The Macchiaioli was a group of Italian Painters active in Tuscany the second half of the 19thc.

They deviated from the antiquated conventions taught by the Italian art academies and did much of their painting outdoors to capture natural light, shade, and colour. This practice relates the Macchiaioli to the French Impressionists who came to prominence a few years later, although the Macchiaioli pursued somewhat different purposes. 

The movement originated with a small group of artists, many of whom had been revolutionaries in the uprisings of 1848. In the late 1850s, the artists met regularly at the Caffé Michelangelo in Florence to discuss art and politics. e Barbizon School. 

Giuseppe Abbati Jan. 13, 1836 – Feb. 21, 1868 

These idealistic young men, dissatisfied with the painting of the academies, shared a wish to reinvigorate Italian art by emulating the bold tonal structure they admired in such old masters as Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Tintoretto. They also found inspiration in the paintings of their French contemporaries of the Barbizon School. 

Cristiano Banti Jan. 4, 1824 – Dec. 4, 1904

They believed that areas of light and shadow, or “macchia ” (literally patches or spots), were the chief components of a work of art. The word macchia was commonly used by Italian artists and critics in the nineteenth century to describe a harmonious design of it overall light effects. 

Odoardo Borrani 22 Aug. 1833 – 14 Sept. 1905 

Vincenzo Cabianca June 21, 1827 – Mar. 21, 1902

In the journal Gazzetta del Popolo, a hostile review published on November 3, 1862, marks the first appearance in print of the term Macchiaioli. The term carried several connotations: it mockingly implied that the artists’ finished works were no more than sketches. This sense of the name also identified the artists with outlaws. This reflects the traditionalists’ view that the new school of artists was working outside the rules of art, according to the strict laws defining artistic expression at the time.

Adriano Cecioni July 26, 1836 – May 23, 1886 

Vito D’Ancona Aug. 12, 1825 – Jan. 9, 1884 

Serafino De Tivoli Sept. 6, 1825 – Aug. 30, 1908 

Giovanni Fattori Sept. 6, 1825 – Aug. 30, 1908)  

Although the Macchiaioli, compared to the Impressionists, did not go as far as their younger French contemporaries in the pursuit of optical effects. The verdict that the Macchiaioli were “failed impressionists” is countered by an alternative view placing the Macchiaioli in a category of own. The Macchiaioli were early modernists, with their broad theories of painting capturing the essence of subsequent movements that would not see the light of day for decades. 

Raffaello Sernesi Dec. 25, 1838 – Aug. 9, 1866

The Macchiaioli did not follow Monet’s practice of finishing large paintings en Plein air but instead used small sketches painted out-of-doors as the basis for works completed in the studio.

Raffaello Sernesi Dec. 25, 1838 – Aug. 9, 1866

Silvestro Lega Dec. 8, 1826 – Sept. 21, 1895 

Telemaco Signorini Aug. 18, 1835 – Feb. 1, 1901   


Many of the artists of the Macchiaioli died in poverty, only achieving fame towards the end of the 19th century. Today the work of the Macchiaioli is much better known in Italy than elsewhere; much of the work is held, outside the public record, in private collections there.

Other painters, such as Luigi and Flavio Bertelli and Antonino Sartini, were influenced by this movement, without being a full part of it.

Luigi and Flavio Bertelli

Antonino Sartini  1889 – 7 May 1954

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