Pietro Annigoni has been interested in drawing since he was a child. In 1925 he follows his family to Florence, which becomes his adopted city, where he will be able to pursue his artistic career. He attended the College of the Piarist Fathers and then, given his evident artistic skills, in 1927, the Free School of the Nude.
He follows the lessons of Felice Carena and Giuseppe Graziosi, but right from the start he interprets a very personal painting, dictated above all by the study of techniques and ancient masters, a characteristic feature of his powerful production. He is as skilled in the landscape as he is in the figure, in which he expresses himself freely and clearly with respect to the ancient Tuscan tradition, the one that goes from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century.
Oil, watercolor, charcoal, pastel and sanguine are his means of expression, but he also experiments with frescoes, in the decoration of the convent of San Marco in Florence. He travels a lot and immediately receives considerable appreciation in England, where he will also perform the Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which together with other works of the same caliber, will contribute to the birth of the epithet “painter of queens”.
He became an exceptional portrait painter, called by the most important European courts, but also attracted by the humblest subjects, such as the people he met daily in the Florentine streets. His portraits include those of Alcide De Gasperi, the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Margaret, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Pope John XXIII. Treated with psychological tension and Flemish calligraphy, they made him famous all over the world.
Despite his full success in the international arena, he never ceases to deepen the techniques of Leonardo and Raphael and the pictorial treatises such as that of Cennino Cennini. He experiments his studies in canvases with a strong appeal to contemporary reality, so much so that in 1947 he signed the manifesto of the Modern Painters of Reality together with Gregorio Sciltian and the brothers Xavier and Antonio Bueno.
The real forcefully enters Annigoni’s works, but always accompanied by a sense of mystery, of unexpected and unresolved, of doubt and restlessness. Mannequins lonely and abandoned to themselves populate some paintings of the fifties and sixties, dedicated to the theme of loneliness. These are works such as Mannequins in the attic, The attic of the bullfighter and Mannequin in the studio that represent the great human difficulty in an intense period of change, that of the postwar period.
The careful observation of reality, lenticular, smooth and sincere, therefore appears as much in these mysterious works as in the portraits. The great frescoes of a sacred nature should not be forgotten: it decorates the Abbey of Montecassino with episodes from the Life of St. Benedict. Frescoes the church of San Martino in Castagno d’Andrea, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio in Ponte Buggianese, and the Basilica of Sant’Antonio in Padua. He died in Florence in 1888.