Giuseppe de Nittis, Self-portrait, 1883-84
44.88" x 34.65"
Giuseppe de Nittis (1846-1884) was a noted Italian painter who had contact with both the Impressionists and the Macchiaioli. The Macchiaioli (whom I have discussed before) were a group of painters often considered the Italian counterpart to Impressionism. De Nittis met them through a friendship with Telmaco Signorini, but his association with them was brief. After exhibiting work in Florence, de Nittis moved to Paris in 1867 where he had some success at the Salon. De Nittis met the Impressionist artists, forming a particular friendship with Degas, of whom he produced a small portrait. Degas invited de Nittis to participate in the first Impressionist exhibition at the Nadar gallery in 1874. He had five paintings in the show, but apparently did not get along with certain members of the group and did not exhibit with them again. Nevertheless, we can clearly see the influence of Impressionism on de Nittis's work, both before and after the show. This self-portrait is a beautiful example of de Nittis's skill. Done in pastels, which the artist began using in 1875, the piece shows a great range of textures and materiality. From the solid wood, to the gauzy curtains, the glass lamp, to the plush velvet couch, each element is rendered quite successfully. The medium of pastels creates an overall softness to the work, especially evident around the painter's face. De Nittis looks ethereal and contemplative, as well as emotional and profound. Unfortunately it appears the work was left unfinished, perhaps due to the artist's sudden death. However the piece remains a striking testament to the skill and expressivity that Giuseppe de Nittis brought to his work.