Giuseppe Abbati was born on January 1, 1836 in Naples, Italy. He was the son of Vincenzo Abbati, a painter known for his depictions of interiors at the court of the Duchess of Berry. While in Venice, Abbati studied at the Academy with Grigoletti. He returned to Naples in 1853 and followed in his father’s footsteps---painting interiors. In 1860, Abbati fought for unification with Garibaldi’s troops in Sicily. He was wounded in battle and lost his right eye in the attack of Capua.
That same year, Abbati settled in Florence and became involved with the movement, “I Macchiaioli”. He eventually embraced their commitment to outdoor painting. In 1861, he entered two paintings of interiors in the National Exposition and was awarded a medal. In protest over the jury, he refused the medal. After the Exposition, at the encouragement of the other members of the Macchiaioli, Abbati gave up painting interior scenes in his studio. He adopted the interests of the group and sketched directly from life all’aperto (out-of-doors). His small works painted in the following years are exquisite examples of outdoor paintings that truly stand with the best of the French Impressionists.
Because of his training, Abbati excelled at architecture and light falling across natural surfaces---such as wood and stone. Many of the scenes he painted were concerned with the contrasts between interior and exterior light sources. It was Abbati’s belief that white and black were extremes that rarely appeared in nature as you see them on a palette. Because of this belief, Abbati used white and black sparingly. In his paintings, Abbati controlled the sense of light with a selective range of tones and a controlled gradation of color.
On February 21, 1868, Abbati was bitten by his dog and died in Florence of rabies. He was only 32 years old.
The Macchiaioli Italian Painters of the Nineteenth CenturyNorma Broude
Yale University Press 1987
Each artist proceeds empirically, trying hard to reproduce his own impressions of nature, and gradually he develops his own color range and tonality, an endeavor which is a completely individual, and a completely personal one.~ Giuseppe Abbati