Antonio Achilli was born in Rome in 1903. Versed in drawing from a young age, although not fully supported by his family, he decided to pursue an artistic career, attending the Industrial Art School and then the Academy of Nude.
Known above all for his work as a decorator, he also exhibited at the Sindacato del Lazio exhibitions between 1934 and 1942. The first work he presented was a Still Life, followed by the portrait My Mother exhibited in 1935. From these early works, Antonio Achilli’s painting appears to be well integrated in the climate of a return to order, permeated, however, by an absolutely personal dimension: he seems to propose a mixture of the solid and monumental figures of Sironi’s muralism and, at the same time, the expressionist digressions that were emerging in the Roman School.
As mentioned, he was active above all in the field of wall decoration, and was the protagonist of prestigious public commissions. Starting with the frescoes in the Marconi Room of the National Research Council. Through a solid formalism and a rhythmic narration that brings to mind the great Renaissance frescoes, Antonio Achilli builds statuesque and monumental figures. The men of science who made Italy famous throughout the world, from Archimedes to Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci to Alessandro Volta and Christopher Columbus, appear on the walls of the room, with the choice of a sober and balanced chromatism.
After this decorative cycle he was appointed a member of the Accademia dei Virtuosi del Pantheon, and received a large number of public commissions. At the beginning of the 1940s, he worked on the frescoes for the shrine of the central schools of the Fire Brigade at Capannelle. The dramatic development of the composition makes the figures strongly expressive. The allegorical nature of the fresco focuses on the natural events that have afflicted man since prehistoric times. On the right, a couple fleeing from a cave is reminiscent of Masaccio’s Adam and Eve banished from Paradise, while the rest of the composition emphasises the human strength that manages to resist and tame the destructive force of nature. In the sketch, some details are different from the final execution, but the figures, although rough-hewn, have the same energy and narrative vivacity.
Other cycles by Antonio Achilli include those on sacred themes, including the crypt of Divino Amore and, above all, the mosaics of the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Rotondo, made by the Vatican Mosaic Studio based on the artist’s drawings in the late 1950s.