Plinio Nomellini was born in Livorno in 1866, a city where he attended the School of Arts and Crafts and at the same time drawing courses taught by Natale Betti. In 1885 he obtained a scholarship and was able to attend the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, where he had Giovanni Fattori as his teacher. Over the next five years he would conclude his education by coming into contact with such personalities as Silvestro Lega, Telemaco Signorini and Diego Martelli.
Between Macchiaioli art and Divisionism
His artistic research is thus strongly linked to Macchiaioli poetics, but very early on he opens his interests to Divisionist language. He began exhibiting at the Florence Promotrice in 1886, participating with two works Ritratto and Uliveto. The following year he is present with Nella maremma pisana, Piano di Tombolo and L’incontro. In 1888 he presented Il fieno or Il fienaiolo, a work with a strong verista implantation, but which goes beyond “spot” painting with a focus on impressionist-style luministic values.
In fact, the painter develops a vibrant, filamentous brushstroke, with tongues of color skillfully juxtaposed to achieve effects of great luminosity. Signorini is happily surprised by this canvas, and thanks to his words of praise, the work is also exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. The painter became one of the most interesting figures in the Italian art milieu, so much so that he was able to convince the artist and friend Pellizza da Volpedo to embrace the Divisionist technique. In 1889 he took part in the Florence Promotrice with six works Al sole, Sciopero, L’estate di S. Martino, Foce del Calambrone, La giornata è finita and Fiore selvaggio.
The Genoese years: the social and symbolist turning point
In 1890 he left Tuscany and moved to Genoa. In the Ligurian city he became close to the anarchist milieu and produced very socially and politically committed works such as Strike of 1889 or Piazza Caricamento of 1891. In 1894 the artist would also be arrested as he was accused of participating in subversive activities of the anarchist fringe, but fortunately he would also be acquitted thanks to the support of Signorini and Martelli.
During his Genoese years, the painter became a cultural reference point in the city, giving rise to the Albaro Group, which met daily in his home. In fact, De Albertis, Angiolo Silvio Novaro, Arbocò and other artists become protagonists of a very stimulating season in early 20th-century Genoa. In the Ligurian capital also takes place the approach to Symbolist themes that will characterize the painter’s future production. He would later dedicate a great many of his works to this land and to moments and sensations experienced during these years.
The success of the 1890s
The painter continued to receive critical and public acclaim and continued to participate in various Promotrici in Florence and Genoa: in 1892 he took part in the Exhibition in the Tuscan capital with Autunno, La Diana del lavoro, Ricordo di Milano and Il naufragio; while in Genoa he exhibited Ricordo di Genova, Acque morte, Finaiulio, Maremma and Di primavera.
In 1895 he is in Florence with Mattino d’aprile in Liguria, Pieno maggio in Liguria, and Sera di marzo in Liguria; and in Genoa he exhibits Riviera di levante, Autunno in Liguria, Un camallo and Sensazione veneziana. In 1898 we find him again at the Genoa Exhibition with Sera di marzo, Primavera in Liguria, San Rossore, Fioritura selvaggia and Il giardino della morte; while in Turin he took part in the Exhibition with seven works L’ora della cena, Di là del mare, Notturno, Primavera antica, Ore quiete, L’annunzio and Estate in Liguria.
From the following year he would also begin his constant participation in the Venice Biennale, and in 1900 we also find the artist at the Munich Secession.
Versilia and stimulating cultural relationships
In 1902 the painter settled in Torre del Lago, a hamlet of Viareggio. Here he met Giacomo Puccini, and together they formed a stimulating artistic coterie. He collaborated with the composer and made some allegorical decorations for the Villa Puccini studio, together with Ferruccio Pagni and Francesco Fanelli: Alba, Meriggio and Tramonto. These Tuscan years confirmed the painter’s Symbolist research, which coexists simultaneously in landscape and figure works. He also worked with some magazines, such as “Riviera Ligure,” executing illustrations and in the same period came into contact with some of the most interesting personalities of the period such as Grazia Deledda, Giovanni Pascoli, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Luigi Pirandello, Luigi Capuana and Giuseppe Ungaretti.
Venice Biennials and international fame
His exhibition success continued: in fact, in 1905 he took part in the Venice Biennale with eight works The Horde, The Furies, Dithyramb, Polyphony, The Red Nymph, Summer Night, The Horsemen and Migrations of Men.
The painter had achieved enormous fame, and in the next edition of the Biennale he set up together with Chini, De Albertis and Previati La sala del sogno, in which Italian and foreign artists such as Guido Marussig, Maurice Denis and Franz von Stuck participated. His six works Anime e fronde, Il palio di Siena, Garibaldi, Gli insorti, Alba di gloria and La nave corsara, some of which underscore his interest in Risorgimento themes in a symbolic key, also appear at the exhibition. In 1909 his move to Viareggio, to his home in Fossa dell’Abbate, took place, and ten years later he returned to Florence. Plinio Nomellini is by now a well-known name throughout Europe and is called upon in various foreign exhibitions: in 1904 he participates in the Saint Louis Exhibition; in 1909 he exhibits at the Salon d’Automne I pirati, Il figlio and Il palio di Siena; and again in the same year we find him at the Munich Exhibition; while in 1910 in Brussels.
In 1920 a solo exhibition of forty-three works was dedicated to him at the Venice Biennale in which we find works encompassing the artist’s various personalities and interests including The Sunday of the Peasants, The Avenue of Oleanders, The Cypresses of Volterra, Rest, The Ships of Ulysses, Garibaldi in Naples in 1860, Return to the Fatherland, Aurora, Between Sun and Moon, Idyll, Spring, The Lilies, News of the War and Imminent Rain.
The last years
His artistic research will also be very interesting in the Secessionist sphere so much so that he participated in the four editions of the Roman Secession: in 1913 he was present with twenty-two works including Nel frutteto, Festa al villaggio, Fiera a Pietrasanta, Bambine sul mare, Grazie Deledda, Domenica, Passeggiata romana, Acque di primavera and Tramonto sul lido toscano; in 1914 he took part with Gioia; at the next edition he exhibited I corsari, L’albero rosso and Estate; and in 1916 he participated with Campagna di Volterra, Un via di Vicenza, Notte d’estate and Vegetazione. He would continue to attend national exhibitions throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
During the Fascist period he devoted himself to works of a decorative nature on commission that did not achieve the success he had hoped for. In fact, the artist remains a stranger to twentieth-century experimentation and thus remains almost isolated in the artistic sphere. He disappears in Florence in 1943.
Emanuela Di Vivona