CreditsDirector: Gaudenz Meili Writer: Guido Magnaguagno
Catalog number # 418
45 minutes Color
Age Range: 14 to Adult
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Life. Autumn 1899, on the Schofberg. Giovanni Segantlni had just completed his painting "Life", the middle section of a triptych portraying Birth, Life and Death. Segantini was 41, already famous and at the height of his creative powers. But it was there, immersed in his work on the Schafoerg, that death came so unexpectedly.
Troubetzki The world of Seqentini's pictures expresses a longing for a paradise on earth. He found it in his Idealized representation of the Alps, the peasant farmers, and their work; in the communion between man and nature; in the eternal cycles of days and seasons; in the shimmering midday light of summer and the semi-darkness of winter evenings.
Today we realize that his art and his uncompromising way of life were not so much an escape towards some kind of idyll, as an invocation of the purifying power of nature.
Arco Giovanni Segantini was born on January 15th 1658 in Arco, Trentino, a part of North Eastern Italy subject to the Austrian Empire. His father Agostino, an impoverished hemp merchant, is forced to abandon his family. His mother is ill and needs to be looked after.
Milan His mother dies in 1865, followed by his father a year later. The seven-year-old orphan is sent to his stepsister in Milan, where then live in misery in the slums. When he is twelve, he is arrested for vagrancy and sent to a reformatory.
Brera in 1875, the 17-year-old Giovanni Segantini enrolls for evening classes at the Brera Academy-
The most important art school in Italy, the academy is attached to the Brera Museum founded by Napoleon.
Segantini's first attempts in the academic style already cause a stir of interest.
But with his painting "The Choir of Sant'Antonlo", he has already broken away from academic standards. It wins first prize at the 1879 Brera National Exhibition. He also finds a buyer for the painting.
Bice In Milan, he meets his future companion. Bice, sister of his friend, the furniture designer Carlo Bugatti.
Grubicy.The critic, pointer one! Art dealer, Vittore Grubicy begins to support him financially and to undertake his training.
Ranzoni etc. Segantini takes an interest in the late Romantic "Scapigiiatura" style, while distancing himself from Milanese colleagues like Daniele Ranzoni and their syrupy views of society life.
Quote: Segantini "I watched the movement without ever getting involved."
Naviglio In contrast to these society painters, Segantini's style is firmly rooted in realism. This is reflected in his subject-matter of scenes from everyday life, in the lives of the common people. His youthful rebellion is fed, not by the elegance of high society, but by his own first-hand experience of misery. Naviglio/canals He is attracted to the "Naviglii" quarter and when he finishes his studies at the Brera, he goes to live there.
He loves the lively atmosphere of the streets bordering the canals, and knows how to make the most of it.
Ponte Torelli/ But it's not difficult for him to leave the empty gaiety and loneliness
Donna of big city life.
Brianza. Giovanni Sagantini could never feel at home in the city. He is drawn back to his roots, to the countryside and country people.
In exchange for his paintings, Grubicy agrees to support his protege, so that Sagantini and Bice are able to move to the Brianza lake district, in the north-east of Milan.
He is now free to paint the things that he really cares about: love, the little things that make up his life, the work and religious devotion of the peasants.
Brianza Paintings.His Brianza paintings radiate the serenity of a happy, meaningful existence.
Still lifes are very much in evidence at the beginning of this period.
A thorough study of "natura morte" results in his own free, airy technique, similar to tachism.
with his flower paintings, he discovers (for the first time!) the unspoilt beauty of nature
Pusiano.His four children, Gottardo, Alberto, Mario and Bianca are all born in the Brianca area. The family first lives in the rural commune of Pusiano. But they later move to more luxurious residences, like this one in Eupillo
Ave Maria ! On lake Pusiano he paints his first version of "Ave Maria" which wins a prize in Amsterdam two years later.
Sheep In Brianza he is obsessed by his theme of symbiosis between man and animals. For Segantini, shepherds and shepherdesses are symbols of caring, of protection.
The peasants and their arduous toil form part of the melancholy countryside.
Benediction On this large canvas, 'The Blessing of the Sheep", painted in 1884, a congregation of believers is replaced by a flock of sheep, as nature gradually replaces religion in Segantini's holy of holies.
A messa prima In "Early Mass", a priest with strange, gnarled hands and misshapen face ascends a majestic flight of steps, what might have been an anticlerical motif is transformed into a pantheistic allegory of quiet contemplation.
Aila stanga. The sum total of his experience during the years in Brianza is concentrated in this monumental work: "At the Pole"
The painting also embodies Segantini's artistic development to date: the alternation of light and shade, the attention to detail within the rigorous spatial structure of composition.
Measuring 4 meters by 2 meters over 13ft by 6ft it is a picture of epic proportions in every way.
Segantini now feels drawn to pastures new. Alpine pastures. The snowcapped mountains that ring the plain of the River Po exerts some magical attraction.
Aerial view The Alps hold a promise of more light more clarity.
In search of vast, untouched landscapes Seogantini moves further and further away from civilization far from the world of art. It is in this alpine world that becomes his mythical universe where his problematic existence finds an inner country and finally transcends a cosmic oneness with nature.
Savognino After a long and tiring trek, the family settles in Savognino, a village at the foot of the Julier pass, 1213m.over 4,000ft. up in the Swiss canton of Grisons.
Church. Segentini works in and around Savognino for many years
House This is where he paints many of his most famous canvases. They have a new chromatic richness a sublime luminosity
They form a cycle of the joys and sorrows of untouched country life in the village and on the mountainside.
Baba etc. A young girl from the village, Baba, comes to work for the family and quickly becomes Segantini's favorite model.
He paints her season after season, at all times of day and night, but with a preference for the heat of midday, and twilight. There is great feeling of harmony in their composition.
Meadow. Segantini never tires of contemplating the wonders of nature.
QUOTE "I am drunk with the love of nature. I bend down and kiss the blades of grass, the flowers, while skylarks are singing on high in the bluest of skies."
Gruobicy. In 1887, Vittore Grubicy comes to visit them from Milan. He stays with the family for almost six months. Segantini is financially dependent on Grubicy. He paints him as a strong personality, someone who radiates power. Under his influence, Segantini turns towards divisionism.
Ave Maria.He tries this new technique of color-
on the ferry separation for the first time on a new version of his already famous Ave Maria.
With long brushstrokes he applies the color, more often than not straight from the tube directly onto the prepared canvas. For the viewer, these juxtaposed brushstrokes fuse together, intensifying the color luminosity.
This search to bring light out of the colors is not limited to the use of the divisionistic technique; in certain interiors, Segantini also uses artificial light sources to create a similar effect. The atmosphere has a strong emotional impact, like the one experienced by "My Two Models".
In a later work, a mother dozes in a byre, her sleeping child in her arms, while a calf is peering out blearily through half-closed eyes. The animal world offers mankind warmth and protection.
Two Mothers His masterpiece of this period, "Two Mothers", is much admired by Gustav Klimt in Vienna.
Segantini produces a whole series of paintings illustrating the rustic life in Savognin.
Man is an integral part of the panoramic landscape, performing his tasks with dignity
Ploughing The field of view opens up tremendously in "Ploughing", a veritable hymn to work.
This world belongs entirely to mankind: he works the land and nature repays him with food and contentment.
1st. Version.He over paints the white horses of an earlier version, transforming them into dark brown bodies which cast hard shadows on the ground. This step-by-step approach is the way that Segantini reworks the tectonics of his paintings.
Plowing. Although his first version of Plowing causes a sensation when exhibited In London and Paris, it is the later, reworked version that seduces the German secessionists, who buy it for the New Pinacotheque in Munich
Return Thaw.For the eight years that he has lived in Savognin, Segantini has felt completely at home. His winter landscape "Returning from the woods" is a symbol of homecoming.
"Thaw" expressed the reawakening of nature. Segantini is already immersed in his cyclic theme of growth and decay.
Bice reading. His wife Bice introduces him to the world of literature, reading from the works of Tolstoy, Zola and D'Annunzio, while he works at his easel.
BICE READING l/ll/III. Self-portrait 82 From early life, Segantini has been a daydreamer and has had visions. He now begins to interpret art as a highly spiritual force, which draws him closer to the contemporary "Symbolism" movement. Symbolism is a turning away from pictorial reality. The content of these paintings reflects the state of the soul, as, for example, here in "The Angel of Life".
Fruit of Love. Segentini opens this new period with a positive view of maternity: "Fruit of Love".
Punishment of Lust Inspired by an Indian poem, Segantini paints fantastic visions of sin and of the punishment inflicted on women who refuse to be good mothers. He punishes "The Libertines" and "The Bad Mothers" in a nirvana of snow and ice.
POEM. Bice. Love at the font After his 'Nirvana" creations ambiguous, of Life ambivalent illustrations of the trauma that has dogged him throughout his life: the loss of his mother and the sense of abandonment that had blighted his childhood and adolescence), Segantini is later able to approach the subject from a more positive, serene standpoint.
In his painting "Love at the Spring of Life", the soring is the recurring symbol of the life force.
Alpine pastures Segantini spends his last summer in Savognin on a nearby alp: Tusagin. Every day, he walks up above the tree line and climbs towards the summit.
His "Alpine Postures" is painted high up in the Tigil' valley, with a view across to the far side of the valley.
This is a foretaste of his huge Engadine panoramas, the high point of his divisionist technique.
The sleepy shepherd and his flock of sheep are at one with the silence and the infinite loneliness of a world that breathes the rhythm of eternity.
Maloja. In 1894, Segantfni and his family move to Maloja in the Engadine. At this crossroads of Romanche and Italian cultures, he finds a house built in authentic Swiss-style, with Bice's help, he makes it comfortable and welcoming.
He has finally found his "paradise on earth": this is where he will spend the last 5 years of his life, absorbed in his painting. Now he's famous, the Segantini's can afford to indulge in an upper middleclass lifestyle. Bice's brother. Carlo Bugatti, creates their new Liberty-style furniture. Now they even eat with solid silver cutlery.
Segantini is world-famous, well respected and comfortably off. He is inundated with diplomas and decorations.
in order to be able to work undisturbed, he has a pavilion built behind the house, where, apart from his comprehensive library, he also keeps his painting materials.
Hay making. He produces very little. The major works from this later period, oil radiant celebrations of nature, are sent directly to international buyers.
Segantini has worked on variations of 'Haymaking' for decades, but it's not until 1898 that he paints his definitive version. The content, the expression is incomparable.
"Spring Pastures" Is one of the artist's favorite paintings.
Handwriting Segantini keeps up an extensive correspondence and now he starts to put his ideas about art down on paper.
Belvedere He decides to buy and renovate Castle Belvedere, on the border between Engadin and Bergell. Sketches show how he intends to transform it into a home that would satisfy his every wish.
Self portrait. But for the moment, this self-assured artist has other irons in the fire
Hotels. Hoteliers and tourist boards have asked Segantini to put the beauty of the Upper Engadine onto the world map. At last the artist achieves recognition outside the art world.
Sketch of pavilion. True to his word, Segantini plans a gigantic pavilion for the Universal Exhibition in Paris at the turn of the century, which is to house a huge panoramic painting of the Engadine. Sketch/triptych But the project fell through for lack of funds and the Engadine panorama became the Alpine Triptych".
Dome This "Triptych of Nature" is the centerpiece of the Segantini Museum in St. Moritz.
Interior. The three-part painting of the cycle of 'Birth-Life-Death', embodies everything that Segantini has so far created.
The countryfolk and the countryside of the Engadine are ideal symbols for his allegorical apotheosis.
"Birth". The family passes the winter months in "Nature?" Sogilo in the Bergell and it is in this sun-drenched terrace that he paints "Birth".
Details. it is a world in a state of grace, of absolute innocence.
The mountain range highlighted by the last rays of sunlight is a natural setting for "The life of everything that has its roots in Mother Earth", as Segantini called it.
The mother who is breastfeeding her newborn child, fuses with the roots of the huge pine: Segantini's tree of Paradise.
Every form of life is fed by the earth.
"Life". The last rays of sunlight also illuminate the central panel "Life", this time forming a crown over the horizon. The painting is all sky, all firmament.
Details. 'Life' doesn't simply mean existence', it also means working, day in, day out; it means going home at night, ready for the following day's toil.
The viewer's eye is taken directly from the foreground to the horizon, which is like a sea of mountain peaks, stretching to infinity.
"Death". The whole of the lower half of "Death" is in shadow: cold, cold shadow.
Some areas of this part of the painting are unfinished.
His divisionistic technique has become definitive of a majestic simplicity.
Details. A sad horse waits tiredly to haul away its sledge loaded with a newly-filled coffin.
Surrounded by mourners, the body is carried out of the cabin. Segantini dreamt of this scene a few nights before his death: the corpse had his face.
Triptych. In each panel of the triptych the sun is setting; the sun, that Segantini loved above everything else.
Does he know that he has very little time left? Are these paintings his farewell to the world?
Schafberg. In September 1899 he goes up to (2,700m) 8.800ft on the Schafberg above Pontresina. He's accompanied by Baba and his son Mario. He wants to finish the central painting of his triptych life.
As usual, he works out in the open.
He catches cold, and develops peritonitis. The doctors and the other members of his family who are quickly at his side can do nothing to save him. Segantini asks to see his beloved mountains for one last time. His last words are:
QUOTE "Voglio vedere ie mie montagne".
Giacometti Looking out at the mountainous panorama of the Engadine, Giovanni Segantini dies at the age of 41. His young friend Giovanni Giacometti comes to his deathbed and sketches and paints the portrait of an artist that he worshipped.
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