Arlecchino Fine Arts - Italian Paintings and Sculptures

Vittorio Manini - Self-Portrait - oil on canvas, 1924

Vittorio Manini (1888-1974) - Lombardy Painter

Vittorio Manini was born in the year 1888 at S. Omobono, a small village located in the Bergamo province, in Northern Italy.
His mother, who was left a widow with many children in 1902, believed in the qualities of his son Vittorio who, since he was a child, had been showing a natural gift for drawing. Although through many sacrifices, she encouraged him to cultivate his passion and entered him for the courses of painting held by the Bergamo Accademia Carrara.
The Accademia’s director was Ponziano Loverini (1845-1929) who succeeded to Cesare Tallone, and held the charge from academic year 1899/1900 to 1925/1926.
Loverini was undoubtedly a teacher of art and life owing to the long series of extremely good students who were devoted and grateful to him. Manini was among those who were most fond of the Professor, who appreciated him for his discipline and his strong will.
During the academic period (1902-1910) he received several awards for merit – at that time they were called "HONOURABLE MENTIONS" – for the course of perspective of 1904, for the course of anatomy and that of plaster.
His passion for landscape themes and portraits had a start in the year 1905. Other honourable mentions were awarded to him in 1906 for the school of statues and the course of nude, in 1907 for the course of colouring, and many bronze medals up to 1910, when the courses ended.
When Vittorio Manini attended the Accademia Carrara courses, he showed himself as a very promising youth to the others.
Tenacious, clever, thoughtful, equipped with a definite pictorial instinct, it seemed as if he should not meet anymore obstacles along the hard course of Art, and that he would become, very shortly, one of our most celebrated painters. However, as soon as he left the school, Manini was seized with a strange perplexity: his works – the much commended samples of the academic times – did not satisfy him any longer; they seemed to him unexpressive, cold and outdated objects. He felt he was irresistibly attracted by the new aesthetic tendencies that were asserting themselves in those very years.
Those were the times of Segantini and Previati: new technical formulae had been worked out, new stars had been born; and it seemed that no wealth could be found outside those formulae. Therefore, the choice was between renewal and death.
Above all, that was a time that forced each painter to work up his own personality. This ugly word was not meant to commonly indicate the style (which a real artist cannot but possess and which he possessed "in a natural way", without searching nor forging it). It was the particular way of painting, the mere technical artifice, or rather, the way to place colours and brush-strokes on the canvas, which allowed one to distinguish, at first sight, one painter from another. The raging of impressionism, with its fluttering colours and brush-strokes at liberty, had caused too much confusion in the anarchic republic of modern painting.
And Manini, in perfect good faith, started searching his own personality. He did not notice that, by looking for his "personality" out of himself he was moving far away from it.

Vittorio Manini with Edmondo Cattaneo, 1910    Class-room at the "Accademia Carrara" school of Fine Arts
Vittorio Manini with the sculptor Edmondo Cattaneo, 1910.
Class-room at the "Accademia Carrara" school of Fine Arts (the second from the left).

In the month of October 1910 he had to leave for his military service and was assigned to a Battaglione del Genio in Rome.
The year 1911 was an extremely important year for Manini who, profiting of his stay in Rome, left the shell of the Bergamo art which, though based on sound academic institutions mainly founded on tradition, had not yet collected the advanced stresses taking place outside.
Impasto painting and genuine naturalism had the absolute triumph in the local painting and the then renowned painters of 19th century origin did not certainly promote the innovation and the artistic searches that were in progress in the near cities of Milan, Venice and Rome.
The healthy Roman evasion made him meet the ancient art, through the several museums of the capital city. Then, the intervening international Exhibition involved and captured him with all the retrospectives, international art exhibitions, parties and various manifestations around the great event.
Though many years had passed, Manini still remembered and commented with enthusiastic admiration that healthy moment for his artistic opening.
In fact, the "Mostra di Belle Arti" - The Fine Art Exhibition - proposed quite a broad vision of both Italian and foreign art.

Vittorio Manini in the war zone with a drawing, 1915.    Post-card with the portrait of Vittorio Manini, 1911.    Performing a portrait in the war zone, 1916.
Vittorio Manini in the war zone with a drawing, 1915.
Post-card with the portrait of Vittorio Manini, 1911.
Making a portrait in the war zone, 1916.

In The Italian side, the best traditional personalities were present, but we also find young names that will make history, such as Balla, Casorati and the divisionists Nomellini, Innocenti, Lionne, Noci and Crema. Among the foreigners, retrospective sections of the Nordic countries may be found, where works by Zorn, Carl Larsson, then by a great number of artists from all countries, from Hodler to Menzel, from Giacometti to Besnard, from Rodin to Mestrovic, from Repine to Khnopff could be admired.
By 1912 his interest for the divisionist techniques increased even if, in Bergamo, symbolism and divisionism had never met great enthousiasm in terms of taste.

After a short stay in Lugano, Switzerland, which allowed him to start exposing his works outside his province, his magical moment arrived, as he also took part in the "Permanent" of Milan in 1914.
In fact, in the year 1914 he received the scholarship "Arciconfraternita dei Bergamaschi in Roma" from the Accademia Carrara, proposed by Prof. Loverini to allow him to attend some courses in that city. Rome had already fascinated him once, and this new experience would be extremely constructive for his painting.

Official guide-book of Rome, 1911.    Catalogue of the war artists art-exhibition held in Monza, 1924.    The family of Vittorio Manini at S.Omobono, 1932
Rome official guide-book, 1911.
Catalogue of the war artists art-exhibition held in Monza, 1924.
The family of Vittorio Manini at S.Omobono, 1932



"For sure I will have to go since the Art to which I am devoting myself advices me to leave and find the most serious and largest way in it"
. This is what Manini wrote to his brothers (Agostino and Giovanni residing in Naples) on November, 18, 1914, and it was not easy for him to insist on his leaving for Rome. His mother’s sickness, then dangerous cracks showing up on the walls of his home, owing to a landslide, had aroused in the young man a serious dilemma that had to have one sole solution: the one he had dreamt for such a long time after tasting the air full of art of the capital city.
His Roman months were just few in number, but they were full of an incredible willingness to learn and understand all that was going on in the world of art. The testimonies of these months are visible in all their naturalness, with all the taste of the calling from Rome as it was in those years just before the Great War: a time of secession. The "Roman secession", on the track of that of Vienna and of the German ones, is a movement or, rather, a tendency that was born from the contrast with the ancient "SocietÓ degli Amatori e Cultori di Belle Arti of Rome", will last from 1913 to 1916.
The war abruptly interrupted this joyful and short Roman period, since he was recalled to arms in May 1915.
Let us now analyse the reasons why Manini’s painting changes, acquires colour, takes on elegance, betrays immediate truth, seizes dramatic moments as well as instants full of elegant worldly life with an equal and quiet objectiveness, enters a world where colour intensity dominates nature and stroke becomes light.
Since his first nude drawings of the Roman school, it is immediately evident that a radical change in shape, in the whole conception of his vision has taken place, as the shape is no longer the assembly of soft lines, but it becomes the cubist-futurist schematisation that is the product of the rhythmical violence that originates from pulses.
The great lesson that was taught by CÚzanne seeps through the magical "Les demoiselles d’Avignon", through which Picasso defines the new attitude of the artist who stands before the world. These are simple nude studies that prove Manini’s immediate integration with the open and free artistic world, a magnet of experiences that do not fall within the national culture, where symbolist attractions, on one hand, and exalting futurist experiences, on the other hand, prevail.
During the months of his stay in Rome, some events may be noticed that he certainly did not miss, such as the series of interventionist demonstrations where Marinetti, Balla, Depero may be found, or the Mostra di Marine, held between the end of that year and the beginning of the following one, at the "Associazione Artistica Internazionale" in which, among many others, also Sartorio, D’Achiardi, A. Besso, L. Bazzani, Noci took part.
After that, March 1915 brings the "Esposizione di quadri passatisti di Giacomo Balla"; still in March is the "LXXXIX Esposizione Internazionale di Belle Arti" at the "SocietÓ degli Amatori e Cultori" and, starting on April, 3, the third exhibition of the Secession. Manini’s interest gravitated round the sympathizers of the Roman Secession, and he became friend to some of them: in a special manner, he became friend to the sculptor Publio Morbiducci. Morbiducci was very important for Manini’s artistic relationships in the Roman "milieu", since personalities such as Cambellotti and, above all, Roberto Melli, fell within this sphere.
The latter, an incredible artist, a very active promoter in the Roman secessions, remarkably influenced part of Manini’s Roman works.
The works of the Roman period are all small works, including a number of views concentrated within a short period of time, and a significant confirmation is found at that very moment and in that Secession environment with Nino Bertoletti and his wife Pasquarosa. Bertoletti had a home studio in the Villa Strohl-Fern, a mythical place of meeting, for many years, of artists among the most committed ones, coming from all over Europe and mostly linked with the Secession events.
At that time he worked at a large number of minor works painted "en plein air", almost sketches, but certainly showing the characteristics of complete works.
The decorative and colouristic richness of the Nabis well suits Manini who, in this direction, developed minor but important works of an incredible artistic culture owing to all that he had learnt in this environment, full of personalities and research.
"Remember that a picture, before being a warhorse, a nude woman or whatever anecdote, is mainly a flat surface covered with colours put together in a certain order", Denis admonished, and Manini performed the nabi principle with the utmost punctuality, thus forgetting the alchemies of divisionism and the fetters of the old Lombard nineteenth century. We do not have detailed testimonies of all that Manini saw and of whom he attended during his roman stay, but his works clearly tell us about the Secession, about the guests of the Villa Strohl-Fern, the joyous vitality of many artists aiming at finding new vigour.
"Red sunshade", "Girl with flowers", "In my room", "Woman in green", "Self-portrait against the sun", the wonderful "Women at the balcony" did not come by chance, whereas they are the situations that were met by his instinct and seized with subtle sharpness, qualities that are not easily found in the genuine simplicity of a provincial painter.
Unfortunately, as already hinted at before, the spell was broken very soon, war broke out, diverting him from his tormented labour and turning him to a beneficial interlude of meditation and reflection.
These war years did not allow him to devote his whole self to painting, but as soon as time allowed him, he drew and noted down visions and moments of army life, sent to friends postcards drawn on the frontispiece, some were even painted with oil.
With the pencil, the pen, the charcoal, whatever matter that could leave a mark on a sheet of paper, a more or less indelible print, in the lazy hours that the companions used to spend taking some rest, getting bored or playing, Manini used to draw, and train himself in portraying his comrades, or the picturesque aspects of landscape that more refreshed his spirit or seduced his imagination.
Then little by little, all those sheets of paper formed a thick and extremely interesting "war diary" where men and objects are happily described in few tracts, with truth and fresh images, as they actually appeared, alive and throbbing, at the painter’s eye. One of these drawings was purchased by the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome.

The Roman secession period     Drawings of War



In 1919 he was finally discharged and went back to his valley, where he resumed his former activity as a painter.
Four years had passed since the enthusiastic Roman months, and the recollection of the new experiences, of the contacts with so great a number of ingenious artists, and at all events tending to an international view, made him understand his need to operate in a more lively and more effective environment, in order to be able to create in syntony with time and make his work more widely known.
He participated uninterruptedly to the exhibitions of the "Permanent" of Milan, we also find him in Brescia in 1923, but it was in Monza, at the "Mostra di Guerra degli Artisti Combattenti", at the Villa Reale, that the Municipality of Milan purchased eight of his drawings, made during the war, for the Galleria d’Arte Moderna. Now they are stored in the Civiche Raccolte d’Arte of the Castello Sforzesco.
In 1927 he finally decided to set up a personal exhibition, or rather, he set up two exhibitions in one year, at the Galleria Permanente of Bergamo, during which he sold several items. Silvio Barbieri dedicated many columns to him on the Rivista di Bergamo.
In 1929 the Bergamo Rotary Club for the work "The painter with his family", exposed at the Carrara Triennal awarded him a prize.
In 1936 his painting "Child in red" (his daughter Pina) was published on the Florence magazine Scena Illustrata. It raised much interest and was followed by several portraits of children that were commissioned to him from all over Italy.
In 1940 he continued his activity as a fresco painter, alternating it with easel painting. He often portrayed intimate family life scenes, as he loved his family very much.
In 1954 he makes the most engaging fresco work in his whole long career. He paints the fresco for the dome of the Parish Church of Trescore Balneario on the theme of Maria’s assumption to heaven. In his large work, something like 138 great figures are used.
In 1955 his work "S. Francesco receives the stigmata" is placed in the Galleria Permanente d’Arte Sacra Contemporanea di Assisi.
In 1958 he paints a "Madonna with child" for Prince Ranieri of Monaco.
His activity continued intensely in the later years with a prolific production of figure studies, portraits, self-portraits, mountain views, snow views, still life works, lyrical family life themes and several religious works.

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Landscapes and winter viewsPortraits and self-portraitsFamily scenesReligious themes, water-colours, drawings





the Roman secession period | drawings of War | landscapes and winter views
portraits and self-portraits | family scenes | religious themes, water-colours, drawings

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