Pietro Annigoni [1910-1988]
View beside the waterway, ca.1941
12-1/2 x 21-1/8 inches [unframed]
Signed at lower right : ‘Pietro Annigoni 1941?’.
Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988) was an Italian portrait and fresco painter, who became world famous after painting Queen Elizabeth II in 1956.
Born in Milan in 1910, Annigoni was a painter who was influenced by the Italian Renaissance.
From the end of the 1920s on, he lived mainly in Florence where he studied at the College of the Piarist Fathers.
In 1927, he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts* in Florence, where he attended the courses given by Felice Carena in painting, Giuseppe Graziosi in sculpture, and Celestino Celestini in etching*. Annigoni enrolled in the nude class run by the Florentine Circolo degli Artisti, while attending the open class in the same subject at the Academy.
Annigoni exhibited his work for the first time in Florence in 1930 with a group of painters. He had his first individual exhibition two years later, in 1932 at the Bellini Gallery in the Palazzo Ferroni.
In 1932, journalist Ugo Ojetti featured Annigoni in the Arts section of the Corriere della Sera. Also in 1932, he won the Trentacoste prize.
Annigoni was married to Anna Giuseppa Maggini in 1937 until her death of illness in July 1969. They had two children, Benedetto (1939) and Maria Ricciarda. In 1976 he married Rosella Segreto, also a favorite model of the artist.
In May 1988, Annigoni had emergency surgery due to a perforated ulcer, and he did not recover fully from the ailment. He was rushed to the hospital in Florence on October 27, 1988, and died of kidney failure on October 28, 1988. He is buried in the Porte Sante (Holy Doors) cemetery at the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, overlooking his beloved Florence.
Between 1945 to 1950, Annigoni produced a succession of important and very successful works. In 1947, he signed the manifesto of Modern Realist Painters. In this manifesto the group, which consisted of seven painters, came out in open opposition to abstract art* and the various movements that had sprung up in Italy in these years. It was an insignificant detail in the painter’s life but it would become a key points of reference in literature about him. Among others who signed the petition were Gregory Sciltian, and brothers Antonio and Xavier Bueno.
In March 1949, the Committee of the Royal Academy in England accepted the works Annigoni offered for its annual exhibition. It was the artist’s first experience with England and the beginning of a success which was to acquire worldwide dimensions.
Annigoni started showing his work internationally in the 1950s. In London, England, they were held at Wildenstein’s (1950 and 1954), Agnew’s (1952 and 1956), the Federation of British Artists (1961), the Upper Grosvenor Galleries (1966), and at many Royal Academy of London* exhibitions. A special exhibition in Paris, France at the Galerie Beaux Arts was held in 1953. New York Wildenstein’s showed Annigoni from 1957-58. By 1969, Annigoni’s work was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Numerous Italian cities that showed Annigoni works during his life included Turin, Rome, Florence, Verona, Brescia, Montecatini Terme, Bergamo, Rovereto and Milan.
His work bore the influence of Italian Renaissance portraiture, and was in contrast to the modernist and post-modernist artistic styles that dominated the middle and late twentieth century.
Pietro Annigoni was acclaimed and addressed by those who knew him and by art lovers from the US and Europe as Maestro. He was famed for his romantic portrayal of the young Queen Elizabeth II in 1956. Annigoni is also known for his portraits of Pope John XXIII, US Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, the Shah and Empress of Iran, Princess Margaret and several other members of the British royal family.
Pietro Annigoni was chosen by TIME magazine to paint President of the United States John F. Kennedy for the (January 5) 1962 Person of the Year cover. The result was perhaps his worst portrait as Kennedy would not sit still and Annigoni had no time or inclination to satisfy Time magazine. Other TIME magazine covers that featured portraits by Annigoni were the issues of October 5, 1962 (Pope John XXIII), November 1, 1963 (Ludwig Erhard), and April 12, 1968 (Lyndon B. Johnson).
Other subjects around the world that Annigoni painted include the shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo, Florentine author Luigi Ugolini, ballet legend Dame Margot Fonteyn, American actress and poet Vanna Bonta as a girl, and the Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur.
Although he gained acclaim as a painter of royalty, Annigoni chose his subjects from a cross section of humanity, painting what interested him. He was not impressed by pomp and ceremony, and maintained relationships, never losing the common touch from his early days as a struggling artist.
An outspoken artist who did not refrain from iconoclasm toward his perception of passing or superficial social trends, Annigoni wrote essays challenging modern art that disregarded the basic ability to draw. He alienated critics, who claimed his art was too representational, discounting the unique dramatic signature the artist brought to Renaissance tradition.
Annigoni gave much time in his life to painting church frescoes in and around his Florence. It was at the Monte Cassino monastery south of Rome, that he worked on his largest fresco work of art, the dome of the monastery in 1980 at the age of 70 and took five years to complete it.
On 14 November 1975 Annigoni was conferred the Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (OMRI).
In October 2010, the Italian Post Office issued a stamp commemorating the centennial of Pietro Annigoni’s birth.
Annigoni works are housed in museums worldwide. Museo Annigoni, a museum in Florence, Italy, houses sixty years of the master’s work.
• Museo Annigoni
• Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy
• Benedetta Bianchi Porro Foundation in Dovadola (Forlì), Italy
• Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
• Indianapolis Museum of Art
• Fine Arts Museum of San Francsico
• Minneapolis Institute of Art
• Royal Collection of Windsor Castle
• National Portrait Gallery of London, England
• Vatican Museums in Rome, Italy
Pietro Annigoni quotes
• “Impulse alone does not make a work of art.”
• “The emotional states which a painter or other artist feels irresistibly forced to express are those most intimate states of mind and soul from which may be struck the spark of revelation, kindling a light that shows things in their deepest, most universal, and perhaps even eternal reality; this light we may call the light of poetry.”
• “Life is the greatest teacher.”
• “It is as if an artist had within himself a kind of refinery in which to process the raw material of his life, the personal and public experiences, memories, aspirations, everyday work, dreams, doubts, the disappointments and excitements of his pilgrimage through the chaotic labyrinth of the world, and that in doing so, he aims to find himself, to discover the outlines of his own being, to take that heap of desperate, elusive and often contradictory sensations, and forge them into a transcendent meaning.”
• “I had recourse to a dictionary of synonyms, and there I found “deformed” in the company with such terms as “ugly, foul, loathsome, obscene,” and read moreover that “to deform is to make something ugly in form.”
• “I am convinced that the works of today’s avant-garde are the poisoned fruit of a spiritual decadence, with all the consequences that arise from a tragic loss of love for life.”
Students of Annigoni
1. Annigoni on youtube
2. John Michael Angel interview from movie Annigoni: Portrait of an Artist, interviews former students of Annigoni.
3. Angel, Michael John (b. England 1946 – ) – Artist/Teacher and founder of Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. Studied under Annigoni and considered a major figure in Classical Realism.
4. Pistolesi, Silvestro (b. Florence, Italy 1943 – ) – Painter of landscape and frescos. Studied under Pietro Annigoni.
5. Ciccone, Antonio (b. Puglia, Italy – ) – Paintings, drawings, portraits and frescos from Florence, America and the world. Studied under Pietro Annigoni.
6. Anderson, Douglas (b. Scotland 1934 – ) -Portrait artist who studied under Pietro Annigoni and currently lives in Tuscany.
7. DiPirro, Joni – Painter who studied under Pietro Annigoni. Studied at Academy of Florence, Italy.
8. Falai, Luigi (b. Florence, Italy) – Teacher and painter of fresco. Studied under Pietro Annigoni in the 1970s.
9. Guarnieri, Luciano (b Florence, Italy 1930 – ) – Lithographer and painter who studied under Pietro Annigoni.
10. Long IV, Benjamin F. (b. North Carolina, USA 1945 – ) – Teacher and painter mostly known for his frescos. Studied under Pietro Annigoni.
11. Rosse, Nicholas St.John (b. London, England 1945 – ) – Artist in the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the Royal West of England Academy and the Royal Society of Marine Artists. Studied under Pietro Annigoni for three years.
12. Shanks, Nelson (b Bucks County, PA USA 1937 – ) – The most famous student to be produced by Annigoni. Teacher and portrait painter who studied at the Art’s Student League and with Pietro Annigoni. Started the Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia, PA.
13. Tosoni, Fiorello (b. Italy) – Portrait painter using the oil tempera technique learned from his study with Pietro Annigoni.
14. White, Nelson Holbrook (b. New London, Connecticut 1932 – ) – Painter and long time apprentice of Pietro Annigoni. Both his father and grandfather where also consider famous American artists.
15. Wraith, Robert (b. London, England) – Portrait painter who is part of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in England. Studied under Pietro Annigoni. Known for pencil and charcoal drawings.
16. Sara Leighton (b.1937 London, England) – Portrait painter who studied under Annigoni and who Annigoni labelled ‘the most beautiful woman in the world.’
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx