Telemaco Signorini, the Macchiaioli painting art and the Riomaggiore skirts.

Around the mid-nineteenth century, Riomaggiore became a refuge and inspiration for one of the founders of the Macchiaioli art school.

Between the Gulf of Poets and Riomaggiore,  there are only 10 minutes away by train, through a tunnel. There is no difference between the two, however, in the ability of the landscape to impress and stimulate the artistic sensibility. If along the coasts of the Gulf many great writers and poets have stayed, the first village of the Cinque Terre is a major center for the world of painting. Riomaggiore , in fact, charmed the Florentine painter Telemaco Signorini , a leading name of the macchiaioli movement (if you want to know more about read here). If you read this story, you’ll discover why Italian art owes a lot to the women of Riomaggiore.

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Telemaco Signorini

Sea and alleyways, lights and shadows: in Riomaggiore, an ideal setting for life painting 

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Telemaco Signorini (here’s a biography) settled in La Spezia to further his studies of painting on the interaction between light and shadow. Together with some colleagues and art movement fellows he believed that on the shores of the Gulf of Poets occur the ideal conditions to perfect the technique of painting that the so-called Macchiaioli were defining: the matching of “spots” of strongly contrasting colors, rejecting the defined and perfect forms of classical painting.

More than a few paintings of Signorini depict the main city, but the best paintings are definitely set in Riomaggiore.

The dark and narrow streets, the sun lashes slipping through the roofs, the melancholy of the stairs, the peace of the small squares, the pastel colors of the houses and the strong nature: these typical elements of the villages of the Cinque Terre are perfect for the painting style by Telemaco Signorini. It was thanks to these features that Riomaggiore ended up playing a critical role not only in the art of the Tuscan painter, but in the definition of the pictorial canon of the macchiaioli school.

Love clicked between the artist and Riomaggiore, so much so that he wrote after one of his first visits to the village of the Cinque Terre: “In the succession of vaults we went down the stairs to the narrow gorge of the marina, and there came the awakening of our senses”.

Not by chance, therefore, Signorini spent some of the most significant periods of his artistic career in the seaside town, but because these landscapes – so suited to his painting – were able to conquer him, to the point that he returned to live there in the last period of life.

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Telemaco Signorini, a painter who followed women…

Every great personality carries around some legends, and so does Telemaco Signorini. In the mid-nineteenth century, the railway did not connect to La Spezia to the Riviera yet and moving from one village to another was not so usual. How then did the painter get to know Riomaggiore at a time when few foreign people knew it?

It is said that one day, as he was wandering the streets of La Spezia, Telemaco Signorini was struck by some women’s garments. When he asked about them, he was told they were women from Riomaggiore with their typical clothes.

According to the legend, therefore, Signorini is pushed to the Cinque Terre intrigued by the clothes of Riomaggiore.

And so it all began.

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