Pietro Annigoni was born on the 7th of June 1910 in Milan, where he attended elementary school, high school at the Ginnasio Parini, and then the Calchi-Taeggi College. In Florence he was a student at the College of the Piarist Fathers. From the end of the 1920s onwards he lived mainly in Florence.Annigoni enrolled for the nude class run by the Circolo degli Artisti, while attending the open class in the same subject at the Academy. After finishing senior school he was admitted in 1927 to the Academy of Fine Arts, still in Florence, where he attended the courses given by Felice Carena in painting, Giuseppe Graziosi in sculpture, and Celestino Celestini in etching. These were the years wich formed his personality and which established the most enduring of his friendships.
In 1930 Annigoni exhibited his work for the first time in Florence as one of a group of painters. He had his first individual exhibition two years later at the Bellini Gallery in the Palazzo Ferroni.
In 1932 Ugo Ojetti wrote a memorable piece about him for the arts page of the Corriere della Sera
. Also in 1932 he won the Trentacoste prize. It was in this period that he learned the technique of 'oil tempera' under the Russian painter, Nikolai Lokoff.
Annigoni had a great success with his Milan exhibition in 1936. After that he conceived the desire to travel and visited a number of foreign countries, including Germany, where he discovered his love of German painting.
In 1937 Pietro Annigoni married Anna Giuseppa Maggini. The marriage produced two children - Benedetto, born in 1939, and Maria Ricciarda, in 1948.
The series of gouaches that Annigoni produced on his travels, or simply on his country walks, revealed a rare talent for capturing the intrinsic character of landscape, which he rendered with a sharp and evocative sense of line. Between 1945 to 1950 he produced a succession of important and very successful works.In 1947 along with Gregory Sciltian, the brothers Antonio and Xavier Bueno, and others, he signed the manifesto of the 'Modern Realist Painters'. In this manifesto the group, which consisted of seven painters, came out in open opposition to abstract art and the various movements that had sprung up in Italy in these years. The event constitutes an insignificant detail in Annigoni's life but, curiously, it would become one of the key points of reference in the literature about him.
March 1949 saw Annigoni's first experience of England, when the Committee of the Royal Academy accepted the works he offered for its annual exhibition. This was the beginning of a success which was to acquire worldwide dimensions.
Annigoni had many exhibitions in London - at Wildenstein's in 1950 and 1954, at Agnew's in 1952 and 1956, at the Federation of British Artists in 1961, at the Upper Grosvenor Galleries in 1966, not to mention the inclusion of his work in many of the Royal Academy exhibitions.
In 1953 Annigoni put on a special exhibition in Paris at the Galerie Beaux Arts, while in 1957-58 he was in New York at Wildenstein's. He was back in America again with two exhibitions in1969, one at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the other at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. In the meantime his wife Anna Giuseppa had died after a serious illness in July 1969.
Personal exhibitions of Annigoni's work were held in numerous Italian cities - Turin, Rome, Florence, Verona, Brescia, Montecatini Terme, Bergamo, Rovereto - while the two held in Milan, at the Cortina Gallery in 1968 and at the Levi Gallery in 1971, were outstandingly successful.
Annigoni's portraits are famous the world over. The most eminent people of this century have sat for him, and the list of their names is a long one. Time
magazine has used him on its cover on no less than seven occasions. The portraits of the English Royal Family are among the best known. One of the last portraits he did was of Rossella Segreto, whom he married in 1976. His works have been bought by the most important museums in the world (Uffizi Gallery, Modern Art Gallery Pitti Palace - Florence, Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, Royal Collection of Windsor Castle, National Portrait Gallery - London, Vatican Museums - Rome, etc.) while the great allegorical compositions have generated their full share of bewilderment or enthusiasm.
Annigoni was a painter of genius, born into a century of revolutions and controversies, and blessed with a technical ability unmatched anywhere in the world, which enabled him to produce works on a very large scale, but also medals and the tiniest of etchings.
His frescoes reconstituted the great Renaissance tradition in a modern idiom and they display skills and insights such as only the rarest of men possess. Bernard Berenson wrote of Annigoni that "he will always retain a place in the history of art as the one who challenged a dark age in painting", and his words were prophetic in this respect.
Annigoni died in Florence on the 28th of October 1988.
Art Renewal Center Articles about Pietro Annigoni
The Annigoni Manifesto