of their artwork and whether or not it seemed to be an unplanned work or a work of art very well executed. The most notable artists of this movement were Silvestro Lega, Telemaco Signorini, and Giovanni Fattori. The movement increased from an original group of artists, many of which who were revolutionaries in the uprisings of 1848, during the Wars of Italian Unification. The artists of the Macchiaioli movement believed they should reinvigorate Italian art by repurposing the distinct structure of art that they had admired in old masters such as Caravaggio and Tintoretto.
The Italian Neoclassical movement was very influential to surrounding continental Europe in their artist’s endeavors. This period led to French Impressionism; art with copious, thin and detailed brush strokes in their composure. Because the Neoclassical movement was the last widespread, Italian originated art style, it surely left a great impact on artist’s styles in Europe well beyond the 1800’s.