Giovanni Battista Tedeschi was born in Mergozzo, Piedmont, in 1883. He soon turned to sculpture and trained in Milan under Eugenio Pellini (1864-1934), from whom he inherited the synthetic and rapid treatment of surfaces, between Impressionist and Scapigliato tastes.
During the early years of the twentieth century, while remaining tied to his native areas, he gravitated towards the Brera Academy, of which he became an honorary member. Initially he worked mainly on public monuments in the Piedmont area, such as the plaque of Umberto I made in Cuneo in 1900, or the funerary monument made in Saluzzo for Monsignor Vicini, but from the 1910s onwards he was present at the major Italian art exhibitions.
Sculpture: from Symbolist decorativism to the steadfastness of a return to order
In 1913, he exhibited his bronze group Dance at the Promotrice in Genoa, in a highly decorative and symbolist style. The same can be said for the works exhibited again in Genoa in 1914: Fall of Icarus, Contrasting Refection, Caresses and Ave Maria, all bronze sculptures distinguished by a rapid and elegant handling of the planes that welcome the light onto the vibrant surfaces.
The lyrical tone of Giovanni Battista Tedeschi’s production was maintained even in the years following the First World War, even if, in the desire to comply with the new canons of the return to order, the masses became firmer and the volumes more defined. At the Florentine Spring Exhibition in 1922 he exhibited Shadows in the Evening, while in 1924 he took part in his first Venetian Biennial with the work The Pardon, in Candoglia marble, which still shows his deep connection with his birthplace, Mergozzo, in the Ossola Valley, where there are many quarries from which this typical marble, which turns from pink to grey, is extracted.
At the 1926 Biennial he exhibited a marble basin entitled The Orphan, at the 1928 Biennial the sculpture Disqualified and finally at the 1930 Biennial he presented Skier in bronze. A work that is both dynamic and solid, it plays on the naturalistic and detailed rendering of the athlete’s body while he is putting on his skis, in a heroic nudity that transports him into a celebratory primitivism and that responds to the canons of athleticism in the years of the regime, as can also be seen in Battaglia del grano exhibited at the 1938 Sindacale in Milan.
Incursions into painting: the snow-covered landscapes of Piedmont
Skier also emphasises Giovanni Battista Tedeschi’s relationship with the Piedmontese mountains. Between the 1930s and 1940s, he made some sporadic forays into painting, devoting himself mainly to intimate family scenes or mountain and snowy landscapes.
This is the case with the oils on plywood Resting on the Snow and Skiers, in which the artist experimented with a personal pointillism made up of small luminous touches of yellow or red that are inserted between the snow-covered landscapes, handled with the cooler tones of white and blue, which restore the silent, intimate and at the same time majestic atmosphere of the mountain and the glacier.