Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pietro Annigoni: Portrait Masterclass

Pietro Annigoni (1956) Pen and China Ink portrait of Mrs. J. L. Vernon
You'd be forgiven for thinking that this was a portrait of Betty Draper from Mad Men. It's from the same time period alright, but there's something about the line-work that is truly timeless. Pietro Annigoni's portrait of Mrs. Vernon clearly demonstrates his virtuoso draughtsmanship and is a testament to his deserved popularity.

There are three distinct techniques here that blend seamlessly: The clothing is treated so roughly it looks more like a bark rubbing than a drawing, and is combined with loose calligraphic lines that define the folds in the broadest of strokes. The hair is tighter, yet still loosely hatched and defined with lines that resemble a woodcut. His third and most refined technique is reserved for the main area of focus, and demands our attention with the most subtle shifts in value. You can see the same techniques applied to his paintings too.

Ever since I came across a dusty old book of Pietro Annigoni's paintings and drawings I've been hooked. He had some killer soundbites too, so without further ado here are some of my favorite portraits along with quotes from the maestro himself.

 "Ineptitude has today, it seems, acquired full rights of citizenship
in the realm of art."

"Truly, contemporary society is at once the slave and victim of the boundless liberty it has drawn upon itself.
As far as Art is concerned, the image comes to mind
of a great raft drifting in a sea,
without a landing place and without a course."

"Impulse alone does not make a work of art."

 "I had recourse to a dictionary of synonyms,
and there I found "deformed" in the company with such terms as 
"ugly, foul, loathsome, obscene," 
and read moreover that 
"to deform is to make something ugly in form."


  1. Coud you tell me the name of the book with those beautiful images or could you post a photo of the cover of the book. Thanks

  2. I also would be interested in the source of these images.

    Do you know if he primarily used carbon, graphite or charcoal?

    Thanks for your time.

    1. He was multimedia.... Pen & Ink draw/wash Charcoal, watercolor

  3. I have a Pietro Annigoni portrait that I can not find on any of the websites, he was supposedly friends with this young woman and he drew her picture with red chalk and presented to her, how could I find the value?

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  5. do you know the name of the subject in the third portrait? I look exactly like her...