Bartolomeo Ardy was born in Saluzzo, Piedmont, in 1821. After participating in the First War of Independence, specifically in the Vicenza campaign against the Austrians in 1848, he decided to devote himself to painting in the early 1850s.
Training in Geneva: Calame and Fontanesi
He travelled to Switzerland, where he was a pupil of Alexandre Calame, a Romantic painter who had welcomed the great generation of Piedmontese landscape painters of the first half of the 19th century to his studio in Geneva. From Calame, like all the other artists, he learned the descriptive and detailed treatment of the landscape, accompanied by an emotional and sublime vision, clearly Romantic in approach.
In Geneva, Bartolomeo Ardy also got to know Antonio Fontanesi who, very close to the stylistic features of the French naturalism of the Barbizon School, changed the destiny of Piedmontese landscape painting, making it turn from Romanticism to a more distinctly realist style, albeit with lyrical notes and intense effects of light and time.
Landscape: from romanticism to lyrical naturalism
These crucial innovations were immediately intercepted by Ardy, who was a regular exhibitor at the Promotrici in Turin from 1851 to 1880, and became the interpreter of a lyrical landscape with strong chiaroscuro modulations and an intense scenographic effect, certainly inherited from Fontanesi.
The favourite subjects of the painter from Saluzzo were first the views of Switzerland, in particular of Lake Geneva, and then the views of the Aosta Valley and Piedmont. Examples are Ricordo della Valle d’Aosta (Memories of the Aosta Valley) and Il Lago di Ginevra preso dalla Tour Ronde in Savoia (Lake Geneva taken from the Tour Ronde in Savoy), which appeared at his first Promotrice in Turin in 1851, but also Valle d’Aosta (view taken in the area around Chatillon) exhibited the following year.
Towards the mid-1850s the painter spent some time in Rome, as can be seen in the luminous and elegiac landscapes he painted en plein air in the Roman countryside: La messe nella campagna romana (The Harvest in the Roman Countryside) at the 1857 Promotrice in Turin, Le paludi di Ostia (The Marshes of Ostia), Mattino ad Ariccia (Morning in Ariccia), at the 1859 Promotrice.
On his return to Turin, Bartolomeo Ardy, having obtained his surveyor’s diploma, combined his work as a painter with that of a builder, inheriting his father’s business. At the same time he devoted himself to etching, without ever interrupting his exhibition activities in Turin. Among the many works he exhibited in the 1860s and 1870s were Un mattino sul Lago Maggiore (A Morning on Lake Maggiore), La solitudine (Loneliness), La veglia della mietitura (The Wake of the Harvest) and L’inverno in Piemonte (Winter in Piedmont).
After attending Giuseppe Devers’ ceramics course at the Accademia Albertina (where he was bursar), he began to create his landscapes on majolica. One example is the decoration for the dining room on majolica entitled Sotto i castagni (Under the chestnut trees), which appeared at the 1874 Promotrice in Turin. Active until his last years, with a personal exhibition at the National Exhibition in Turin in 1880, he died in 1887 at the age of sixty-six.