Alessandro Magnasco

Dates1667 - 1749
BornGenoa, Italy

Alessandro Magnasco was born in Genoa to a painter father who died when he was three. He traveled to Milan in his teens and trained there with an obscure Venetian painter. In 1703 he was employed by the grand duke of Florence, where he remained for six years before returning to Milan. Early upon his return, Magnasco supplied figures for other painters' landscapes to make money. Subsequently, he became very successful and remained until 1735. When he later returned to his native Genoa, he discovered that the Genoese found his style too raw and unfinished. Toward the end of his life, his output decreased and tremors in his hands gradually made it impossible for him to handle a brush. But, wrote his biographer, "He was always happy and even though decrepit with age, he seemed full of vigor and fire."

Magnasco began as a portrait painter but became known for religious works and scenes from the lives of monks, gypsies, and bandits, often in eerie, windswept landscapes that display the influence of Salvator Rosa. His paintings are easily identified by his free, open brushwork and the tiny, flame-like figures that seem almost to be strewn across the canvas. Magnasco frequently left the priming coat visible under the paint to serve as part of the final color scheme.