Carol Forster column

One of Giuseppe de Nittis's paintings.
One of Giuseppe de Nittis's paintings.

Whilst in Barletta two years ago, James and I were very impressed when introduced to the work of Barlettan painter Giuseppe de Nittis, and I still have a book of his paintings, given by two Barlettan friends.

Born in Barletta, 1846, with a turbulent sequence of events marring his childhood - including the death of his parents - young Giuseppe and his remaining family moved to Naples in 1860 where painting lessons soon showed his budding talent.

His brothers objected to his artistic ambitions but this did not discourage the young artist. By 15 he was enrolled at the ‘Istituto di Belli Arti’, Naples, although later expelled for insubordination.

Aged 17, he set up the ‘Scuola di Portici’ with other young painters, near Naples.

In 1868, aged 21, Giuseppe moved to Paris, falling in love with Leontine Grouvelle and coming under the wing of Art dealer Adolphe Groupil.

Here he exhibited at the Salon.

Following the example of artist Meisonnier, his paintings depict people, nature and and life scenes in all their variety whilst showing a particular talent for colour and emotional expression.

He also gained the interest of the impressionist painters and became friendly with Degas and Manet, although his unconventional detour from the strict perameters of the genre, somewhat alienated him.

Moving to London temporarily, he found a more liberal approach suited him better, and made important artistic connections there.

Increasing success saw five of his paintings included in the ‘First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874’, Paris. De Nittis would spend further time there, as well as Italy, before his death in 1884.

Two years after his death, a large exhibition of his work was shown in the ‘Bernheim Jeune’ gallery, Paris, showing 126 pieces of his work.

He once said that nature had taught him everything and, for him, happiness was painting in his own way, without compromising himself to current trends or fame.

Nowadays, his work can be found in galleries across the globe, including the ‘Museo Civico e Pinacoteca’, Barletta.

Impressive and beautiful, my book of Giuseppe de Nittis paintings is one I’ll always treasure.