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Pitloo, Gigante and the Posillipo School

Pitloo: the Castel dell'Ovo 

After 1815 and the end of the Napoleonic Wars, there grew up in Naples a school of painting much different from that at the Bourbon court of the late 1700s, art that had been typified, say, by the works of Jakob P. Hackert (1737-1807), the German who became court painter of Ferdinand IV of Naples; much of it—even the landscapes—was formal almost to the point of looking staged, as if the artist had asked the trees to turn their branches a bit to the right and move closer together.

That changed when Anton Sminck Pitloo (1790-1837), a Dutch painter, moved to Naples, became a lecturer at the Art Academy in Naples and opened a studio in the Chiaia section of town. He gathered around him a number of others painters to found what is now called the “Posillipo School”—that is, landscape painting done en plein air (outdoors) in natural lighting, works with a more spontaneous, lively and lighter approach, and one that used light and colors in ways that anticipated Impressionism later in the century.


                            Gigante: Amalfi


T
he name Posillipo stems from the ridge overlooking the western end of the Bay of Naples; it is the perfect place to sit out in the open and look back at the coastline, the city, Vesuvius and the islands in the bay, and to paint what you see.

The foremost of the Posillipo school is conceded to be one of Pitloo’s students, Giacinto Gigante (1806-1876). His early experience was with the Neapolitan Royal Topographic Office, the office that turned out maps. That interest stayed with him throughout his life; he worked on the engravings for the well-known Viaggio pittorico nel regno delle due Sicilie [Paintings of a Trip in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies] published in the early 1830s. He also became somewhat the court painter for members of the Russian aristocracy during their visits to Naples in the 1840s. Gigante did exhibit briefly in Paris but generally did not travel much. Most of his works are of the areas in or near Naples. A substantial amount of Gigante’s work is in the collections of the museums at Capodimonte and San Martino. There are occasional exhibitions on the Posillipo School, the most recent one in 2006 at the Villa Pignatelli.


[Here is another view of this same stretch of coast by Raffaele Carelli, another artist of the Posillipo School.]


other artists/paintings:
  Oswald Achenbach  
   Thomas Jones
   Gasparo Vanvitelli (van Wittel) 
   Renoir, Pierre-Auguste
   Joli, Antonio
   Coleman, Charles Caryl
   Giacinto Gigante


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