The Founder Of The Liberty Style: Galileo Chini
Orphaned at 12, Galileo Chini couldn't have dreamed what a bright future lay ahead of him. The famous artist introduced art nouveau to Italy, worked for the King of Siam, and became friends with Puccini, for whom he designed opera sets.
After his parents died, Chini became apprenticed to his uncle, Dario, a restorer and artist. Dario spotted his nephew's talent, encouraging him to study art in Florence at the Academy of Fine Arts.
When he graduated, Chini decided to start a factory together with some other artists, which they called 'The Art of Ceramics'. Here he introduced the 'Liberty' style to Italy, based on art nouveau and the Liberty emporium in London. This was part of the art nouveau movement which wanted to combine 'architecture, furnishings, and decoration into a harmonious whole', according to an article at the National Gallery of Australia's website. bright colours, stylized features, and unusual motifs, such as the eyes of peacock feathers and May bugs, soon attracted attention. Chini also gave a new look to majolica with these strange themes and his ceramics soon started winning prizes. He also designed interiors for many churches, homes and chapels in the major centres of Tuscany. Chini was also influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and the Renaissance painters. His frieze of dancing cherubs for the Sala L'Arte del Sogno shows the influence of Renaissance artists, such as Donatello, who often painted these putti.
Chini exhibited his work in London, Paris and Turin. Together with his partner, Montelatici, he exhibited his work at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. They won a gold medal for their large table inlaid with a scene of the Annunciation.
Montelatici also made Chini the director of his large art workshop called La Musiva.l
The King of Siam Notices Chini
Chini designed opera sets and exhibited his art at the Venice Biennale. His colourful frescoes especially delighted King Chulalongkorn of Siam who commissioned the artist to paint his throne room at the Dusit Palace, Bangkok. The king wanted 'the most famous fresco painter of the time.'
He stayed in Thailand for three years. His study of Siamese culture and Eastern grandeur had a great influence on his art. He exhibited paintings of Siam in 'The Revival of Spring' held at the Venice Biennale in 1914. Oriental influences can be seen in his set design for Puccini's Turandot which has been called the epitome of the 'Liberty' style.
Chini Returns to Italy
When the famous artist returned to Italy he taught at the Academia di Belle Arti' in Florence. He also bought a pine wood and built the holiday house that he'd always wanted at Lida di Camiaore in Tuscany. This became the Villa Chini and is now a very attractive hotel which still displays many of his paintings and decorations, such as a colourful stained-glass fruit basket. Puccini also used to visit this lovely area of Tuscany near Versilia for retreats.
He continued to work well into old age, designing interiors for ocean liners and for two hydroelectric power stations in Alto Aldige.
Sadly, Chini started to have health problems and eventually went blind. He died at 83.
Chini's works can be seen at many galleries in Italy, including The Modern Art Gallery in Rome and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. His paintings are also about to be shown at an exhibition in Bangkok to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Thailand's diplomatic relations with Italy. The highlight will be the visit of his granddaughter, Paola, who will present his portrait of King Rama 1.