Fattori’s drawing”, says Argan, “is not an academic, generic and evasive drawing; it is, as it was in the Tuscan figurative culture of the fifteenth century, a drawing that penetrates, defines, engraves.”
Giovanni Fattori (1825–1908) was born in Livorno but then moved to Florence, coming into contact with the group of painters who met at the Michelangelo café, in via Larga (now via Cavour).
He starts off as a romantic but his artistic maturity and his most prolific moment are concentrated after the age of forty when, together with Telemaco Signorini and Silvestro Lega, he becomes one of the main Macchiaioli artists. The phenomenon is a precursor of impressionism and is linked to the ideological framework of the Risorgimento, of which the painter is part as a messenger of the Action Party and of whose siege of Livorno he will keep indelible memory.
According to the Macchiaioli theory, the painter must render the real as his eye perceives it, with colored patches of light and shadow, without cultural prejudices. Fattori, in fact, considers himself an “illiterate man”, capable of grasping the present moment. And, however, the artist’s identification with the subject is never achieved, there is always a testimony, a comment, an ethical evaluation. One of his favorite themes is military life, captured in everyday life, the other great subject is the rural landscape of the Maremma, with cowboys, weeders, dippers, oxen and horses.
In his life, Fattori is often in financial difficulty, he returns to Livorno to assist his sick wife who, later, dies of tuberculosis. The painter then sets out to travel, visiting Europe, the United States and South America. In our area, he also stays in Fauglia and Castiglioncello, a guest of friends.
Towards the end of his artistic career he devoted himself to etching, a technique consisting in the etching of a metal plate using acid.
He died in Florence in 1908.