Between the Gulf of Poets and Riomaggiore, there are only 10 minutes away by train, through a tunnel. The two landscapes are similar to impress and encourage artistic sensibility. If many great writers and poets stayed along the coasts of the Gulf, the first village of the Cinque Terre would be an essential center for the world of painting.
Riomaggiore charmed the Florentine painter Telemaco Signorini, a leading name of the macchiaioli movement.
If you read this story, you’ll discover why Italian art owes a lot to the women of Riomaggiore.
Sea and alleyways, lights and shadows: in Riomaggiore, an ideal setting for life painting
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Telemaco Signorini (here’s a biography) settled in La Spezia area to further his studies of painting on the interaction between light and shadow. Together with some colleagues and art movement fellows, he believed that the shores of the Gulf of Poets were the ideal conditions to perfect the technique of painting that the so-called Macchiaioli were defining. The matching of “spots” of strongly contrasting colors and the rejection of the limited and perfect forms of classical painting.
Several of Signorini’s works depict the central city, but the best paintings have Riomaggiore as a setting.
The dark and narrow streets, the sun lashes slipping through the roofs, the melancholy of the stairs, the peace of the small squares, the pastel colors of the houses, and the intense nature, these typical elements of the villages of the Cinque Terre are perfect for the painting style by Telemaco Signorini. Thanks to these features, Riomaggiore played a critical role not only in the art of the Tuscan painter but in the definition of the pictorial canon of the Macchiaioli school.
Love clicked between the artist and Riomaggiore, so much so that he wrote these inspirational words during one of his first visits to the Cinque Terre village.
“Through the vaults succession, we went down the stairs to the narrow gorge of the marina, and there came the awakening of our senses”.
Not by chance, therefore, Signorini spent some of the most significant periods of his artistic career in the seaside town, but because these landscapes – so suited to his painting – could conquer him to the point that he returned to live there in the last period of life.
Telemaco Signorini, a painter who followed women…
Every great personality carries around some legends, and so does Telemaco Signorini. In the mid-nineteenth century, the railway still needed to connect La Spezia to the Riviera, and moving from one village to another was not so usual. So how did the painter get to know Riomaggiore at a time when few foreign people knew it?
One day, Telemaco Signorini was struck by some women’s garments while wandering Spezia’s streets. When he asked about them, he was told they were women from Riomaggiore wearing typical clothes.
According to the legend, therefore, Signorini is pushed to the Cinque Terre, intrigued by the clothes of Riomaggiore.
And so it all began.