View of Castiglioncello
On the right side: “G. Abbati”
A long, flat sequence caresses places that are well-known by the artist and have been contemplated at length: the scene is directed by the light, articulating spaces and volumes in a geometric balance with long pauses.
Upon his return from serving as a volunteer in the Third Italian War of Independence, Giuseppe Abbati spent time in Castiglioncello, on the coastof Tuscany, with his Macchiaioli friends, between 1866 and 1867, as the guest of Diego Martelli, group mentor and theorist. The grip of the painting on real life, the study of light in relation to volumes, the presentation of space in perspective and in line with the Tuscan painters of the 14th and 15th centuries, were the cornerstones of the Macchiaioli revolution, aimed at abandoning the conventions taught by the art academies and the subjects not related to everyday life. The observation of nature by studying it directly en plein air, was a practice already used by the artists of the Staggia School from Siena, and the painters of the Barbizon school in France, and it was practised using a blackened mirror that reflected the images, darkening the colours and highlighting the contrasts, so obliging the painter to focus more on the volumes than the details, and on the light, more than the colours, with a bold process of synthesis and abstraction. In Florence this practice became the rule and the manifesto of the painters who would meet at Caffè Michelangelo in the middle of the century. Abbati was one of these. Born in Naples, he had moved first to Venice and then to Florence. A patriot, he had already volunteered in the Expedition of the Thousand, during which he had lost an eye. Before his premature death in 1868 - due to rabies, caught when his dog bit him-, he participated in all the important artistic battles (as well as those related to the Risorgimento) that interested the Macchiaioli group: from the debates at Caffè Michelangelo to the pictorial campaigns on the Tuscan coastline near Castiglioncello, to the silent calmness of middle class life in the Florentine countryside of Piagentina.