‘Impulse alone does not make a work of art.' These are the words of one of Italy's most internationally renowned twentieth-century artists. Despite receiving many accolades from the international art world late in life, during much of his career, the artistic brilliance of Pietro Annigoni remained largely overlooked by his contemporaries.
Increasingly stirred by the innovative experimentation of the emerging Modernist and avant-garde movements, Italian and international art criticism failed to give much importance to Annigoni's unique vision and style. Although no one questioned his exceptional talent in the figurative arts, critics were divided: was his artwork passé or was it still relevant in the face of the dominant Modernist culture and informal arts? Because of the wide divergence of opinions, Annigoni would have to wait until the late twentieth century before receiving the deserved critical acclaim from the public.
Born in Milan on June 7, 1910, Annigoni moved to Florence with his family in 1925, where he attended the Scuole Pie Fiorentine on via Cavour. He displayed considerable talent at a young age, and in 1927, he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. There, he received training from some of the most acclaimed artists of the time, such as painter Felice Carena, sculptor Giuseppe Graziosi, and engraver Celestino Celestini.
In 1930, he participated in his first public exhibit in Florence, as part of a group of other painters, and in 1932 he held his first individual show, at Florence's Palazzo Ferroni. His artworks were very well received and earned him not only the prestigious Trentacoste award, but also the recognition of his contemporaries, like that of fellow painter Giorgio De Chirico, a lifelong admirer of Annigoni's work.
In these years, he traveled extensively throughout Italy and northern Europe. A solitary, alienated figure, Annigoni was very much disengaged from the dominant culture. However, during his travels he discovered he was not alone in rejecting the modernist ideals of the time, and he developed friendships with other artists who, like him, sought to defend the merits and importance of Realism.