Wednesday, April 16, 2014

40 Days of Paintings - Self Portrait (Pietro Annigoni)

Hands down, the undisputed father of 20th century realism, and I believe the reason that the realist tradition was revived later on and is still strong to this day is Pietro Annigoni.  He was born in Milan in 1910, and by the time he was 17, he was already studying in Florence at the Academy of Fine Arts under a number of masters in painting, sculpture, and etching. 
What I love about Annigoni is that he not only was faithful to the realist tradition, but also to some of the really old traditions of the Renaissance such as fresco painting, and working in egg tempera in most of his works.  In 1947, around the same time as this Self-Portrait, he penned and signed the Manifesto of Modern Realist Painters, also known as the Annigoni Manifesto, which made a blatant criticism of the modern abstract movement of the time, and upheld the timeless principles of realism that were central to art from the Renaissance and on.  The manifesto still resonates for realist artists today.
Annigoni created his own very interesting kind of tempera paint in which he would also add oil to the recipe, allowing him to work the paint a little longer before it would dry, and thus allowing him to create more realistic textures of skin and clothing in his portraits.  Otherwise, it would be nearly impossible to create such a realistic effect with egg tempera, as it would dry within minutes of application.  If you look closely at the egg tempera paintings of the early Renaissance, you will see that in order to create effects of shading or roundness of form, the artists would use a very tedious technique of hatching with a very fine liner brush.
I say that Annigoni is the father of 20th century realism, and the reason for its revival because among his own students was a man named Michael John Angel, who would later on become the founder of Angel Academy of Art in Florence - an academy dedicated to teaching the tradition of realism.  Out of this academy have come a number of amazing artists, one of which will be included in this 40-Days series.  Pietro Annigoni is an example of how it only takes one person to have such a great influence.  From his students came a master and a teacher.  And from this master/teacher came an academy full of students who would then become masters/teachers themselves.  And before we know it, we have a second Renaissance picking up speed and spreading like a fire in the 21st century.

egg tempera on canvas

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