Telemaco Signorini was one of the premier members of the Macchiaioli, a group of Italian painters working in Tuscany in the latter half of the 19th Century. They were contemporaries of the French painters of the Barbizon School; and like them, were precursors of Impressionism in their devotion to painting outdoors, painting everyday subjects and seeking to capture natural light and color in their work.
Macchaioli comes form “macchie” meaning spots or patches; and, like the term “Impressionist”, Macchiaioli was originally a derogatory term coined by reviewers, referring to the “unfinished” nature of their paintings and the discrete unblended areas of color they employed to achieve their luminous effects.
Along with Giovanni Fattori and Silvestro Lega, Signorini was at the core of the group, having met them at Caffé Michelangelo in Florence, and responding to their like-minded rejection of the restrictions of academic painting.
Though perhaps not as artistically adventurous as his compatriots, Signorini became the one most concerned with the underlying spirit and intention of their work; perhaps in a way comparable with Pissarro’s role among the Impressionists.
Signorini painted interiors as well as landscapes, and after volunteering during the Second Italian War of Independence, painted military themed works. Many of his later works also contain an element of social conscience.
Like his compatriots, Signorini retained much of his academic training and formal draftsmanship, elements that many of the French Impressionists would later eschew, and also utilized a deeper range of value than the Impressionists, even to the point of chiaroscuro.
Many of his most frequently reproduced works are scenes of Florence (Firenze) and the neighboring Tuscan countryside. Signorini was also an accomplished etcher, producing numerous wonderful plates of Florentine scenes.