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Amos Nattini

( Genova 1892 - Parma 1985 )


    Amos Nattini

    Amos Nattini was born in Genoa in 1892 and trained in his hometown at the Ligurian Academy of Fine Arts. He attended the Academy for only three months because he was impatient with the rigid academic environment and wanted to develop the Symbolist and Art Nouveau suggestions that were fascinating him. He continued his studies partly self-taught, studying Michelangelo’s figures and then decided to attend the anatomy course at the University of Genoa.

    His first graphic work dates back to 1911 when he illustrated the first tercets of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Canzone del Sacramento, which immediately transported him into the decadentist and symbolist milieu. This work was noticed by the publicist Francesco Zandrino who later commissioned him to illustrate Canzoni d’oltremare, also by the Vate.

    He received the appreciation of D’Annunzio himself who gave him the epithet ‘Painter of the Spirits’ and welcomed him into his circle of intellectuals.

    The graphic enterprise of the Divine Comedy

    In 1921 Amos Nattini was called by Francesco Zandrino to a titanic undertaking: to illustrate the Divine Comedy on the occasion of the six hundredth anniversary of Dante’s death. This work would take him until 1941, the year in which the last volume of the Paradiso went to press. For each canto, Amos Nattini devised visionary scenes with protagonists with muscular and heroic bodies sometimes foreshortened in arduous perspectives, taking inspiration from his beloved Michelangelo, but also from Art Nouveau aesthetics and the studio of Giulio Aristide Sartorio. Amos Nattini succeeded in expressing the suffering of the souls in hell and the serenity of the souls in Paradise with his careful and expressive graphic language in the 100 plates he executed. The first volume of Inferno was published in 1931, Purgatorio in 1936 and the last volume in 1941.

    The illustrations of the Divine Comedy received much praise even from European publishers, and Amos Nattini’s name became known even outside the Italian peninsula.

    A memorable exhibition was held in 1931 at the Musée Jeu de Paume in Paris where many visitors lined up to admire the plates of Inferno; he also received praise from academics and politicians. In 1937 he became a member of the Academy of Parma and an Honorary Academician of the Lingustica in Genoa in 1938.

    Retreat in the former Benedictine hermitage

    Amos Nattini brought his images to life from his studio in Milan, but above all from his personal retreat in the former Benedictine hermitage in Oppiano Gaiano, near Parma, a place where the artist often went when he felt the need for quiet and concentration. He moved to this place definitively at the outbreak of the Second World War, enclosing himself in forced isolation and becoming the ‘master of the Apennines’. During this period, he will recount through his works the rural life, traditions and the gentle and harsh scenery of life in the Apennines of Emilia. During these years of conflict, he decided to offer shelter to Englishmen and partisans during the Resistance. This activity of his was punished by the Germans with arrest, but fortunately he managed to escape at the end of the war.

    The post-war period and commissions for northern entrepreneurs

    In the post-war period, Amos Nattini continued to devote himself to illustrations, but also to the painting of a number of panels stylistically always akin to Art Nouveau styles. He produced nudes, portraits, landscapes, mythological-allegorical scenes, animals and battles. He also received commissions from the wealthy entrepreneurs of the north, works with mythological themes in which work is interpreted in an allegorical key as in the works La bonifica idraulica (The Hydraulic Reclamation) and L’energia idroelettrica (Hydroelectric Energy) created for Officine Riva in Milan; Fabbro parmense (Blacksmith) for Officine Luciani in Parma or Il mito della gomma dalla Hevea Brasiliensis alla produzione (The Myth of Rubber from Hevea Brasiliensis to Production) for the Parmeggiani industry in Udine.

    At the same time, he was also interested in politics, joining the Socialist Party and becoming mayor of Collecchio, a small village near the Hermitage.

    Two important solo exhibitions were dedicated to him, the first at the Camattini Gallery in Parma in 1960, and the second at the Liguria Gallery in Genoa in 1972. Amos Nattini died in Parma in 1985.

    Emanuela Di Vivona


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