Giovan Battista Crema was born in Ferrara in 1883. He completed his classical studies and soon approached art by attending the studio of the Ferrarese painter Angelo Longanesi. In 1899 he moved to Naples to study at the Academy, where he was a pupil of Domenico Morelli and Michele Cammarano. Two years later he moved from Naples to Bologna to complete his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, where he was a pupil of Domenico Ferri.
He made his debut at the Florence promoter in 1903 with the Portrait of Domenico Tumiati and in the same year he moved to Rome, where he settled permanently. The first years are stylistically linked to realism and social issues that often touch a heartfelt pietism, as happens in the painting The painful history of the blind, presented in Naples in 1904 and then reproposed in Rome the following year.
The realism with pathetic tones and all linked to the Neapolitan school, however, soon turns into a language more updated to the developments of the early twentieth century. He approaches the Divisionism of Previati, but also that of the first Balla. In 1906 at the National Exhibition of Milan for the Simplon Tunnel he presented Work at night at Termini Station and the following year he participated with a large group of works in the exhibition of the Society of Amateurs and Cultors of Fine Arts in Rome, where he had a personal room . These years are also marked by a notable adherence to socialist themes, also participating in the illustration of the “Avanti”.
So work, the human condition, but also a series of nocturnal works very attentive to the study of light appear in the reviews of the 1910s. At the Rimini Exhibition in 1909 he sent Nude, Head of a Woman, Anchor and Silver Reflections. Revelation and La Selva Egeria date back to the National Exhibition in Rome in 1911: they achieved great success, so much so that they were guaranteed to be purchased by the King.
When in 1913 he devoted himself to the illustration of Luigi Callari’s Roman Legends, he became interested in remote and mysterious stories of the Roman Middle Ages, which from this moment on will mark a discreet group of paintings. In 1912 he continued with his production dedicated to nocturnes, exhibiting in Naples Luce di lume, In the countries of eternal silence and Under the moon, while the following year, again in Naples, he sent On the Tifatini mountains and Naked soul.
When the war years came, he enlisted as an infantry captain and left for the front, where he was seriously wounded. This will lead to permanent invalidity and above all to a further thematic and stylistic development, which begins to take on more dramatic tones. Nudes, portraits and landscapes appear at the first Roman Biennale of 1921, that of 1923 and 1925.
A personal exhibition was organized at the Società degli Amatori e Cultori of Rome in 1930, in which fourteen works appear including The Capuchin convent in Albano, Le Marie collect the blood of Jesus, The desert of Lazio, Po valley fog, The legend of Gulf, Middle Ages in Rome. All this production is closely linked to his particular interpretation and rare participation, accompanied by a strong sensitivity towards a studied and felt naturalism.
He continues to exhibit until the 1940s works such as Intimacy, Evening in the mountains, Japanese, Dreams, Old house in Ferrara and Villa Celimontana. He died in Rome in 1964.