The Macchiaioli

Telemaco Signorini, LeithThe Macchiaioli were a group of progressive Italian painters in the second half of the nineteenth century who eschewed what they considered outdated conventions of painting that was then being taught in Italian art academies. The work of the Macchiaioli was initially characterized by landscapes and outdoor scenes that the artists sketched or painted en plein air, using a chiaroscuro effect to give the paintings more tonal qualities. The name Macchiaioli comes from the Italian word “macchia,” which has numerous meanings, including “patch” or “sketch.”

From 1855 to 1866, many of the original artists of the Macchiaioli met frequently at the Caffe Michaelangiolo in Florence to discuss their work. Notable members of the group included Giuseppe Abbati, Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, and Telemaco Signorini, whose paintings can be found in the Gallery of Modern Art at the Pitti Palace in Florence.

Suggested Reading

The Macchiaioli: Effect and Expression in Nineteenth-Century Florentine Painting Norma F. Broude, The Art Bulletin , Vol. 52, No. 1 (Mar., 1970), pp. 11-21

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