Evangelina Emma Alciati was born in Turin in 1883. She was the first woman to be enrolled at the Accademia Albertina. Here she studied under Giacomo Grosso and graduated in 1903, immediately turning to portraiture. After finishing her studies, she spent two years in Paris, where she became friends with Giovanni Boldini. During her French years, however, she also came very close to the vaporous and evanescent, at times dramatic, language of Eugène Carrière.
Back in Italy in 1906, she married the artist Anacleto Boccalatte and began an intense exhibition activity. She made her debut at the Turin Promotrice in 1907 and then took part regularly until 1941. Evangelina Alciati’s thematic orientation is already clear from this first exhibition: she devoted herself above all to portraits, before moving on to landscapes and still lifes at a later date.
The portrait, the painter’s identifying genre
However, success did not come immediately; it was not until the Venice Biennale of 1912 that the artist was recognised by the critics. She presented two variations of a Portrait of a Lady, inaugurating her flourishing exhibition season in Turin, Venice, Rome, Milan and Genoa. While his portraits initially showed too much of the academic pictorial imprint inherited from his master Giacomo Grosso, from the 1910s onwards, his language became more personalised.
Contributing to this development were not only his contacts with Boldini, but also the sentimental and psychological characterisation he arrived at thanks to a trip to Rome, when he came into close contact with the climate of the Secession. During these years he shared his artistic and private experiences with artists such as Felice Carena and Armando Spadini, who were soon to be the protagonists of the return to order.
Synthetic and introspective painting
During these years, his strokes became sincere and sharp, inheriting both Secessionist suggestions and drawing traits of Cezanne or Gauguin. He presented Portrait at the Rome Secession Exhibition in 1915 and, after the First World War, he returned to exhibit Studio Mower’s Study at the Venice Biennale in 1922.
The 1920s were a time of transition, as the artist also turned to landscape and still life, and above all to the medium of pastel, which he used with a marked sense of synthesis and a personal, rapid graphic style. Maria Piera, My Nephew, The Green Dress, Mother with Child, Family Scene and The Sleeping Seamstress appeared in his one-man show at the Galleria Chierichetti in Milan in 1926. The following year, in Genoa, he presented the two still lifes Flowers and fruits.
The whole of the 1930s was characterised by his participation in the exhibitions of the Fascist Fine Arts Union in Turin. In 1935, he exhibited Portrait and Flowers, and then continued with a long series of portraits and still lifes until the 1940s. In the latter period his palette became noticeably darker, a change perhaps attributable to the sudden death of his son in a mountain accident. He died in Turin in 1959.