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Giuseppe Mentessi ( Ferrara 1857 - Milano 1931 )


Italian painter, engraver and teacher. He was born into a peasant family and lost his father when he was five. His mother managed to send him to drawing classes at the Civico Ateneo in Ferrara, where Gaetano Previati was his classmate, and then to the Accademia di Belle Arti in Parma, where he studied decoration and stage design. Between 1877 and 1881 he attended the Accademia di Brera in Milan and was introduced by Previati into the circle of Gli Scapigliati. His friendships with Emilio Longoni (1859-1932), Cesare Tallone, Leonardo Bistolfi and the socialist lawyer Luigi Majno date from this time. In 1880 Mentessi won a prize at the Scuola di Architettura and became assistant to Luca Beltrami at the Brera, beginning a lifelong career as a teacher of architectural drawing and geometry. In 1887 he was appointed Professor of Landscape Painting at the Brera and in the early years of the 20th century he also gave courses at the Societ? Umanitaria in Milan. Due to his friendship with the Swiss painter Luigi Rossi (1853-1923), he acted as a consultant in the commission for the teaching of drawing in the canton of Ticino. He was also active in organizing exhibitions. In the 1890s Mentessi painted landscapes and pictures dealing with social issues, among them Our Daily Bread (1894; Ferrara, Gal. Civ. A. Mod.), which was shown at the first Venice Biennale in 1895. The theme of the painting is pellagra, a disease caused by malnutrition that was widespread in the Ferrarese countryside. Gradually he developed his own manner of depicting poverty and suffering, central to which is the theme of motherhood, in either a secular or a religious context. Apart from imaginative compositions, he worked on engravings from the beginning of the 20th century. With Sad Vision (1899; Venice, Ca' Pesaro), a large pastel exhibited in Paris in 1900, Mentessi began a series of works on religious subjects in the Symbolist vein. With Gloria (1901; Rome, G.N.A. Mod.), which was much acclaimed when it was exhibited in Venice in 1901, the artist took up the theme of anti-militarism. This he repeated in various minor works during World War I. The triptych Passion Week (1914; Ferrara, Gal. Civ. A. Mod.) has, in the scene of a massacre, intense passages of raw realism.


Works: Paintings