Biography

Biography
Giovanni Segantini ca. 1898, Giovanni Segantini, Self-portrait, 1893, Segantini Museum, permanent loan from the Otto Fischbacher Giovanni Segantini Stiftung

GIOVANNI SEGANTINI 1858 - 1899

1858  Giovanni Battista Emanuele Maria Segatini is born on January 15, 1858, at Arco in Trentino, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He is the second child of Agostino Segatini and Margherita de Girardi.

1865 Margherita de Girardi, Giovanni’s mother, dies after a long illness. His father Agostino Segatini gives him into the care of Irene, his daughter from a previous marriage.

1866 Agostino Segatini dies. Irene has Giovanni’s Austrian citizenship annulled but does not apply for Italian citizenship on his behalf. Accounts of her motives differ, but he will remain stateless and will lack identity papers for the rest of his life.

1870 – 1873 Finding hunger, loneliness, and the emotional coldness of his half-sister intolerable, he runs away from home. The police eventually commit him to the Marchiondi reformatory.

1874 – 1878 He returns to Milan to train as an artist. He works for the decorative painter Luigi Tettamanzi and attends evening class until enrolling at the Accademia to study painting.

1879 He decides to add an “n” to his surname and will henceforth be known as Segantini. He makes the acquaintance of critic and dealer Vittore Grubicy de Dragon (1851–1920), who runs a gallery in Milan together with his brother Alberto. Vittorio Grubicy becomes Segantini’s dealer and advisor, and for the rest of the artist’s life will remain his most important promoter and financial supporter.

1879 That same year he makes the acquaintance of Luigia Pierina Bugatti (1862–1938), Carlo Bugatti’s sister. Bice would remain by his side until Giovanni’s death.

1880 He moves with Bice to Pusiano in the Brianza region.

1882 – 1886 Over the coming four years their children Gottardo (1882–1974), Alberto (1883–1904), Mario (1885–1916) and Bianca (1886–1980) are born.

1886 Prompted by financial difficulties and by the beauty of the mountains around Savognin, Segantini and his family move in 1886 to the canton of Grisons in Switzerland. In the tranquillity of Savognin, he works up local motifs into large-format paintings focusing principally on peasant life in the mountains, for example Vacche aggiogate (Cows at the Trough). In Savognin Segantini paints the second version of Ave Maria a trasbordo, in which he uses the Divisionist technique for the first time. Vittore Grubicy had explained Divisionism to him during an extended visit to Savognin.

1889 For his painting Cows at the Trough he is awarded a gold medal at the Paris World Fair. Various further gold medals, prizes and awards would follow in the coming ten years.

1891 Segantinis work is shown in the first self-contained display of Italian Divisionism, at the Prima esposizione triennale di belle arti in Milan.

1894 Segantini is now better known in international art circles. In June 1894 a retrospective exhibition, featuring ninety works, is mounted at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan.

1894 Taxes owing to the canton of Grisons, claims by other debtors, and his stateless status oblige Segantini and his family to move again. On hikes in the Upper Engadine he has admired the village of Maloja and the surrounding mountain landscape. They will form the focal point of his life and work during his final years.

1896 – 1897 Segantini plans a large-scale Engadine panorama for the Paris World Fair, but its execution founders over lack of funding. Instead of this ambitious project, Segantini prepares an Alpine triptychon for the Fair, devoting every minute of his time to its painting. In Paris the Alpine Triptych is shown not at the Swiss but at the Italian pavilion. 

1899 On Semptember 18 Segantini contracts peritonitis as a result of a ruptured appendix suffered on Schafberg mountain. The altitude of the cabin (2731 m above sea level) and weather conditions make a descent to the valley and an operation impossible. Giovanni Segantini dies on September 28, 1899 in the presence of his family and friends.

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