Born into a well-off family, he studied at the Accademia di Pisa with Annibale Mariani. Later he enrolled on Antonio Ciseri and Enrico Pollastrini’s courses in Florence. His early career was devoted to history and genre painting; at Florence he presented “Carlo Emanuele di Savoia che scaccia l’ambasciatore spagnolo” (Carlo Emanuele of Savoy dismisses the Spanish Ambassador) painting a series of small paintings inspired by the works of Goldoni.

Following the meeting with Signorini and Fattori in Florence, he began to study landscape painting and a touch of naturalism emerges in his work. This became more apparent with his frequent trips to Paris, such as the one in 1875 with Fattori, Ferroni and Niccolò Cannicci in order to exhibit “Incontro in Maremma” (Meeting in the Maremma), 1874, at the Salon. His stay in the French capital where he studied painting by French landscape artists of the ’30s marked a turning point in Gioli’s work that up until this point had mainly consisted of delicate landscapes and small rural genre paintings. His most famous works are “Vendemmia” (The Grape Harverst), “Primavera nella campagna pisana” (Spring in the Pisan countryside), “Le macchiaiole del Tombolo” (Women from the maquis of Tombolo), “Il guado” (The Ford), “Alla messa” (Going to Mass). But he did not completely turn his back on genre painting. “Divertimenti infantili” (Children’s Games), 1875, is very similar to the lyrical daily and domestic poetics of some of Silvestro Lega’s works.

Gioli’s painting enjoyed great success and popularity from the end of the 70’s. In 1878 he won a prize in Paris for “Passa il viatico” (The Viaticum); at Rome, in 1883, he exhibited “Passa la Processione” (The Procession); in London in 1885 he won a medal for the painting “Ai campi di giugno” (Fields in June). In 1888 he was appointed professor at the Accademia di Bologna, the following year professor at the Accademia di Firenze.

At the end of the century his paintings had a rarified atmosphere and complex, intentional luminosity that place his work in the context of central-European secessionism. At the start of the 20th century however he concentrated on works that clearly recall Impressionism, with bright vigorous use of colour, such as the “Vendemmia allegra” (Fun at the Grape Harvest), “Vita” (Life), “Renaiole” (Corn Spurreys). Meanwhile he worked non-stop on exhibition paintings. He took part at the exhibitions of Munich in 1901 and 1913, at Buenos Aires and Brussels in 1910. At the Venice Biennial in 1914 Francesco Gioli was given a personal exhibition of 53 of his works.

Written by: Gioela Massagli – Translated by: Catherine Biggerstaff

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