By many considered the greatest of the Post-Macchiaioli artists, Mario Puccini’s early training was at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze where, encouraged by Fattori, he enrolled in 1884. Three years later he exhibited at the “Società d’Incoraggiamento” a “Studio di testa” (Study for a head). In 1892, after receiving his diploma, he enrolled at the “Scuola Libera del Nudo”, but after a short time he began to have symptoms of depression that when diagnosed as really being a mental illness, led to his being admitted to the psychiatric hospital of Siena where he stayed until 1898. Apart from some portraits few works have survived from this period.
It was not until 1906 that he began to exhibit regularly (apart from the “III Esposizione d’Arte di Livorno” in 1901, where he showed just one work, “Paese Gabbro” and he helped his father to run their small restaurant. It was only in 1907 that, by moving further away from the control of the family, he moved to Borgo Cappuccini, where he took up painting again working on small strongly-coloured paintings. He earned his living making children’s games and shop signs. In 1908 he began to make a name for himself in Leghorn and to sell his first works. He frequented the famous “Caffè Bardi” in Leghorn, a haunt of artists and writers. He painted some paneling for the cafè and this is probably where he got to know the artist Benvenuto Benvenuti and the writer Pierotti Della Sanguigna.
His still life paintings of the first decade of the 20th century show Puccini’s love of colour and visual softness while in 1911-12 a visit to his brother in Digne, in France, inspired him to paint small more soberly coloured works “Campagna a Digne” (), “Mercato dei montoni” (). In the years that followed Puccini worked steadily on exhibition works and his circle of collectors and admirers grew to include names such as Ugo Ojetti, Mario Galli and Gustavo Sforni. So he was able to overcome his early financial difficulties and from 1914, to stay in the Maremma, where he painted a lot.
On 17 June 1920, when he returned to Florence from the Maremma, he was admitted to Santa Maria Hospital where he died the day after from tuberculosis which had rapidly worsened due to overwork and long hours spent working outdoors.
Written by: Gioela Massagli – Translated by: Catherine Biggerstaff
© Studio d’Arte dell’800