Andrea Becchi was born in Carpi in 1849. He trained at the local Municipal School of Drawing and then went to the Academy of Fine Arts in Modena in 1867. A pupil of Ferdinando Manzini, he followed him in the field of theatre decoration and set design, initially working with him at the Municipal Theatre of Modena.
After completing his academic studies, he spent two years in Buenos Aires, working on the fresco decoration of the church of San Salvatore. This experience in South America actually prepared him for success in his homeland: after returning to Modena, he established himself as one of the main local decorators and set designers between the 1880s and the first decade of the 20th century.
Decorative success in the Modena area
The winning move was also largely due to his collaboration with the architect Vincenzo Maestri: with a neo-Renaissance and historicist orientation, he called on him to decorate his architectural projects. One of the most satisfying examples of this collaboration is Palazzo Aggazzotti, in which Andrea Becchi’s neo-Renaissance decorations accompany the classical architecture, all of which focus on the pleasant trickery of trompe l’œil. From this point onwards, his style combined with the symbolist and eclectic trends of the fin de siècle, in which one finds a constant citation of the Italian Renaissance past, but also a reinterpretation of antiquity through an incredible ability to use different techniques. From frescoes in Pompeian style, to the use of monochrome, to decorations in wood or faux tapestry, Becchi established himself as the decorator most appreciated by the bourgeoisie and the local aristocracy, also called upon to design and create ephemeral apparatuses and sets for parties and masquerades.
In the meantime, after the death of Maestro Manzini, he became the set designer for the Municipal Theatre of Modena. His incessant activity as a decorator, due to a constant succession of public and private commissions, is expressed through a skilful design, at times even brief and quick, which always takes into account the lesson of the ancient masters.
Between trompe l’œil, still lifes and perspectives
As well as taking part in the annual exhibitions in Modena, in 1880 he was present at the National Exhibition in Turin with Saltimbanchi (perspective of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele in Carpi) and in 1881 he took part in the National Exhibition in Milan with Forgotten fruits, Square in Modena – Prospective, A street in Buenos Aires – Prospective, Breakfast. These works underline how, from the point of view of easel painting, the artist is above all addressed to perspective representation, while in the decorative and theatrical field he shows a greater communicative fluency and the ability to play with light and colours. In private homes, he experimented above all with the use of still life paintings of fruit and vegetables, in a sort of neo-Seventeenth-century style that once again demonstrated his marked eclecticism.
He became professor of ornamentation at the Academy of Modena in 1904, and then held various institutional roles in the cultural and decorative spheres, presiding, for example, over the creation of the new Poletti Gallery. In 1923, a large personal exhibition of his work was organised in Carpi, in the Castello dei Pio. He died in Modena in 1926.