Giovanni Costantini (Rome 1872 – 1947), Roman countryside
Oil on canvas cm 15 x 70 signed (G. Costantini) lower left.
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Self-taught, Giovanni Battista Costantini was trained at the school of the painter decorator G. Pagliai where he had, as a boy, served as an apprentice while he occasionally attended the night school of nude at the French Academy of Villa Medici. The first news of his pictorial activity dates back to 1904, the date on which his work “From the Rest Fields” was purchased for the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome. In 1908, instead, “Folla triste” was purchased (in storage at the same gallery). From 1904 Costantini participated with some continuity in the exhibitions curated by the amateurs and lovers of fine arts Society. Gravitating in that group of artists that was headed by G. A. Sartorio, he was part of the “XXV of the Roman Campaign” with the nickname “grillo”. Teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts, from 1909 he was a member of the Academy of St. Luke. His activity as a painter took place in parallel with that of decorator and restorer.
During the First World War, although he did not take part directly in it, he was very struck by the harshness of the war events and conceived a series of paintings that denounced its horrors. A first group of four symbolic compositions (La guerra, Il bottino, Il dominio militare, La vittoria), made around ’14, were followed, within five years, by numerous other paintings for a total of forty-five works of war subject. The cycle of war painting was exhibited at the I Biennale of art in Rome in 1921, in which Costantini had a personal room. In 1925 he was in Paris, curating the decoration of the entrance hall of the Italian pavilion for the International Exhibition.
The painting of Costantini, based on a thorough technical knowledge, appears more instinctive and less formal in the works of early youth, while, especially in the series of war paintings, it is colored with a certain theatricalism in the contrasts of light and shadow and in the choice itself of the subjects who “often glide towards literature”, as A. Lancellotti pointed out well. His production reveals a profound knowledge of the authenticity of the rural landscape and shows the will to transmit a moral message that springs from his own thoughts and feelings. The compositions, based on the representation of truth, are thus always aimed at making the idea more explicit and credible, as happens in this lyrical foreshortening of the Roman countryside that turns to the afternoon, a painting that stands out for the soft chromatic and chiaroscuro veils that animate the entire composition, the result of a pictorial research conducted in close contact with the Lazio landscape.