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Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo


Pellizza da Volpedo (1869–1907) was one of the younger generation of Italian artists in the late 19th century who, like their French colleagues, focused particularly on the depiction of light, basing themselves on the new ‘divisionist’ colour theory. In addition to this depiction of light many of Volpedo’s works have a strong humane or social content.

Pellizza was born in Volpedo in the Piedmont region of Italy. He learned the first rudiments of drawing in a technical school in Castelnuovo Scrivia and studied painting at the Brera Academy in Milan. He continued his studies at the Academies of Rome and Florence, visited the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1889. Working initially in the `verist‘ (from Italian verismo>vero = truth) manner of the Macchiaioli group of young Italian artists, he turned to Divisionism and around 1895 began working in a Symbolist style.

Pellizza da Volpedo was also drawn to socialist ideas and in 1901 he finished his large-scale painting The Fourth Estate (Museo del Novecento, Milan) on which he had worked for ten years. Now his most famous work, it has become a symbol for progressive and socialist causes in Italy and throughout Europe. However, it did not earn him the recognition he had hoped for in artistic circles, and, profoundly disillusioned, Pellizza da Volpedo severed his ties with many of the artists and writers he had been corresponding with. In 1906 he received official recognition when the state bought his painting The Sun for the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Rome. However, the sudden death of his wife in 1907 sank him into a deep depression and suicide.