Alceste Campriani was born in Terni in 1848, but in 1861 he moved to Naples with his family, as his father was forced to flee the Papal States after taking part in the uprisings of 1860. In Naples, Campriani enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts, where he made friends with Giuseppe De Nittis, Vincenzo Gemito and Antonio Mancini.
He thus came close to the realism of Filippo Palizzi, as shown in his 1865 school essay, Capodimonte. In 1867 he took part in the Neapolitan Promotrice with Delle guerre gli errori meditate, which was still closely linked to Palizzi’s language.
Later, however, Alceste Campriani moved closer to the style of the Resina School and his canvases seem to go beyond Palizzian calligraphy to a more synthetic and less detailed chromatism, in the wake of Marco De Gregorio and Federico Rossano.
The landscapes presented in Naples at the end of the 1960s are already evocative of a new handling of the brushstroke, but also of a sincere and tangible truth. Impressione di una pioggia (Impression of rain) and Effetto di neve (Effect of snow), exhibited at the 1871 Promotrice in Naples, demonstrate these developments, even though Campriani was soon faced with another change.
It was in 1871 that Giuseppe De Nittis, who had initially been active in the Resina School, returned to Naples after his stay in Paris. Paris, however, brought him closer to a more worldly and fashionable style of painting, thanks to his acquaintance with the dealer Adolphe Goupil, whom he decided to introduce to Campriani.
Having signed a contract with Goupil from 1871 to 1884, the artist stayed in London and Paris before returning to Naples with a new language. Not only did he approach fashionable subjects, but his brushstrokes became more graceful and vaporous and his palette more luminous, following the example of Mariano Fortuny’s.
Thus, the straightforward, dark colours of the Resina School changed completely, along with the subjects, just think of those he exhibited in 1880 in Turin: Ritorno da Montevergine, Caccia agli uccellini and Baja di Napoli. He enjoyed considerable success at international level, thanks to his choice of mundane, light-hearted themes, dear to Goupil’s taste, which led him to exhibit in Paris, Vienna, London, Nice and Buenos Aires.
The influence of Fortuny and Michetti could be felt above all in the landscapes of the 1980s, when he became a full interpreter of Neapolitan light painting. We have an example of this in Return to the Pasture of 1884, made with touches of light, but also in Mergellina, Bosco and Acquarium presented in Naples in 1885. At the 1887 Venice National Exhibition he sent Ottobre verso Cava, Solitudine, Tra Vietri e Cava, In agosto and Partita a bocce.
Una via d’Amalfi, Costiera d’Amalfi, In aprile and Autunno a Capri date from 1891. Naturally, the move away from Goupil limited Campriani’s choice of subject matter less, as he produced landscapes radiating with a very clear light. Scirocco sulla costa di Amalfi (Sirocco on the Amalfi coast) appeared at the first Biennial in 1895 and Tramonto (Sunset) at the 1897 Biennial.
In the same year he also made a Landscape for a room in the Caffè Gambrinus in Naples. No fewer than seven works were presented at the 1903 Biennial, which demonstrated, among other things, Campriani’s stay in Tuscany: Last Rays on the Viareggio Canal, Spigolatura, Piazza Napoleone in Lucca.
He continued to paint throughout the 1910s and 1920s, participating in the Venice Biennale until 1926. Many of his paintings were dedicated to the Tuscan countryside and beaches, as he was director of the Academy of Lucca from 1911 to 1921. He died in this city in 1933.