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Federico Andreotti, the Fun Painter

The Wedding Dance, ca.1890's

Born March 6, 1847 in Florence, Federico Andreotti was a genre and aristocratic painter. Andreotti's work is characterized by a vivid palette with elegantly dressed Rococo figures, revolving around the themes of flirtation and music. There is a spontaneity and naturalism in his figures that is contagious, even with the incredible detail and well-conceived compositions. Andreotti was astute enough to realize his era had already let go of the noble themes of his predecessors and he gleefully accepted. His style is very reminiscent of Eugene de Blaas, a contemporary from Rome and Vittorio Reggianini from Modena. Up close, however, Andreotti had a fairly loose brush and that sense of fun is evident in his modelling and blending.

In The Wedding Dance above, Andreotti depicts a country wedding in the lush outdoors. Look at the young couple kicking up their heels. Andreotti creates movement and alacrity while taking us back in time. I love how the bride shakes that tambourine above her head, while behind them are three people playing instruments of the to the left is a seated man playing the lute, with chickens and goats wandering amuck. Interesting how the lack of white or black worn by the couple or anyone does not detract from the fun, and indeed some people here are well dressed. Andreotti places all the figures on a horizontal, yet it is the way he arranges them, layered in space, that feels natural, as if we are there with them. Note how the figures just arriving are tightly packed in file off to the edge of the left frame, in warm earth tones. Note the woman standing in line wearing red with the white veil and carrying the basket in her arm beside the goat— a similar red to the bride herself, suggesting this may be the bride's jealous sister. The seated figures in the central table have brighter colours with more contrast. Look at the way Andreotti uses body language to describe the characters: the seated man leaning forward with a green sash and a pipe is definitely entertained, while the other seated man with the pink sash, seems more content and relaxed. The table behind them introduces another layer to the composition, yet neither of these figures seems to be even interested in the dance, except for the seated old man with the hat and white beard. I love how Andreotti indicates the background foliage as very Impressionist...look above and the cirrus clouds are wistful as the couple themselves. The building next to them is a tavern of some sort, painted in very loose, impasto-like strokes, especially above where the sunlight catches the edge of the roof, letting us know this is late afternoon and the party will probably go on well into the night with candles and lanterns.

Federico Andreotti - The Serenade
The Serenade, date unknown

Andreotti creates an amusing narrative that is purely Eugene de Blaas in influence. I love the freshness and naturalism of the body language and expressions here, nothing overly posed or sentimental. Look at the way Andreotti paints the background sky of overcast clouds so bright they seem to barely contain the sun glowing behind them. These two young women are equally barely able to contain their enthusiasm for this smooth operator with the guitar. I love the complementary colours of the two women. Flowers play an interesting motif in this painting also, in the patterns of their dresses and the fallen flowers on the ground that the birds (lovebirds?) are flocking to. I like the way the brunette holds that box of fresh flowers almost provocatively, at her pelvis, pulling on the fabric of her dress...very subtle sexual innuendo here. If you stare at the painting long enough, you can almost smell the air and it feels like you are there, walking past them...romance under the open air. Such a theme today would be much less chaste.

Andreotti, The Violin Teacher
The Violin Teacher, ca. 1890

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing this tiny painting in person on display at an exhibit in the local art gallery a few years back or so. Love the brushwork here. From the texture of his face and wisps of grey hair, to the cherry wood of his violin, and the scumbled greys of his jacket...such a fun portrait. You can feel the energy in his body language as if he is raring to play that violin, lips parted to reveal not much teeth left...yet the character and depth in the way Andreotti paints those blue eyes reveals an old man with a gentle heart...and an artist with razor-sharp observation skills. Look on the sheets of music behind him and you can make out the word lezione, Italian for lesson.

Federico Andreotti Ein verliebtes Gespräch im Park
A Tender Moment in the Garden, ca. late 1800s

Beautiful painting. Here Andreotti uses that soft, glowing overcast light once again, and the way that background sky melts into the horizon with those tall trees...while the foreground trees glow with warm light. Andreotti's brushwork in the background is very Impressionist, even the foreground grasses and flowers are loose and fun. Note how under the stone bench she is seated on, Andreotti extends the green tones of the grass upwards as a green-grey, glazed middle-tone underneath the shadow to bring down the warmth of the wall behind her. The upper ledge of the wall is also scumbled with green-gray over the warm tones, so our eyes lead directly to the couple and not the wall itself. The parasol she holds adds a brilliant dynamic to the composition that breaks up the strong horizontals and verticals of the walls and trees, while the inner lines of the parasol lead our eye in all directions around the composition, something that James Gurney calls spokewheeling*. Look closely at the way Andreotti paints the drapery of her dress with loose, musical brushstrokes. Yet the skin tones here are highly accurate, and the way he paints their hands gently clasping proves that narrative can have the simplest idea to convey tenderness:

Here are a couple of close-ups of her dress:

The Serenade by Federico Andreotti
The Serenade, date unknown

Andreotti takes a much different approach here, using texture and strong earth colors to convey the lusty mood of this "basement" serenade. Love the pose of the man playing guitar, really hamming it up for the pretty lady...his red pants leave no doubts as to the state of his mind at this particular moment. The stark black emptiness of the background contrasts sharply with the feminine foliage of the previous works we saw here. The flutist behind her seems to play so loudly she covers her ear but the smile on her face indicates she doesn't mind being serenaded at all. Andreotti immerses us into his scenes as if we are there with them, and it works brilliantly every time.

Federico Andreotti - The Love Letter
The Love Letter, ca. 1800's

Despite the low-res image, this is a stunning arrangement of colour harmony and body language. That blue is hypnotic, reminiscent of Ingres' Princess Albert de Broglie, yet her expression is much more lively and fun. Her skin glows and she seems to be blushing from the letter in her hand, thinking about it. I love the yellow hat with a large feather, which balances the blue dress perfectly, while the pink roses in her hair accentuate the blushing of her cheeks. The innocence and chasteness of this painting is sweet yet at the same time makes us wonder what she might be thinking about. Very clever.

Federico Andreotti 11
The Winning Hand, ca. 1800's

Love this chiaroscuro profile of an old man playing cards. Another low-res copy but we can imagine how incredible the brushstrokes of the original must be. Lost in thought about his next move, Andreotti creates a poem here of a character, an archetype that we somehow know already even though we don't. The textures Andreotti creates here are so tactile we can almost touch them. The lack of players suggests this man is playing some version of solitaire. The apron around his neck suggests he may be a cook or chef of some sort. No matter. He is interesting and quirky at the same time. Andreotti has a palpable grasp of people and character.

Andreotti may have been another genre painter but his work, even if frivolous in theme at times, never belied his immense talents. Every artist seems trapped in their era to some degree, whether religious, historical or otherwise, yet saying something elegantly, with fresh eyes...this is what makes great artists. Andreotti made people both fun and poetic at the same time, with a sense of composition and color that very few could wield with their brush. Andreotti is a gem to discover...and rediscover.


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