Carlo Chessa was born in Cagliari in 1855. A painter and etcher, he is the father of the artist Gigi Chessa who, at the end of the 1920s, was part of the 20th-century group of the Six of Turin. Carlo, trained in Cagliari under the guidance of a local fresco painter, soon took up lithography.
He moved to Turin in 1879 and began working in the lithographic factory of Salussoglia and at the same time attended the evening courses of the Accademia Albertina, under the guidance of Enrico Gamba, in his last years of teaching.
Between painting and engraving in Turin
Concentrating on painting and engraving in a style halfway between Romanticism and Realism, he made his debut at the 1884 Promotrice in Turin with October. His views of the Piedmontese mountains, sometimes animated by figures intent on their daily tasks, were often translated into engravings, the production for which Carlo Chessa is best known.
In the 1890s, he illustrated Giuseppe Giacosa’s Castles of Valle d’Aosta and Canavese, a work that brought him immediate success and, in the meantime, he worked as an etcher for the magazine “Illustrazione italiana”. In 1888 he exhibited the Clothing of an Angel in Turin and in 1889 the landscape In Valsesia. He was linked to the Turin Promotrice not only as an artist who took part in several editions, but also as the illustrator of the exhibition’s annual Albums, thus famous for his lithographic translations of the works of the artists in the exhibition.
In 1890 he exhibited Fiori d’aprile there, while the following year he was present at the Promotrice in Genoa with Val d’Ala. He continued to exhibit in Turin throughout the nineties: The Daughter of the Margaro, Etcher (also sent to the Permanente in Milan), At 2500 metres, At Stura near Ala and Sad day appeared. In 1896, Carlo Chessa took part in the Florence Art and Flower Show with the etching Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi, with which he had won the Rome Chalcography Competition a few years earlier.
The Paris experience
He exhibited for the last time in Turin in 1897, presenting The Painter’s Studio. After the birth of his son Gigi, he moved to Paris for seven years because he was asked to do some etchings of works by Italian masters kept in the Musée du Luxembourg.
He also continued to work as a draughtsman, working on the illustrations for Madame Bovary, among other novels. He was also greatly appreciated in Paris and took part in the 1901 Salon. He returned to Italy and died in Collegno in 1912, aged just fifty-seven.