He is the son of the cool Luigi Locatelli, who was the first to initiate him into artistic practice. He then enrolled at the Andrea Fantoni School of Applied Art in Bergamo, to later attend the Carrara Academy. He began his career by collaborating with his father in the creation of frescoes for churches in the Bergamo area, but when Luigi loses his life falling from a scaffold, Romualdo decides to abandon his career as a muralist to devote himself fully to easel painting.
He made his debut in Brera in 1925 with Dolore, a painting strong in its truth that arouses a series of positive impressions in the critics. In fact, he obtained the Principe Umberto Prize which began a series of successive awards and praises. His great passion for travel immediately emerges, leading him first to visit Italy – he goes to Sardinia, Tuscany and Abruzzo – and then abroad. He is passionate about local folklore, popular customs and immortalizes everything in rapid paintings with a synthetic color, which is strongly influenced by Neapolitan realism.
We note the chromatic value of Antonio Mancini, the narrative wisdom, the great ability to capture quick emotional traits in the figures. Before moving to Rome, establishing his studio in via Margutta, he also made a trip to Tunisia in 1927, together with his painter friend Ernesto Quarti Marchiò, who enriched him with further motifs and suggestions and was a prelude to his move to the East.
In Rome he exhibited a lot at the Jandolo Gallery, where he was noticed and appreciated by critics who especially praise his departure from academicism and his vibrant and loose brushstroke, capable of giving life to fresh and sincere scenes. Donkeys, Calf, Girl from Sardinia, Young woman, Sardinian seamstresses, Shepherdess, Child on a donkey, are the works that appear in this phase, together with the impressions collected in Tunisia such as Lo scribe and Arab cobbler, Africa and Vestigia del foro. The commissions follow one another incessantly, but Locatelli decides to leave for the East with his wife: he stops first in Java, then in Bali and finally in Manila, without returning to Italy.
He works for ambassadors and wealthy oriental and European political representatives, making himself appreciated with his painting in warm tones and great fluency in drawing. He becomes a great interpreter of the daily life of the countries in which he lives, describing local customs with freedom and skill.
From Jakarta he moved to the Philippines and also received the favor of the Japanese army which occupied the islands in the 1940s, during the war. He continues to receive numerous commissions and creates paintings such as Plowing in Java, Mother and Daughter, Rice Harvest, Young Balinese, Legong Dancer, Dagger Dance, Portrait of a Balinese Young Girl, Portrait of Fu Ku Ko, Oriental Scene.
When the war situation becomes more pressing, the Japanese army prevents him from continuing to paint. Locatelli therefore spends his time hunting, but during one of these hunts, in 1943, he gets lost without a trace. From this moment there is no news of the artist, who a few years earlier had managed to win the attention of all Filipino, American and Japanese diplomacy.