Raul Viviani was born in Florence in 1883, but when he was only six years old, he moved with his family to Milan where he grew up and received his artistic education. In fact, he studied at the Brera Academy and at the Famiglia Artistica nude school. It was at the exhibition of the Famiglia Artistica that he made his debut, aged only 17, participating with some landscapes.
In 1902, he took part in a later edition, exhibiting very personal and original works, so much so that Centelli, a critic from the Corriere della Sera, called them ‘Viviani’s eccentricities’. However, these works received critical acclaim and above all positive comments from Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, Arturo Toscanini, Leonardo Bistolfi and Clemente Pugliese Levi.
Raul Viviani’s artistic affirmation and departure for Uruguay
In 1906, he exhibited Birth of the Moon, a work that was a great success at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Milan, where he was counted among the most interesting and promising young artists. This poetic nocturnal composition received the appreciation of Ettore Tito and Vittorio Pica.
In 1912, his works were accepted by acclamation and he participated in the Venice Biennale with Parabola del giorno, Sinfonia autunnale and Poesia. On this occasion too, the most esteemed critics lavished praise on him, and Camillo Boito named him an honorary life member of the Brera Academy.
His success continued and he exhibited in various Italian and foreign cities: Rome, Turin, Verona, Florence, Naples, Milan and Brussels. In 1913 he participated in the Munich Quadrennial held at the ‘Crystal Palace’ where he exhibited his work Poetry, which was immediately purchased.
Viviani continued to receive many awards: in 1913 in Rimini he was awarded the medal of the Ministry of Public Education, and in 1914 he was appointed Artistic Commissioner of the City of Milan, a post he held until 1922.
In the same year he exhibited 55 works at the Galleria Pesaro in Milan on the occasion of the individual exhibition dedicated to him together with Bernasconi and Marchini. Amongst these works we can mention Madreperla veneziana, Autunno in Lombardia, L’albero e la vela, Un vecchio ponte, Il pelicano, Tramonto, Il faro di Rimini, Il sobborgo dei pescatori, Marina, Verso sera, Sobborgo veneziano, Presso il mare e La strada di campagna.
In 1926, he also began his career as an art critic, writing for several newspapers, including ‘Roma’ and ‘Mezzogiorno’, before becoming editor of the ‘Giornale dell’arte’ in 1929.
At the same time, he continued to exhibit in various artistic events until 1931, the year in which he accepted the post of director of the Painting Academy in Montevideo, offered to him by the Presidency of the Uruguayan Government.
The Return to Italy
In 1937, after six years spent in Latin America, Raul Viviani returned to Italy for personal reasons and resumed exhibiting in various artistic events, such as at the exhibition organised at the Galleria Pesaro in Milan for “L’esposizione dei XXXV anni” with the painting Dopo la messa or at the Palazzo della Permanente in Milan with the work Il parco Rodi in Montevideo, mindful of Uruguayan influences.
Another important exhibition for him was the one organised in 1952 at the Centro d’Arte San Babila to celebrate his 50 years of artistic activity. Among the works on show were: La salute, Il ponte degli scalzi, Canal Grande, Alle zattere, Motivo lagunare, Vecchie case, Alla Giudecca.
Raul Viviani then decided to move to Liguria for health reasons, but continued to paint until the end, which came in 1965 in Rapallo.
A highly personal chromatism, between Post-Impressionism and Divisionism
Raul Viviani is a painter who is difficult to ascribe to a clearly circumscribed artistic movement. Certainly, his painting is influenced by post-impressionism and divisionism while remaining totally personal and original.
Viviani loved nature immensely and made it the protagonist of most of his paintings, capturing its most evocative effects. Throughout his life, he immortalised the places of his heart in his paintings, from Tuscany to the Milanese countryside, from Liguria to Uruguay and Venice, through his vibrant, moving and dynamic brushstrokes.
Raul Viviani particularly loves water and iridescent surfaces: canals, rivers, lakes, the sea and captures them during the morning hours or twilight. Venice is one of his favourite subjects, which he immortalised in Sobborgo veneziano, La casa dei pescatori, Sera d’agosto that he exhibited at the Third Exhibition of the Federazione Artistica Lombarda in 1919; in the watercolour Armonia lagunare at the Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Associazione degli Acquerellisti Lombardi; or in the work bearing the title of the city exhibited at the Milan solo exhibition in 1922, together with Madreperla veneziana, Laguna, Murano and many others.
Water remained the protagonist even when he moved to Liguria, producing works such as Villa Porticciolo in Rapallo, Portofino or Sulla spiaggia.
Viviani also produced many portraits, especially female ones, in which the stroke becomes more vigorous and full of light, such as Ritratto di gentildonna (Portrait of a Gentlewoman) of 1937 or La dama che sorride (The Lady Smiling).
Raul Viviani’s Divisionist technique envelops places and people in a vaporous atmosphere that softens contours and shapes, transporting us into the dimension of poetry and dreams.
Emanuela Di Vivona