Luigi Levi (alias Ulvi Liegi) was born in Leghorn into a well-off Jewish family. He first studied art with Carlo Markò and Luigi Corsi. At the beginning of the 80’s he moved to Florence in order to continue studying at the Academy. He became the friend and admirer of Telemaco Signorini and, later, of Giovanni Fattori, he was a visitor at Tommasi’s home in Bellariva. In 1882 he started his career with eight paintings at the “Società di Incoraggiamento delle Belle Arti”, and was fairly successful. During the 80’s he adopted the style of the Macchiaioli. In 1886 he exhibited at the First Exhibition of Leghorn Art that was held in the famous Pancaldi spa building. That same year he went on his first trip to Paris and on the advice of Telemaco Signorini, met Federico Zandomeneghi, who was exhibiting at the eighth and final exhibition of the Impressionists in Rue Lafitte.

Following his stay in Paris, he visited London where in 1888 he exhibited at the First Italian Exhibition, a year later at the Slade School Exhibition. In 1889 Signorini was given the job of choosing the works to be sent to the Universal Exhibition of Paris. He chose two of Liegi’s landscapes: “Dintorni a Firenze” (Area around Florence) and “La sera” (Evening). The same year Liegi painted “La modellina” (Female model) – Florence, “Galleria d’Arte Moderna” -, a work that marks the start of the Impressionist language that he became familiar with in France, a style that was to be the hallmark of his works in the 90’s, whilst retaining a completely personal, Tuscan style. From 1890 to 1895 he took part every year in the exhibitions of the Florentine Società delle Belle Arti and, from 1895, settled in Florence, spending the summers in Liguria. Indeed in 1896 his contribution to the Genoa “Promotrice” consisted of four landscapes that he painted between Versilia and the Ligurian coast. In 1904 has was among the supporters of the secessionist show at Palazzo Corsini in Florence.

He spent 1906 in Valsugana painting vividly coloured mountain landscapes and got to know Ardengo Soffici. In 1913 he began exhibiting again taking part in the 2nd Exhibition of Leghorn Art. In 1918 he held his first personal exhibition in Florence, at the “Galleria Mario Galli”. During the 20’s Liegi contributed to the production of “The Leghorn Group”, formed in 1920 of which he was life president. Alongside the exhibitions of the Leghorn group at the “Galleria Pesaro” in Milan, in 1928 he started to regularly take part in the Venice Biennial. But in spite of this active participation in exhibitions and the recognition of art critics in 1939 he died in poverty and solitude.

Written by: Gioela Massagli – Translated by: Catherine Biggerstaff

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