Guido Boggiani, the son of a landowner who was a painter for pleasure and the grandson of a professor of zoology at the University of Turin, grew up between two different stimuli: the artistic and the scientific, which he combined in a very special quest. He acquired his first rudiments of drawing from his father, but in 1878 he moved from Omegna to Milan to attend the Brera Academy.
In reality, his real teacher was Filippo Carcano, a fundamental figure in his artistic career. His beginnings were marked by this master, from whom Boggiani inherited all the naturalistic inclination and realism of the Lombard landscapes, those of Lake Maggiore and the Alps. Impressions from life captured with speed, with a relaxed brushstroke and with attention to atmospheric and luministic variations made their appearance from the 1880s onwards.
He made his debut in 1881 in Florence with three views: Il Ponte antico sulla Strona, Omegna, Bosco di castagni a Stresa and Dintorni di Stresa, followed by Lambro, A Roddo and Bosco di castagne, presented in Milan the same year. A road in Simplon, A street in Carciano (Lake Maggiore), The Toce waterfall, The chestnut harvest and, above all, In the shade of the chestnut trees, which won the Principe Umberto Prize, were exhibited at the 1883 Rome Exhibition. It was thanks to this that Guido Boggiani was able to move to Rome, where he began to frequent the milieu of “Cronaca Bizantina”. There he met Gabriele D’Annunzio, with whom he became friends and thanks to whom he met Francesco Paolo Michetti, with whom he immediately formed a bond.
He often hosted him in his Conventino in Francavilla al Mare throughout the 1980s. The evocative landscapes Roma, Country street (Tivoli), The countryside, In the summer and Spring date from 1885. Guido Biggiani liked the Abruzzo landscape and the tranquillity of the Convent, but at the end of the 1980s he matured the desire to leave for Latin America, to satisfy that need to know the new and the exotic, both from a scientific and an artistic point of view.
A travelling artist: Latin America
His first departure for Argentina was in 1887, the year in which he also took part in the Venice Exhibition with Gli ulivi a Francavilla a Mare and Villaggio sul Lago Maggiore. However, when he arrived in Buenos Aires he then moved on to Paraguay, staying for some time in Asunción.
Here he frequented important cultural and scientific circles, but what he most wanted was to venture into the impervious Chaco forest. He began to penetrate all the secrets of this unexplored place, coming into contact with the Chamacoco natives: he lived with them, studied their customs, portrayed them in meticulous drawings and watercolours, photographs and diaries.
He approached them from an anthropological point of view and then reorganised all the material he had collected in 1893, when he returned to Rome. To crown this first in-depth study, he published The Ciamacocos and An artist’s travels in South America. The Caduvei.
In 1896 he left again for Paraguay with the intention of returning to the forest to further explore the life of the Chamacoco people. This time, his main means of documentation was the camera, with which he took close-up portraits of the Indians, their clothing and amulets. All these documents are kept in the Pigorini ethnographic museum, together with his diary, the last pages of which date from 1901, the date of his final expedition to the Chaco. His body was found a year later, killed by an indigenous tribe.
Throughout the years he spent in Paraguay, Boggiani never stopped capturing impressions from life, in the same way that he was attentive to variations in light and atmosphere inherited from Carcano. The same way of painting, therefore, is also reflected in the South American motifs that appear in the latest exhibitions in which he participates. Examples of this are Banks of the Rio Paraguay, Virgin Forest, Tierra del Fuego, Rio Paz.