The “painter of Lucca” par excellence, Alfredo Meschi spent the whole of his life in the town where he was born every day painting its streets, squares and surrounding countryside in his typical pastels that were very well known in Lucca.

Right from an early age, Meschi showed a particular aptitude for landscape painting which he was to develop during his studies at the “Istituto d’Arte Passaglia”, between 1921 and 1924. It was there where, together with the conventional academic practice of nude, figure and model painting that he studied under the landscape artist Alceste Campriani, mainly studying outdoors. Another influential figure during his development was the artist Gennaro Villani, with whom he stayed in Naples in 1924. From Meschi’s Naples period is a series of oil paintings – “Veduta del porto di Napoli” (View of the Bay of Naples), “Interno” (Interior), “Il duomo di Napoli” (Naples Cathedral) – that in their bold composition and solid, expressive colours show how the artist in this period was inspired by Villani’s mature style. This influence, together with the return to Lucca in 1925, was to give way to an atmospheric sfumato style.

Atmospheric painting, that right from the start of his career was to typify his work, was stimulated by the “discovery” of pastels, – “Paesaggio a Monte San Quirico” (Landscape at Monte San Quirico), “San Martino dalle mura” (St. Martin’s Church seen from the walls), 1925, “Sulle mura” (On the walls), 1927, that became the predominant medium after the 30’s. Numerous oils date to the 20’s for example, “Lago Santo” (Lake Santo), 1925, a harmonious and well-thought out compositions; and “Ritrattino della sorella Anna” (Small portrait of my sister Anna), 1927, that in its delicate brushstrokes and palette, playing with a sophisticated range of greys and ochre recalls the Macchiaiola, and Fattori, in particular.

In the meantime, whilst continuing to keep his beloved landscape of Lucca and its surrounds in his mind’s eye, the artist’s style gradually changed. The lively and bold colour combinations gave way to lively but subtle colour scheme through his works, as illustrated in “Veduta romana – Aventino” (Roman landscape – Aventino), painted during one of the artist’s rare trips in November 1945. He continued to exhibit regularly. Of special note are the personal exhibitions at San Francisco in 1938 and San Paolo, Brasil in 1947, his contribution to the Venice Biennial in 1948 with two works and in 1950 with three, the monographic exhibition at the Strozzina, Florence in 1954 and the recurrent invitations to the national shows at La Spezia and Bari, as well as annual presentations of his latest works to his public of Lucca.

In 1979 a large anthological exhibition in Lucca retraced 50 year’s work and recorded the career of an artist that always viewed his much-loved surroundings with a fresh mind, even when repeating the same views of the town and rural subjects of the last part of his career that continued until a few years before his death in 1981.

Written by: Gioela Massagli – Translated by: Catherine Biggerstaff

© Studio d’Arte dell’800