Born in Reggio Emilia on 23 February 1818, died in Turin on 17 April 1882. Already in the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia he was noticed by Prospero Minghetti and encouraged by him. The economic conditions then forced him, although very young, to take on mural decoration jobs for the apartments of wealthy families, making medallions of flowers, figures, countries, covering ceilings and large walls of rooms also with ornaments, architectural perspectives and picturesque views. His first important works were the panels of the Caffè degli Svizzeri in Reggio, which were then collected in the house of the owner of the local Tognoni and framed like real paintings. In 1847 he went to Turin, then he was in Genoa and Milan, but in these cities his activity as a patriot, as a volunteer soldier, first under Luciano Manara and then under Garibaldi, has more notoriety than his artistic one. In 1850 he was in Geneva and with the friendship, albeit interested, of the Parisian Vittorio Brachard, he gained dignified and growing notoriety, and good compensation. From 1855 to 1865 he studied in Geneva, but during this decade he traveled a lot to Paris, Florence, Genoa, Turin and the Dauphiné. He then moved to London and, at the end of 1866, he went to Florence and executed Sunset on the Arno, currently at that Academy of Fine Arts, and Earth work, formerly in the Ingegnoli Gallery, in Cristiano Banti's studio. In 1868 he was appointed director and teacher at the Lucca Academy and the following year he moved to Turin to take up teaching at the Albertina school of landscape, which had just been established. After seven years of valiant and loving teaching to a group of devoted and enthusiastic disciples, he went to Tokyo to teach in that Academy and remained there until September 1878. He was the teacher of C. Alierà, Domenico Bologna, Gilberto Borromeo-Arese, Vittorio Bussolino, P. Caglieri, Marco Calderini, Alessandro Cordani, Carlo Pollini, A. Ghesio-Volpengo, Giuseppe Lucini, Giovanni Piumati, Ernesto Pochintesta, C. Pollonera, A. Prampolini, Clemente Pugliese Levi, A. Raffale , Enrico Reycend, Giuseppe M. Scaglia, C. Stratta, G. Tesio, F. Vercelli. Gaspare Brugnone, G. Camerara, Giuseppe Carozzi, Alfredo d'Andrade, A. Fossati, Giuseppe Gabrielli, Tammar Luxoro, Daniele Ranzoni, Ernesto Rayper and Camillo Rho also felt his influence, as did Enrico Bogliani. Having recovered in Turin, he worked with new impetus and renewed passion, but his health was shaken, and he died after four years (during which he had alternated hopes with depressions) leaving a large number of works now rightly recognized as imperishable, most some of which figured in the posthumous exhibition in Turin in 1932. In all of these works, Fontanesi has shown that he has not indulged either fashion or industry, wanting to contend with nature for his pleasure and not for that of others. For this reason he had enemies and the indifferent in art, but he did not lack recognition and exaltation even in life. In the cited posthumous exhibition of 1932, 436 works by Fontanesi were brought together and exhibited in the halls of the Civic Museum of Turin, including oil paintings, watercolours, charcoal drawings and engravings that it would be impossible to list and of which we recall the best known : Morning, Afternoon, The mill, The quiet, Pasture at Creyes, Clearing, Shepherdess, In solitude, Woman at the fountain, Lonely road, The clouds, Work, Vespero, On the threshold, April, Sunset on the pond, The stable, The bridge, The bathroom, Evening, Summer in the Dauphiné, House in Japan, Cottage in Rivoli, which with many other paintings, studies and sketches in oils, watercolors, etc. they belong to the Modern Art Gallery of Turin; to that of Milan, In Vanchiglia, Capanne in a clearing, Deserted beach, others are in the Ricci-Oddi Gallery in Piacenza; Le nubi, On Lake Geneva and Bosco di Lernano, owned by Tournon of Turin; Woodland landscape in a private collection in Ventimiglia; In the woods in another from Turin; The herd, formerly in the Ingegnoli Gallery in Milan; Return from pasture; Return from the fields, Idyll, Journey memory, Pond along the Mugnone, Fountain near Signa, Twilight on the Mugnone, Spring, After noon, In the farmhouse, Flowers, and other valuable works in the Delleani collection of Carignano; The ford, owned by Gora di Torino; Countryside with herds an hour after the rain, located in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence; Mattino d' ottobre, in the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Rome with two other works; Strada a Creyes, Basso property in Milan; The road of the fields, in the Pinacoteca of Turin; April, in the Rossello collection in Milan; Altacomba, owned by Bianchi of Turin; Sunset on Lake Geneva, at the heirs of the painter Marco Calderini; Grazing sheep (Delfinato), in the Toscanini collection; Chiavica at Optevoz, in the municipality of Cuneo; San Paolo in London, at E. Rubino in Turin; The trough, in the Pinacoteca di Bologna. Valuable etchings and lithographs. Of the latter we have: Twenty Swiss views, published in the Musée Suisse in Geneva 1854-1855 and then collected in a volume: Promenade Pittoresque, Geneva 1856 (then reproduced in 1914 in the volume La Genève des Genévois). An important posthumous exhibition was set up at the XXVI Venice Biennale (1952).


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