Vanni Rossi
(Bergamo 1894 - 1973)

  • Author: Vanni Rossi (Bergamo 1894 - 1973) 

  • Technique: Oil on canvas 55 x 40 cm 

Giovanni (known as Vanni) Rossi was born in Ponte San Pietro, a few kilometers from Bergamo, on November 6, 1894, the third of seven children. Although poor (the father is a worker), the family supports the artistic tendencies of Vanni and his brother Beppe, who will become a sculptor. Since childhood, Vanni reveals an extraordinary inclination for painting and, at the age of just over ten, he frescoes some external walls of his house with religious scenes. Thanks to the financial help of Count Pietro Moroni (then mayor of Ponte San Pietro), at the age of thirteen he enrolled at the Carrara Academy of Bergamo, having Ponziano Loverini as his teacher. From 1909 to 1914 he was awarded numerous prizes, distinguishing himself among the students of the Academy. After graduating, he concentrated above all on the creation of “Madonnas with the Child”, but in 1915 he was called to arms, a duty that committed him until 1919. Discharged, he attended - thanks to a scholarship - the English Academy in Rome; then he moved to Milan and in 1920 exhibited for the first time at the Venice Biennale. In 1921 he participated, with Monsignor Giuseppe Polvara, in the foundation of the Beato Angelico sacred art school, where he taught for four years; and then comes into contact with the cultural climate of Milan in the 20s and 30s. He felt the influence of Divisionism alive and strong and became friends with Alberto Grubicy (who also supported him economically) and with Carlo Fornara, so much so that some critics consider him one of the last Italian Divisionists; and it is no coincidence that Vanni exhibits with the Divisionist Group at the first Rome Biennale of Art. In fact, his oil works reveal references to Pellizza da Volpedo and Previati but, at the same time, a softness of brushwork reminiscent of the Piccio, a certain flavor of Renaissance fresco and above all modesty, humility and spiritual transparency (not only in sacred subjects): characters that subtract his painting from any codified current. In that period Vanni also started an impressive work: a “figurative Bible”, that is the illustration (in tempera) of 125 episodes of the Old Testament. In 1922 he participated again in the Venice Biennale and also in the Triennale of the Carrara Academy, in the Permanente exhibition in Milan and in the Triennale di Torino. At the same time he began his activity as a fresco painter of churches, sanctuaries, etc .; the places where he will work are countless: from Milan to Parabiago, from Seregno to Tradate, from Palazzolo sull'Oglio to Casteggio, from Sotto il Monte to Pian dei Resinelli, from Varese to Cantù, from Dalmine to Saronno, from Baveno to Bergamo ...


In 1926 Vanni staged his first solo exhibition at the Brera Gallery in Milan and in the following years participated in numerous other exhibitions: again at the Venetian Biennale, in Bergamo, in Padua; and then in Budapest and Rome (1936), in Paris (1937) and in Victoria, Spain (1938). On several occasions his paintings appear alongside those of Tosi, Bucci, Marussig, Birolli, Funi and obtain various awards (including the gold medal at the Parisian international exhibition). In 1942 Vanni presented fifty works at the collective exhibition of the Permanente in Milan, but in October of that year - following the bombing of the city - he was forced to evacuate with his family: he moved to the Bergamo area, in Sotto il Monte, where he remained until March 1946 and where he made a long series of clear and intense landscapes. In August 1943 a violent bombing destroyed his Milanese studio and most of his paintings remained there. However in those years, between 1940 and '45, Vanni also performed a grandiose fresco work, decorating the entire parish of Porto d'Adda di Cornate.

In 1947, a year after his return to Milan, he began new frescoes; in 1949 he exhibited the 125 plates of his Bible at the Angelicum in Milan and in 1953 in Rome.

Between 1949 and 1951 (and then in 1968) he frescoed the Milanese church of Santi Nereo and Achilleo.

In 1957 he received the gold medal for artistic merit from the Municipality of Milan. Even in this period his activity (translated both in oil paintings and frescoes) has no stops and his personal exhibitions are varied: in Milan, Bergamo, Ponte San Pietro. Vanni died in Milan on September 14, 1973 and is buried in his hometown.

In 1974, 1979, 1983, 1990 and 2009 exhibitions of his paintings were set up in Milan and Ponte San Pietro. One of the most representative nuclei of his work (including the tables illustrating the Bible) is made up of the collection located in the Library of the Municipality of Ponte San Pietro, in a room dedicated to him.

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