Sea Shore in Lazio

Giulio Aristide SARTORIO

Rome 1860 – 1932

Sea Shore in Lazio, c. 1902–8

Pastel on paper, 27,5 x 48,5 cm

Signed lower centre: G. A. Sartorio

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If it were not for the absence of peaks over the horizon, the setting would look very much like that of the same stretch of Lazio coast as the Monte Circello (1909), and indeed it might well be one of the first ideas for that picture.
Just as he was in the large painting in the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, so here too Sartorio is struck first and foremost by the light and manages to capture the changeable nature of the weather. He conveys this in masterly fashion through a technique that seems at times almost textural and at times transparent. In the foreground we see the beach, the paint lumpy and rough where the sand is drier at the top and smooth where it is wetter, closer to the sea where we can make out darker lines indicating the traces left on the shore by waves that have just withdrawn, their caps conveyed with rapid, skilled touches of white. The waves are whipped up by the wind until they appear to be almost in relief, while the line of the horizon meets a misty cloud, furrowed by a small sail in the distance.
In its immediacy, this small pastel effectively points up Sartorio’s interest in the landscape, an interest he developed after 1889 when he attended the Exposition Universelle in Paris (where he showed a large canvas entitled The Sons of Cain [1887–9] which won him the gold medal) and visited an exhibition devoted to the painters of the Barbizon School in the company of Francesco Paolo Michetti. That was the first occasion on which Sartorio reflected on landscape’s potential for expression, a theme that he had tended until that moment to consider of minor importance.
Treasuring this initial encounter, Sartorio began to explore the pastel technique in greater depth in the course of that same summer when he was Michetti’s guest in Francavilla and accompanied him to paint out in the open, an experience which he recalled thus many years later: “I went to Francavilla and that was when I began to paint the landscape. One morning we had gone out early and the countryside beneath the dew sparkled like a sea of gemstones in the rising sun. – How beautiful! – It is as beautiful as the nudes that I paint in the light of my studio but the spectacle here is more spontaneous. – What a shame that I do not have my paints with me. – Here, take my box of pastels. That was how I became a landscape artist1.
Thereafter Sartorio, who was to later paint the huge frieze in Parliament in (1908–12), pursued his exploration of the countryside theme, following the example also of Nino Costa with whom he showed his work in the 1890s with In Arte Libertas, the partnership between the two painters aiming to re-establish the importance of painting freely in nature to produce a living, anti-academic art. From 1904, with the group of the “XXV of the Roman Countryside”, Sartorio chose the Roman countryside and sea shore as his prime source of inspiration, “showing us the countryside as it really is, without rhetorical embellishment or romantic embroidery2, Diego Angeli was later to write when presenting the painter’s one-man show at the Venice Biennale of 1914, where he showed fully eighty words depicting the countryside around Rome.


  1. A. Sartorio, Letter to Tomaso Sillani dated 5 October 1930, in Tomaso Sillani, Francesco Paolo Michetti, Milan, 1932 (now in Giulio Aristide Sartorio: il realismo plastico fra sentimento ed intelletto, Orvieto, Palazzo Coelli, 8 May – 18 July 2005, ed. Pier Andrea De Rosa, Paolo Emilio Trastulli, Rome, 2005, pp. 207-208)
  2. Diego Angeli, Mostra individuale di G.A. Sartorio. La campagna romana, in XI Esposizione Internazionale d’arte della città di Venezia, 15 April – 31 October 1914, n.p., Venice, 1914, p. 78


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