Gisberto Ceracchini was born in Foiano della Chiana, a Tuscan town in the province of Arezzo. His parents were farmers living in affluent conditions and Gisberto also initially continued the family business by working in close contact with the land, before devoting himself entirely to painting. In fact, most of Ceracchini’s future works are set in rural settings and these settings come from his close relationship he had with nature from an early age.
His encounter with painting can be traced back to a trip he made to Rome in 1915. Here he visited numerous museums, discovered ancient art and came into contact with painters and literati who met at the Caffè Aragno. He thus decided to settle permanently in Rome and studied as a self-taught artist.
His artistic debut dates back to 1921, when he participated in the 1st Roman Biennale thanks to Armando Spadini’s recommendation, exhibiting La discordia, a work from 1918. The painting immediately highlights the typical characteristics of Ceracchini’s art: square and rather rigid volumes, sharp outlines, and a clear reference to 14th- and 15th-century models.
From that moment on, a very fruitful period began for Gisberto Ceracchini: he moved his studio and residence to Villa Strohl-Fern, a place surrounded by greenery near Villa Borghese, which had become a meeting point for many artists. It was everything he needed: an artistic coterie in contact with nature. Gisbert would stay there for the rest of his life.
Ceracchini’s “return to order” and exhibition success in Italy and abroad
Ceracchini’s artistic research fits perfectly into the context of the ‘return to order’. In fact, the painter set his gaze above all on 14th and 15th century painting, reworking some of its traits and stylistic features: Giotto, Masaccio and Paolo Uccello were his guiding masters, becoming the interpreter of a neo-primitivism.
He then received the appreciation of Margherita Sarfatti who called him to participate in two exhibitions of the Novecento group, in 1926 and 1929. Among the works on show were Country Scene, Moses Saved from the Waters and Return from the Fields.
In 1928 he took part in the 16th Venice Biennale with the work Alla fontana (At the Fountain); and in 1929 he took part in the First Exhibition of the Latium Fascist Artists’ Union with six works: two Self-Portraits, Sleeping Venus, The Trough, The Chaste Susanna and The Pond. In 1930 he took part in both the Second Exhibition of the Latium Syndicate and the 17th Venice Biennale with a total of seven works: at the former he exhibited Lago, Ritratto di Moravia, Paesaggio, Ritratto di mia madre and L’aratore; while at the Biennale Poesia del lavoro and Maternità.
He continued his success and participated in the I Quadriennale in Rome in 1931 with two works, Riposo and Colloqui. At the next edition of the Quadriennale in 1935, he had a solo exhibition and in the room dedicated to him, he exhibited seventeen works, fifteen of which were oils and two sculptures. The oils include Idyll, Spring, Shepherd’s Family, Breakfast, Meeting, Sleeping Shepherd; and the two sculptures that are portraits of his parents: My Mother and My Father.
Gisberto Ceracchini also gained recognition abroad: he participated in the Italian Exhibition in San Francisco; in L’art italien des XIX et XX siècles held at the Jeu de Paume in Paris; in the exhibition on the Novecento Italiano in Buenos Aires; and also in some exhibitions in Stockholm and Helsinki; and in 1926 he participated in the International Exhibition in Budapest.
At the same time, in his primitive research and chromatic experimentation, he found correspondences with the artists of the School of Via Cavour, and invited Scipione, Mario Mafai and Francesco Di Cocco to exhibit in a group show at Palazzo Doria in Rome in 1929.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, he continued to participate in the Venice Biennials, Roman Quadrennials and Fascist Union Exhibitions. At the 1932 Biennale he participated with three works: Guardiani, Meriggio and Famiglia. At the fourth Quadriennale in 1943, he exhibited three works Pastorale, Maternità and Annunciazione.
The Art of the Fresco and his Rural Vision
From 1936 onwards, he began to produce altarpieces and also experimented with the technique of fresco painting, producing one of clear Pierfrancesque influence at the Fascist War Memorial in Arezzo. From 1946, he decorated the Chapel of Wisdom; he frescoed the choir of St Mary Mediatrix on the Gelsomino Hill with The Apotheosis of the Franciscan Order; he painted the frescoes in the Chapel of St Joseph in St Eugene with the Stories of St Joseph; and he decorated the lunette of the Verano portico.
Throughout his activity, Gisberto Ceracchini will never move away from the primitivism that characterises him; his plastic and solid figures will constantly recall the artists of the 14th and 15th century Italy. He will take the discourse undertaken by Carlo Carrà to its extreme consequences.
Ceracchini nurtures a deep passion for archaic and pastoral culture and his subjects call to mind an authentic, simple Italy founded on sound principles of humility and work. There is no contrast or violence between his characters, everything is locked in a suspended, timeless atmosphere. The peasants or shepherds are placed in idyllic rural settings and each one of them with apparent calm and serenity carries out his or her task. This constant reference to rural and archaic culture obviously arouses appreciation in fascist circles. Gisberto Ceracchini died in Petrignano del Lago in 1982.
Emanuela Di Vivona