Nittis, Joseph de

Impressionism, the partakers of the expositions:

Giuseppe de Nittis


An Italian at the edge of Impressionism

Was Giuseppe de Nittis an Impressionist?
Giuseppe or Joseph de Nittis his use of colour was more than once quite bright. But often he used many blacks, browns and greys. He more than once rendered 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 bluish. Though he often rendered a fleeting moment, he mostly rendered many details. His brushstroke more than once is quite lively, but he hardly used juxtaposed brushstrokes. De Nittis often used an indication of place. Just now and than he indicated time of day (lever de lune) and of season (autumn), yet he rendered more than once the influence of weather. He rendered 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 in 1874 with the ‘impressionists’. He was no co-founder of the ‘Société Anonyme des Artistes...’ He had contacts with Brandon, Caillebotte, Degas, Forain, 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 de Nittis at the Salon:
Joseph de Nittis yearly joined the Salon from 1869-1879 (iR1;iR24) and again in 1884 at the successor organised by the Société des Artistes Français, where he was ‘noticed’ and called Joseph-Gaetan (iR1;R1,p509). In 1879 + 84 he exhibited ‘hors concours’ (iR1;aR13). In 1873 Alexis criticised his work as ‘less painting than pastry’ (aR2). In 1874 he had succes (iR3). In 1875 Claretie reviewed ‘We were talking earlier about painters who have a feeling for modern life, for the simple and charming scenes that Paris offers us daily. No one possesses this special feeling to a greater degree than M. J. de Nittis. After his sunny paintings born from the contemplation of the Italian landscapes, M. de Nittis wanted to render all the seductions of the Parisian high life, the elegances of the Bois, of the tour du Lac, of the chilly dresses in winter, of the light dresses in summer.’ (R264,p327).  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‘ (aR8,p186;iR65;iR3), where he had exhibited at the Italian section 12 paintings, including 7 depicting London (R231;iR3). Note: other sources (wrongly mention he received a ‘second prix’ (R88I,p193). In 1878 he also was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. (aR8,p186;iR65;R1,p404;R3;R16;aR2). Note: other sources suggest this was in 1880 (R88I,p194). Degas criticised his friend for receiving it, Manet defended him (aR8,p186-189). (In 1878) De Nittis also was appointed as the ‘commandeur de l’Ordre de la couronne d’Italie’ (iR65) and in 1879 awarded a gold medal in Barletta (aR13;aR8,p212). In 1884 he was appointed Academic of Merit at the Academy of Fine Arts in Perugia (aR13). See link for his art-works. See link for an account.

Joseph de Nittis only joined the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874:
At the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition Joseph de Nittis showed at least 6 and I assume 7 works (catalogue numbers 115-118bis) (R2,p122;R90I,p7;R87,p247). He was invited by Degas, who had said to him ‘Since you are exhibiting at the Salon, ill-informed people will not be able to say that we are the exhibition of the rejected.’ (aR8,p237;R1,p313;R88;R87;R41;R3,p136;R6,p113;R16;aR2;R89,p25). Monneret suggests from a letter of De Nittis (1874/04/05), that ‘he made a complete break with the officials of the Salon’ (R88I,p193), but still he exhibitied shortly after 2 paintings at the SalonRenoir first didn’t hang ‘his submission’ (aR8,p237), something a few days after the opening was corrected, but still it hung in bad light (aR8,p237; note some mention this concerned just one of his paintings, R1,p318;aR2). De Nittis already had decided ‘I won’t do it again.’ (aR8,p237). Renoir thought De Nittis’ way of painting was to academic (R16;R1,p318). De Nittis early April had went to London (aR8,p138;aR13).
His exhibited works were hardly mentioned and not described (R90I). Still, 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) called him and others a long-established artist and regrets that they were approved to join (R87,p268/9;R22,p107).
See link for an impression of his exhibited paintings. See link for an account.

Giuseppe de Nittis at other exhibitions:
Around 1863-64 De Nittis exhibited 2 paintings and some studies at the 3rd exposition de la société promotrice at Naples and a marine at an exhibition in Parleme (aR8,p28+29). One of the studies exhibited in Naples was bought by the museum of modern painting (aR7). In 1876 and 1881 De Nittis exhibited at the ‘Cercle de l’Union artistique’ (R88). In 1879 Giuseppe de Nittis had a succesfull exhibition at the offices of ‘La Vie Moderne’ (R88I,p194). It was organised by Edmond Renoir and was attended by an average of 2500 people daily; almost all the works were sold (R1,p431;R8,p218;R3;aR2). Note: other sources mention this was in 1880 (R89,p96). In 1880 he also had an exhibition of his collected works on the Avenue de l’Opéra, exhibiting about 30 works, including watercolours, gouaches, fans and pastels (aR9,p189). In 1880 he also exhibited in Turin with 5 paintings (aR13). April 1882 Giuseppe de Nittis founded with the art-dealer Georges Petit,  were the founders of the ‘Exposition Internationale de Peinture’. The goal was to invite each year 12 artists, including 3 from France (aR8,p225;R5,p129;R88I,p194;R1,p481;R3;R16;aR2). Some mention Alfred Stevens and Raimondo de Madrazo (Garreta) as co-founders; De Nittes himself wrote that he asked them to form a commitee (aR8,p225). In 1883 De Nittis exhibited 12 works in the Italien section (iR40). You could say, that de Nittis was dedicated to the ideal of independent (group) exhibitions. It is obvious that he didn’t exhibit at the Salon from 1880-83 (iR1). In 1885, posthumous, pastels were exhibited at two ‘exposition des Pastellistes’ at Georges Petit (iR40). His works also were present at several other exhibitions (see below). In 1914 at the 9th Art exhibition in Venice, there were 90 art-works exhibited of De Nittis (aR5=iR261). See link for his art-works. See link for an account.

Giuseppe de Nittis as an artist:
From 1861-63 Giuseppe de Nittis studied at the ‘Instituto di Belle Arti’ in Napels (iR24;R3;aR2;R88;aR13); he had been expelled in 1863 (iR3;aR2). His teachers were Giovanni Battista Calò and Adriano Cecioni (iR3;iR69), but according to other sources Mancinelli and Smargiassi (R88). Between 1863-67 De Nittis painted en-plein-air in Portici and  the surroundings of Napels (R41;R3;iR24;aR13). 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;R89,p95;R88); rendering coarse yet dignified peasants, bleak and muddy landscapes and the streets of poor villages (iR70) He founded the ‘Scuola di Resina’ with Marco di Gregorio (1829-76) and Federico Rossano (1835-1912) (iR70;R88); between 1872-75 Francesco Paolo Michetti also was a member (iR70); their aim was to bring Italian art into the mainstream of European art (iR70). In 1866 De Nittis joined the ‘Macchiaioli’ in Florence (R3;R41;R16;R88); he became friends with Telemaco Signorini (iR3;aR2).

From 1867-70 De Nittis dwelled in Paris (R3;iR24) and partly in Italy (R88). Most sources claim Giuseppe de Nittis came to Paris in 1867 (iR65;iR70;iR3;iR41;aR2;R89,p25;R88;aR13;aR7) some sources say this was in 1869 (R41). In Paris De Nittis became a pupil of Gérôme (iR1;R41;R16;iR41;R259), stimulated by Brandon (whom he had met in Florence) and Reitling (R88;aR13). Some sources mention he also was a pupil of J.A. Meissonnier (aR13;aR10; or that he received advice of him, aR7) and of Brandon (aR10,p230). Reitling was his first the art-dealer (iR1;R88), later Goupil became his exclusively art-dealer (R3;R41;aR2;iR3;R89,p25;R88) 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). It was Brandon who had stimulated De Nittis to offer his works to Goupil (aR7). Goupil stimulated De Nittis to make figure paintings instead of landscapes (R88). Still, it was Goupil who asked him to make a serie about the eruption of the Vesuvius (aR10). De Nittis sometimes disagreed with Goupil (aR8,p106). In 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) and in 1876 (iR1) and in 1878 (iR24). In 1874 he terminated his contract with Goupil after having received several commissions from the London banker Kaye Knowles (aR13;R88).

De Nittis also visited café Guerbois (R41). He had frequent contacts with Manet, Caillebotte and Degas (R41;R3,p545;R1,p304;R5,p101+263;R88). 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). (Strangely Berhaut doesn’t mention De Nittis in her Catalogue Raisonné of Caillebotte =-iR102). De Nittis highly respected Mme Suzanne Manet (R8,p256); his son Jacque at the age of six did too (aR8,p188). He organised diners and invited related painters like Caillebotte, Degas, Forain and also Manet and Stevens and writers / art-critics like Martelli, Burty, Duranty and Zola (R88I,p194;R41). De Nittis had connections with Italian artists (he inspired and helped them in Paris) like Theodor Arman, Giovanni Boldini, Eduardo Dalbono, Antonio Leto, Telemaco Signorini and Zandomeneghi (iR69;iR70;aR2).

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).

What do our sources say about his painting style? Walther calls him a half-impressionist, drawing, the concrete motive and the anecdotical moment always were more important than the rendering of light in which the object dissolves (R3,p226+546). Still, others say and that he explored the transient effects of light (aR2). Rewald describes his work as ‘more or less academic’ (R1,p318). Or as others say that he ‘always remained faithful to the tenets of academic painting, his works displaying a tightly controlled line and a clear handling of space.’ (iR14). 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). Others say that ‘he struck a balance between the avant-garde and popular taste that brought him enormous commercial success, both in London and Paris.’ (iR15). Adler writes that he can ‘be regarded as a naturalist painter’ and later calls him a Realist, representing scenes of every day life (of the demi-monde) (R89,p43+95/6). Other say that De Nittis used a ‘naturalisme pittoresque’ (just like Béraud) (R41) and that he remained committed to a naturalistic style (aR2). De Nittis painted many small landscapes and city views (on panel) using a loose touch (R3). He made strangely composed anecdotical genre pieces of modern live (R3). He rendered many snapshots of the Boulevards and squares (R3,p314). He used his ‘ability to evoke a powerful sense of atmosphere and shimmering movement’ (iR15). He sometimes used a deviating angle of vision (R89,p95). He sometimes used narrative elements (R89,p95). Vittorio Pica remarked in 1914 ‘he seemed to us much more concerned with portraying the elegance of the dress and the grace of the pose than the expression of the face (…) a porcelain doll’s face’ (iR14). Others mention that some of his paintings are ‘entirely veiled in mists, treated in fragmented strokes’ (R88I,p193). ‘Black is not absent from his palette, but is often used for admirable backlighting.’ (R88I,p193) ‘His watercolours are perfectly impressionistic in style and spirit.’ (R88I,p195).

Fénéon (1884/04) included De Nittis to ’the gallant clan of impressionists’ (R1,p478). Lostalot (1881) wrote that he was ‘one of the first followers of impressionism’ (R88I,p194). Georges Brandes (1882) wrote 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) described 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). According to Henry Jouin (1887) de Nittis was not an Impressioniste; he was a painter of the daily live (…), but he put it in scene after his own interpretation (aR10,p237). Hooper (1880) wrote ‘M. de Nittis is one of the revolters against the Salon, but the reason of his rebellion is hard to understand, as the works (…) have always found there ready acceptation and a good position.’ (aR9,p189)

De Nittis wrote 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 ‘bright’ paintings of Monet and 2 ‘studies’ of Morisot (R1,p395;aR8,p236;aR2; those of Monet are: CR261?, 297?, 361 and 416; R22IV,p1052). Denvir calls him a friend and supporter of Monet (R8,p208). But Wildenstein doesn’t mention him as such (R22I). Manet gave him his picture In the garden (1870, CR155, 45×54, Shelburne MA Vermont) on which Edma Pontillon-Morisot is depicted and not Mme de Nittis as some sources indicate (R213,no113;R88I,p192). He also owned works of Degas and Forain and one of Corot (R88I,p194). Degas owned several works (views of Naples) of De Nittis (R88I,p195;R133).


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;iR23;iR127;iR3;aR2;R3;R87;aR13). Bénézit mentions he was born the 22th (iR69;iR41). La Gazette names him Joseph de Nitis and writes he was born in Naples (R259). He had an older brother Vincenzo (aR8,p15)
  • 1856: his father died (aR8,p14)
  • 1860: The family moved to Naples (aR13)
  • 1869/04/29: De Nittis married the Parisian Léontine Lucile Gruvelle (aR8,p30;aR13;iR3;iR24;R88). She would become his most important model (iR24).
  • 1869-70: De Nittis lived in Bougival (iR1) Note: in these days Monet lived in a hamlet near Bougival.
  • 1870: De Nittis his first daughter died (aR13)
  • 1870: De Nittis returned to the little house in La Jonchère between Bougival and Rueil (aR8,p51;R88); other sources mention he lived at closeby Saint-Germain-en-Laye, about 31km west of Paris (iR9); anyway Manet stayed with him 1870/06 (R5,p64;R88);
  • 1870: De Nittis bought a small hotel at the Avenue de L’Impératrice in Rueil-Malmaison, adviced by James Tissot; shortly afterwards the French-Prussian war started (aR8,p57+58);
  • 1871/Spring: De Nittis was in Naples (aR8,p66)
  • 1872: stay in Italy; for the Salon he rendered the address of the art-dealer Goupil (iR1); he witnessed the eruption of the Vesuvius near Naples; he returned at Easter (aR8,p82+87).
  • 1872/07: his son Jacques was born (aR13)
  • 1873-79: he lived at 64, avenue du Bois-de-Boulogne (now: avenue Foch) (iR1;R88I,p194;iR14)
  • 1873 or 74: De Nittis went again to Naples, but first went to Barletta; he also was in San Carlino; in 1874 he was in Naples (aR8,p111+116+114)
  • 1874, early April: De Nittis went to London (aR8,p138)
    1875: De Nittis was in Naples (aR8,p145)
  • 1876: the Salon database mentions he dwelled in London (iR1); De Nittis himself mentions it was in 1875 or 1876  and later mentions he was in London with the Derby (aR8,p152+154)
  • 1877, Spring: De Nittis again was in London (aR8,p175/6)
  • 1878: Giuseppe de Nittis went to Italy on invitation of the king of Italy; his family joined him with Christmas (R88;aR8,p198)
  • 1879: in his notes De Nittis mentions the departure of his friend Duranty (aR8,p191)
  • 1880?: Giuseppe de Nittis lived at the avenue de Villiers (R88I,p194)
  • 1880-84: he lived at 3bis, rue Viète, Paris ; in 1880 he moved there in a new house (aR8,p216; in 1883 and 1884 he still lived there (iR1;iR40); this is in the 17th arrondissement (iR9)
  • 1882: De Nittis stayed in England (aR8,p224)
  • 1883/12: de Nittis went to Naples and spent Christmas overthere (aR8,p239;aR13)
  • 1884/08/21: Giuseppe de Nittis died of a stroke in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines), being just 38 years old (aR8,p253;iR23;iR127;iR195;R5,p140;iR3;aR13). Other sources mention he died the 24th (iR24;iR69;aR2;R87). He lived at the end of the Rue de Mantes (aR10).
  • 1887/05/25 – 06/30: exhibition by Durend-Ruel in New York with works of Boudin, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Manet, Puvis de Chavannes, Stevens and 1 work of De Nittis (R166,p57)
  • 1898/08: exhibition at Georges Petit together with Boudin, Sisley, Jongkind and others (R166,p280)
  • 1913/08/13: his widow, Léontine de Nittis, died (aR13)
  • 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. (aR13;iR65;iR3)
  • 1914/04/23 – 10/23: 9th exhibition of art in Venice, including 90 art-works of Giuseppe de Nittis (aR5=iR261)

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 (1974=R87,p247), Monneret (1978-81=R88I,p192-195), Adler (1988=R89), Berson (1996=R90), 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), Sothebys (iR14), Christies (iR15), 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. (=R278;R3) =CR
Dini, P, G.L. Marini & R. Mascolo: De Nittis, la vita, i documenti, le opere dipenti. 2 vol. Turin, 1990. (=R277;iR65;iR24) =CR
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. (=R165;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)
Morel, Dominique a.o.: Giuseppe De Nittis: la modernité élégante. Exhibition catalogue, Petit Palais Paris 2010 (iR195)
De Nittis e l’expo: a Palazzo della Marra. Exhibition catalogue. Barletta, Pinacoteca Giuseppe De Nittis, 2015 (iR195)

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. (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)
  6. (Old publication (1876/05/01) of Jules Claretie including a short biography on de Nittis (=R264,p397-416); =iR40).
  7. (PDF of The art amateur, vol.11, 1884/11/01, with info on Joseph de Nittis + picture on page 122; =iR19)
  8.  (PDF of Notes et Souvenirs de Peintre Joseph de Nittis, Paris 1895; 253 pages =iR19; =iR40,bpt6k6572615g)
  9. (PDF The art journal, vol.6, 1880/01/01, including an article of Lucy H. Hooper including info on a De Nittis exhibition, page 189; =iR19)
  10.  (PDF of Henry Jouin: Maitres contemporains, including de Nittis. Paris 1887; p.229-237; =iR19)
  11. (article from Caroline Igra: Spatial engineer and social recorder: Giuseppe de Nittis and the development of 19th-century cityscape imagery. Van Gogh Museum Journal, p94-103. Amsterdam 1999; =Mx)
  12. (several pictures of de Nittis)
  13.  (website of the Pinacoteca Giuseppe de Nittis in Barletta. The museum received a donation from his wife Léontine consisting of 139 paintings, 54 graphic works and 154 books with dedications documenting the various phases of the Barletta painter’s artistic production, his talent for experimentation, as well as his friendship and shared research with some of the most important artists of the second half of the 19th century in Europe.)
  14. (article with beautiful pictures of De Nittis)
  15. x



Recommanded citation: “Giuseppe de Nittis, an Italian at the edge of Impressionism. Last modified 2022/08/29.