Giovanni Segantini was one of the leading figures of the Italian Divisionist movement in the last decade of the 19th century and by his death in 1899 enjoyed considerable international success. The Divisionists began working together in Milan, where most of the members had studied together at the Brera Academy, but, even during this time, they remained very stylistically individual. By the mid-1890s, however, Segantini had moved with his family to Maloja, near St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps, and here was to paint many of his most important compositions. Segantini's role in the development of Divisionism was highly innovative and contributed enormously to the European avant-garde at the turn of the century, influencing both the next generation of artists as well as the Italian Futurists and creating an artistic culture which formed the groundwork for all modern Italian painting.
Concerned chiefly by the primacy of light through the optical mixing of colour, the Divisionists employed fine parallel brushstrokes of pure colour to simulate light and spatial recession and create a clarity and simplicity of form. They would certainly have been aware of Rood's 1879 treatise "Modern Chromatics" which theorised on the principals of optical perception, but it is the dealer Vittore Grubicy who is widely held to have first suggested the technique to Segantini in 1886. He argued that 'with Divisionism there arrived a way in which one could represent light and also everything that one saw and light had the power to create so many aspects of reality as to seem lavish...to marvellously exalt the suggestive value of pictorial artifice' (quoted in G. Belli, op. cit., p. 21). A number of years later, Segantini wrote of his attitudes to colour and form; 'The artist must feel the effect of what he sees and imbue his portrayal of it with his own inner life. Under the painter's brush the colours of the spectrum should flow in glittering variety and give birth to objects, figures and lines. The tones should be strong but pure, so that the light becomes lively and deep...In the eyes of the beholder everything should merge into one, into the deep inner motion of Life, pulsating and real' (letter to Alberto Grubicy, circa 1893).
Segantini's portrayal of landscape is heavily influenced by his attitudes to nature and reveals an intimate relationship between naturalism and symbolism. The artist combines his meticulously detailed portrayal of nature with the allegory of a pure, unspoiled Alpine world, far from the realism of modern urban industrialisation. Thus the vast landscapes of the Alps, and the simple rural figures often depicted therein, are testament to mankind's transitoriness in the face of the shifting permanence of nature. In Paesaggio alpino, Segantini depicts the mountains of his adopted home, rising out of the snow covered plains in the foreground and set against the soft warmth of the sky. The light is indirect and low, at once suffusing the simplicity of the cold white foreground with an extraordinary range of chromaticism and boldly delineating the mountains, defining them sharply against the evening sky. Paesaggio alpino dates from around 1898-99 and was most probably incomplete when Segantini died in 1899 at the age of 41, cutting short the life of an artist who deservedly stands amongst the greatest European artists of his generation.
The present work was inherited by the artist's son, Gottardo Segantini, who subsequently passed it to his own son, Pietro. Paesaggio alpino remained in the Segantini house in Maloja during this time.
A photo-certificate from Prof. Annie-Paule Quinsac dated Milano, 10 April 2000 will accompany this painting.