The Giovanni Segantini Biography

Segantini Biography

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Giovanni Segantini (1858 - 1899)

Giovanni Segantini was born in Arco, province of Trento, on 15 January 1858.   He had a very difficult early childhood due to a series of traumatic events and his family's precarious economic situation. In 1865, following his mother's death, his father Agostino took Giovanni to Milan and left him in the care of Irene, his daughter by his first marriage. By day, Giovanni led a solitary life until 1870 when he was sent to the "Marchiondi" reformatory for vagrancy and placed in the institute's shoe-making artisan section. In 1871 he attempted to run away from the reformatory, but was caught and returned. He remained there until 1873. Finally he was placed in the care of his step-brother Napoleone who lived in Borgo Valsugana where he had a photographic laboratory. For several years Giovanni worked as an apprentice photographic assistant. In late 1874 he returned to Milan and enrolled at evening courses at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Brera, which he attended until 1877.

During the day he worked in the atelier of artisan decorator Luigi Tettamanzi and taught drawing at the "Marchiondi" institute. From 1878 to 1879 he attended the daytime courses at the Accademia di Brera, where he followed the lessons of Giuseppe Bertini and became a friend of Emilio Longoni. His first works followed the mould of Lombard verism which at the time dominated the academic milieu.

At the Brera national exhibition in 1879 his talent was recognised by Milan critics. During the exhibition he also met Vittore Grubicy, with whom he established a long-lasting friendship and working relationship. In 1880 he married Bice Bugatti, who was to remain his companion for his whole life, and together they moved to Pusiano in the Brianza area with the financial support of Vittore Grubicy. Two years later he moved to Carella, another town in Brianza. Up until 1884, Emilio Longoni, who was also paid by Grubicy, followed Segantini on his frequent travels. The works from Segantini's Brianza period show him gradually moving away from the academic approach of his training, a process that was to continue over the following years.


In 1883 Segantini signed a contract that bound him permanently to Grubicy's organisation. In 1886 he settled in Savognino and, encouraged by Grubicy, gradually began to adopt the divisionist technique, initially in a number of experimental works and then wholeheartedly. From 1886 to 1888 his fame spread following the promotional activities conducted by the Grubicy brothers, who presented him at the Italian Exhibition in London in 1888. His cultural interests likewise broadened and he began to contribute to art reviews.

In 1889 he painted his first symbolic works, a trend that would later become fully-fledged allegory following the examples of northern Europe. In 1894 he was forced to leave Savognino and moved to Maloja in the Engadine region of Switzerland. Segantini's works from this period were influenced by the isolated area where he was living, the unspoilt landscape intensifying his innate mysticism. From 1896 onwards he began spending the winters at Soglio in the Val Bregaglia and also stayed in Milan for a period. That year he began work on an ambitious project for the pavilion at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900. In the end the initiative was reduced due to lack of funds to the sole representation of the Triptych of Nature.  He died on 28 September 1899 from an attack of peritonitis.

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