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Gaetano Previati, a study for Maternità

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GAETANO PREVIATI (Ferrara 1852 - Lavagna 1920) MATERNITA', A STUDY FOR THE FULL COMPOSITION (1890-91)
Black chalk, signed 'G Previati' at the right bottom corner; 240 x 570 mm.
A preparatory study of the celebrated painting which was exhibited in 1891 at the first Triennale at the Brera, and in 1892 at the Salon de Rose-Croix, in Paris. The painting, now owned by Banca Popolare di Novara, is considered the beginning of the use, by Previati, of the technique of the Italian Divisionism to his symbolist themes.

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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