Mario Acerbi was born in Milan in 1887 and was the son of the more famous painter Ezechiele Acerbi. It was from his father that he was introduced to painting. The young man’s predilection for landscape painting, inherited from his father, was immediately apparent. The views of the Lombard countryside and in particular of the Pavia area, where Mario Acerbi grew up, are part of his very first production, based on a fast and very bright naturalism, characterised by a full-bodied and constructive brushstroke, just like his father’s.
From 1900, he attended the Civic School of Painting in Pavia, following the courses of Carlo Sara and Giorgio Kienerk, who had moved to Pavia to become director of the institution. Although the academic years were fundamental to Acerbi’s training, his father’s painting remained in his memory as an ever-active and present substratum, as can be seen in one of his first paintings, Love in Art, from 1908, which won him the Lauzi Prize.
The immediacy of a fast and expressive brushstroke
During the 1910s, the painter’s language did not feel the fascination or influence of the avant-garde, just as he did not feel the return to order in the 1920s. His painting will always be Impressionist, in which colour plays the primary role of scenic construction, through an expressive immediacy based on a skilful and brilliant modulation of light.
A sincere realism pervades Mario Acerbi’s works, whether they are views of Pavia, portraits or the more frequent scenes of daily work. One of his best known works is Surgical Operations, exhibited at the Promotrice in Turin in 1908 and at the Milan Triennale in the same year. The painter’s presence at Italian exhibitions is not particularly conspicuous, but his private commissions are more frequent, and we still have evidence of these in various Italian collections.
Some paintings in particular are worthy of note, such as After the Exams, Interior of the Carthusian Monastery of Pavia, The Siege of Pavia, The Diaz Statement, which appeared at the 1922 Naples Exhibition, and The Old Bridge with Washerwomen, now in the Cariplo Collection, but also some later works. However, they still retain the chromatic preciousness and compositional refinement of his youth, as can be seen in Portrait of Carla Morone Reading of 1961, now in the Musei Civici in Pavia. A few concise and effective brushstrokes surround with red light Mrs Morone, the wife of Giulio, one of Acerbi’s most faithful collectors.