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Gaetano Previati, Arab caravan

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GAETANO PREVIATI (Ferrara 1852 - Lavagna 1920) ARAB CARAVAN A preparatory study for the painting 'Carovana nel Deserto', c. 1916
Black chalk heightened with white, on light brown paper. Squared. Signed Previati top left; 208 x 157 mm.
PROVENANCE: Galleria d'Arte Moderna di A. Grubicy (old label).
Alberto Grubicy guided since 1889 the Grubicy Art gallery, founded in 1876 with his brother Victor. The years of his administration were those in which the gallery was imposing on the international stage, with increasing success, Giovanni Segantini, who was contracted by the gallery even after the separation of the two brothers. After the death of Segantini (1899), Previati gradually assumed the role of chief interpreter of the line advocated by Grubicy. The commercial relationship between the dealer and Previati was maintained throughout the course of the artist's life. Even the painting with which our drawing is related is a result of the promotion carried out by Grubicy. The painting, titled Carovana nel Deserto, is part of a group of works that Grubicy managed to be commissioned to Previati by the Milanese Chamber of Commerce. The works, five painted panels in celebration of the trade routes, were destined to the decoration of the Reception hall at the Palazzo dei Giureconsulti in Milan. See Fernando Mazzocca, Gaetano Previati 1852-1920, Un protagonista del simbolismo europeo, exhibition catalogue, Milan 1999; nos 62 a-e.

Born into a pious family in Ferrara, Previati was predisposed toward the spiritual in art. He first enrolled in the Ferrarese academy in 1870. In 1876, he was in Florence where he studied with Cassioli, and the following year he was in Milan where he took courses at the Brera from Bertini. At first, Previati painted historical subjects in a romantic but naturalistic style. Later, under the influence of Morelli, Cremona and the 'Scapigliati', he developed a freer, more personal style characterized by a patterned impasto and dramatic light. He also studied the works of Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelites and created overtly spiritual subjects. In the 1880s, Previati designed fourteen illustrations inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, a project that brought him in contact with Symbolism, and he was influenced by Félicien Rops, Gustave Moreau and Redon as well as writers of the movement. Around 1889, Previati met Vittore Grubicy who served as a catalyst in the artist’s adoption of Divisionism. Alberto Grubicy, Vittore’s brother, held a contract to sell Previati’s work as well as that of Segantini. In 1891, Previati exhibited 'Motherhood' at the Brera 'Triennale', now famous as the first Italian Symbolist exhibition and as the exhibition which introduced Divisionism. A year later, in 1892, Previati exhibited in Paris at Durand-Ruel through his association with Joseph Péladan’s 'Rose-Croix'. Previati was an intellectual who believed that the world was entering a new age and that he needed to prepare other artists. To that end he wrote several books on theory and technique of painting.

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