Nittis, Joseph de

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Giuseppe de Nittis (1846-1884)

An Italian at the edge of Impressionism



Was Giuseppe de Nittis an Impressionist?

Giuseppe de Nittis his use of colour is more than once quite bright. But often he uses many blacks, browns and greys. He more than once renders the influence of (sun)light on the colours, but in most of his snow landscapes the snow is merely white, yet the white table-cloth in ‘breakfast in the garden’ is rendered in dazzling blues, yellows and reds. Most of his shadows are quite grey, sometimes more blue. Though he often renders a fleeting moment, he mostly renders many details. His brushstroke more than once is quite lively, but he doesn’t use juxtaposed brushstrokes. De Nittis often uses an indication of place. Just now and than he indicates time of day (lever de lune) and of season (autumn), yet he renders more than once the influence of weather. He renders many elegant ladies from the upper-class and just sometimes poor people. All this makes Giuseppe de Nittis more a realist / naturalist with impressionist influences, than that he painted in an impressionist style.
Giuseppe de Nittis only exhibited one time with the Impressionists. He was no co-founder of the ‘Société Anonyme…‘ He had contacts with Caillebotte, Degas, Zandomeneghi and Manet and bought paintings of Monet and Morisot. It is not indicated that he had contacts with the other Italian partakers Jean-François and Jean-Marius Raffaëlli. In short Giuseppe de Nittis was a side-figure of the ‘impressionist’ art-movement.


Joseph(-Gaetan) de Nittis at the Salon:

De Nittis yearly joined the Salon from 1869-1879 (iR1;iR24) and again in 1884, where he was ‘noticed’ (iR1;R1,p509). In 1879 + 84 he exhibited ‘hors concours’. (iR1) In 1873 Alexis criticised his work as ‘less painting than pastry’ (aR2). In 1874 he had succes (iR3). In 1876 he received at the Salon the ‘médaille d’or (iR65). And in 1878 he received a ‘médaille d’or’ at the ‘Exposition Universelle’ (iR65;iR3); he had exhibited 12 works (iR3).  


Joseph de Nittis only joined the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874:

At the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition Joseph de Nittis showed 5 works (catalogue numbers 115-118bis) (R2,p122). He was invited by Degas, so the exposition wouldn’t look ‘an exhibition of rejected artists’ (R1,p313;R87;R41;R3,p136;R6,p113;R16;aR2). Renoir first didn’t hang one of his paintings, something a few days after the opening was corrected (R1,p318;aR2). Renoir thought his way of painting to academic (R16). Several critics were positive: d’Hervilly (1874/04/17) ‘really incredible works’; de Lora (1874/04/18) ‘excellent landscapes’; Cardon (1874/04/29)  ‘he has received a really legitimate succes at the last Salons’ (R87). Burty (1874/04/25) calls his (and others) works ‘more moderate, yet no less brave’, which shows ‘how much to expect from this new school’ (R87,p262). One critic called his 4 views of Naples ‘formless daubs’ (R1,p340;aR2). Ernest Chesnau (1874/05/07) calls him and others a long-established artist and regrets that they were approved to join (R87,p268/9;R22,p107).
See link for his -/-art-works. See link for an -/-account.


Giuseppe de Nittis as an artist:

1861-63: study at the ‘Instituto di Belle Arti’ in Napels (iR24;R3;aR2); he had been expelled in 1863 (iR3;aR2). His teachers were Giovanni Battista Calò and Adriano Cecioni (iR3;iR69). Between 1863-67 De Nittis painted en-plein-air in Portici and  the surroundings of Napels (R41;R3;iR24). He was a co-founder of the ‘Scuola di Resina (1863-75), promoting realistic en-plein-air painting with emphasize on light and colour (R3,p538;iR65); rendering coarse yet dignified peasants, bleak and muddy landscapes and the streets of poor villages (iR70); founding it with Marco di Gregorio (1829-76) and Federico Rossano (1835-1912) (iR70); between 1872-5 Francesco Paolo Michetti also was a member (iR70); their aim was to bring Italian art into the mainstream of European art (iR70). 1866: he joined the ‘Macchiaioli’ in Florence (R3;R41;R16); he became friends with Telemaco Signorini (iR3;aR2).
From 1867-70 De Nittis dwelled in Paris (R3;iR24). Some sources claim Giuseppe de Nittis came to Paris already in 1867 (iR65;iR70;iR3;iR41;aR2) and another in 1869 (R41). There he became a pupil of Gérôme (iR1;R41;R16;iR41). At first contacts with the art-dealer Reitlinger (iR1), later with Goupil (R3;R41;aR2;iR3); exclusively from 1867-74 (iR24) or from 1869-72 (iR65). Yet according to the Salon database De Nittis rendered for the Salon of 1869 + 70 the address of Reitlinger (iR1). 1872: De Nittis settled in Paris (R3;R5,p263). De Nittis made many travels to Italy and London (R3). 1874/04/15 he also was in London (iR1,p324;aR2); in 1876 (iR1); and in 1878 (iR24).
He was influenced by Japonism (R41;aR2) and since 1878 he collected Japanese art (iR65). 1875-79 onwards, (inspired by Degas) de Nittis made many pastels (R3,p214;iR65;iR3). He made pastel portraits of Manet, Duranty, De Goncourt and Zola (iR3;aR2).  1873 onwards, inspired by Desboutin (and Degas) he started to make etchings (iR70). He made in total 50 etchings (iR65).
De Nittis used a ‘naturalisme pittoresque’ (just like Béraud) (R41). He remained committed to a naturalistic style (aR2). Painted many small landscapes and city views using a loose touch (R3). He explored transient effects of light (aR2). Made strangely composed anecdotical genre pieces of modern live (R3). He rendered many snapshots of the Boulevards and squares (R3,p314). Walther calls him a half-impressionist (R3,p226). Drawing, the concrete motive and the anecdotical moment always were more important than the rendering of light in which the object dissolves (R3,p546). Rewald describes his work as ‘more or less academic’ (R1,p318). Denvir writes he used a more popular style and became a successful portraitist (R5,p263) and that he was more conventional and not driven to experiment (R8,p208), a ‘non-impressionist’ (R8,p245).
Fénéon (1884/04) includes De Nittis to ‘the gallant clan of impressionists’ (R1,p478). Georges Brandes (1882) writes about him: ‘Painters such as de Nittis, who, without completely siding with the impressionists, have let themselves be influenced by and have learnt much from them, seem to have a future, but it is hardly likely that pure impressionism as such could ever be a dominant style.’ (R1,p497). Brizio (1939) describes his early style as ‘features a tendency toward grey tonalities, atmospheric effects with cloudy skies, views with finesse of details … with a sense of innate elegance … unpretentious but rarely sparkling subjects …’ (iR41).
De Nittis writes himself in April or May 1874 about the Impressionists: ‘…Pissarro, Monet, and Sisley, who are landscapists of very estimable qualities and who are very interesting. These are being attacked – and with good reason-  because they resemble each other a bit too much (they all derive from Manet) and because sometimes they happen to be shapeless, so predominant is their desire of exclusively sketching reality.’ (R1,p324). He did acquire over the years 4 paintings of Monet and 2 of Morisot (R1,p395;aR2). Denvir calls him a friend and supporter of Monet (R8,p208). But Wildenstein doesn’t mention him as such (R22).
De Nittis also visited café Guerbois (R41). He had frequent contacts with Manet, Caillebotte and Degas (R41;R3,p545;R1,p304;R5,p101+263). Caillebotte and Degas did meet each other in 1874 in De Nittis his house, where Degas asked Caillebotte to join the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition, which he didn’t (iR70). He highly respected Mme Suzanne Manet (R8,p256). He organised diners and invited related painters like Fattori, Martelli and Telemaco Signorini and related art-critics like Burty, Duranty ans Zola (R41). De Nittis had connections with Italian artists (inspired them; helped them in Paris) like Theodor Arman, Giovanni Boldini, Eduardo Dalbono, Antonio Leto, Telemaco Signorini, Zandomeneghi (iR69;iR70;aR2).


Data of Giuseppe de Nittis:

  • 1846/02/25: Giuseppe de Nittis was born in Barletta, in the Apulia region, on the south-east coast (iR24;iR3;aR2;R3;R87). Bénézit mentions he was born the 22th (iR69;iR41).
  • 1869: De Nittis married the Parisian Léontine Lucile Gruvelle (iR3;iR24). She would become his most important model (iR24).
  • 1869-70: De Nittis lived in Bougival (iR1)
  • 1870: De Nittis lived at Saint-Germain-en-Laye; Manet stayed with him 1870/06 (R5,p64).
  • 1872: stay in Italie; for the Salon he rendered the address of the art-dealer Goupil (iR1).
  • 1873-79: he lived at 64, avenue du Bois-de-Boulogne (avenue Uhric) (iR1)
  • 1876: he dwelled in London (iR1)
  • 1878: received the ‘Legion d’Honneur’ (iR65;R1,p404;R3;R16;aR2). And also the ‘commandeur de l’Ordre de la couronne d’Italie’ (iR65).
  • 1879/Spring: solo exhibition at ‘La Vie Moderne’, organised by Edmond Renoir; it was attended by average 2500 people daily and highly successful, almost all the works were sold (R1,p431;R8,p218;R3;aR2)
  • 1882: co-founder of the ‘Exposition internationale de Peinture’ at George Petit (R5,p129;R1,p481;R3;R16;aR2); together with Alfred Stevens and Madrazo Garreta (iR70).
  • 1884: he lived at 3bis, rue Viète, Paris (iR1)
  • 1884/08/24: Giuseppe de Nittis died of a stroke in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines) (iR24;iR69;aR2;R87). Other sources mention he died the 21th (R5,p140;iR3)
  • 1913: the widow of Giuseppe, Léontine de Nittis, donated his legacy at the town of Barletta, containing 211 oil paintings, pastels , etchings, studies, drawings and a library of 150 books. Since 2007 they are in ‘La Pinacoteca De Nittis’ in the ‘Palazzo della Marra’ in Barletta. (iR65;iR3)



My main sources are Rewald (1973=R1), Moffett (1986, R2), Walther (2013=R3,p685), Denvir (1993=R5; 1992=R8), Pool (1987=R6), Spiess (1992=R16,p248), Wildenstein (1996=R22,Vol.1), Guégan (2005=R41,p54), Dayez (R87,p247), the Salon database (iR1), Wikipedia (iR3), RKD (iR24), Askart (iR41), Marques (iR65), Bénézit (iR69), Grove (iR70) and the additional references (aRx). For other general references (=R) see. My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are the-athenaeum (iR2), Wikimedia (iR6), GAP (iR8), mutualart (iR11), google images (iR10) and the additional references. For other references to internet sites (=iR) see. For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.

Further reading:
Beraldi, H.: Les Graveurs du XIXe siècle. Guide de l’amateur d’estampes modernes. Paris, 1890. p.199-200. (iR65)
Piceni, E.: De Nittis; L’uomo e l’opera. 2 vol. Busto Arsizio, 1972-1982. (R3)
Dini, P, G.L. Marini & R. Mascolo: De Nittis, la vita, i documenti, le opere dipenti. 2 vol. Turin, 1990. (iR65;iR24)
Bénézit (1976,vol.7,p731=R75; 1999,vol.10,p234/5=R76); Busse (1977,p907=R77); Witt (1978,p228=R78); Thieme/Becker (1931,vol.25,p489=R79);  (iR24)
Piceni, E.: Three Italian friends of the Impressionists; Boldini, De Nittis, Zandomeneghi; exhibition catalogue. New York, 1984. (iR70)
Miracco,R.: De Nittis impressionista Italiano; exhibition catalogue. Rome, 2004. (iR65)

Sparagni, Tulliola & Emanuela Angiuli: Zandomeneghi, de Nittis, Renoir; i pittori della felicitá; exhibition catalogue. Milan, 2007. Italian; 158p. (iR24)
Russo, R.: La Pinacoteca De Nittis a Palazzo della Marra. Vita dell’ artista, storia del palazzo. Barletta, 2007. (iR65)


Additional references:

  1. (58 pages on De Nittis in Italien to be seen and downloaded)
  2. vanished french impressionists 8 (an article about De Nittis and others; = iR35)
  3. (Catalogue de tableaux modernes; Auction of the Everard collection. Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 1878/03/04 (=iR19); 1 painting of De Nittis: no.50, L’avenue du bois de Boulogne vue de la Ports-Dauphine, 31×42; sold for 33(?)fr.
  4. archive//Drouot_1881 (Catalogue de tableaux modernes; auction of the M. P.L. Éverard collection. Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 1881/03/31 (=iR19); 3 paintings of De Nittis: no. 95, La Patineuse, 56×37 (2929fr); 96, Promenade au Vésuve, 28×53 (3090fr); 97, Le Vestiaire, 22×18 (420fr).
  5. “Giuseppe de Nittis.” In Database of Modern Exhibitions (DoME). European Paintings and Drawings 1905-1915. Last modified Apr 14, 2020.  =iR261; overview of contributions of De Nittis in exhibitions and auctions from 1905-1915 (4 entries)
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