“In Italia c’è Ghiglia; c’è Oscar Ghiglia e basta” [A. Modigliani]
(In Italy there is Ghiglia; there is Ghiglia and that is enough.)

Ghiglia came from a very poor family in Tuscany and lived in poverty for most of his life. He was self taught and started painting in his early youth while doing all sorts of other jobs. In those years he lived in Livorno, and was friend with Modigliani, also from Livorno but with a Jewish bourgeois background, and other notable painters like Llewelyn Lloyd. Ghiglia was able to overcome his humble origins and became part of the cultural elite of Tuscany.

It was not until 1901 that he moved to Florence and signed up to receive some formal artistic education at the Scuola del Nudo, led by Giovanni Fattori. Fattori was the star painter of the time; although often referred to as student of Fattori, Ghiglia was not. Fattori respected him as an artist and they paid each other studio visits, but Ghiglia did not belong to his students group.

In Florence he joined a group of intellectuals instead, including Papini and Prezzolini who will eventually form the core of the Futurists.

His artistic breakthrough happened in 1901 when his self portrait was included in the prestigious Esposizione Universale in Venice. He quickly acquired a reputation as a portrait painter although he never turned into a fashionable one.

His portraits are characterized by a solid perspective structure, immediate but in fact very complex. They never indulge in sentimentality nor are they flamboyant. With a classical departure point, they are made modern by the simplification of the drawing; all the emotional content is reduced to a precise construction of the image.

He chose portraiture because of its classicism, deriving from his constant visits to museum and galleries. He refused impressionistic instances coming from France, preferring Nordic influences, such as Hammershøi, that we.... (
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First Collected by

Suzan Hamer


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