Artists Past and Present:
Adolfo de Carolis (1874 - 1926)
Adolfo de Carolis was born in Montefiore dell’Aso on the 6th of January 1874. He was the son of the local doctor, and, after local schooling, was sent to study at the Academy of Fine Art in Bologna. In 1892 he was awarded a scholarship to attend a specialist course in decorative painting at the ‘Museo Artistico Industriale’ in Rome, where he won the gold medal.
He moved to Rome and was accepted as a member of the exclusive society ‘In Arte Libertas’ (Freedom in Art’) which had been founded by his close friend Giovanni (‘Nino’) Costa. This society opposed official styles promoted by the academies and influential art critics of the day and espoused the politics, philosophy and aesthetics of the British Pre-Raphaelite movement.
The main figures in the British movement were William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Crane. These groups were also almost certainly involved with the Freemasons, and much of the symbolism in their work have been identified as Masonic.
The principles of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood were:
1. to have genuine ideas to express
2. to study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them
3. to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote
4. most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues
De Carolis exhibited work at the In Arte Libertas annual exhibition right up to 1901.
De Carolis was an artistic polymath, working as a painter (in particular of murals), interior designer, decorator, xylographer (wood engraver), illustrator and photographer, and is probably the best known exponent of Art Nouveau in Italy.
He was commissioned to produce murals for the Villa Brancadoro in San Benedetto del Tronto, and the ballroom of the Palazzo della Provincia (both in Ascoli Piceno). He also decorated the great hall of the Palazzo del Podestà in Bologna with murals. He designed the Baptismal Font at the Cathedral of Ajaccio, and contributed decoration and murals in many other illustrious edifices around Italy, as well as supervising restoration work in the Borgia apartments in the Vatican. He is also known for his stained glass and mosaics at the Villa Puccini in Torre del Lago.
His talent and originality was quickly recognised by two of the greatest Italian writers and poets of the day, Gabriele D'Annunzio and Giovanni Pascoli, and he became their preferred illustrator. Among his most popular works were many illustrations for Gabriele d'Annunzio's novels (Il Notturno, La figlia di Jorio) and Giovanni Pascoli‘s books of poems.
In 1908 his work was described by a panel of judges in Bologna as ‘magnificent, full of evocative fervour, rich in imagination, and secure in the unity of the whole work’. In the backgrounds of many of his paintings it is possible to recognise the typical landscape of le Marche, which he loved so much.
As well as his major works, in his later years he also designed bank notes, theatrical sets, posters, calendars, postcards, advertisements and even product labels. He also wrote essays on art and, from 1922, worked as a teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. After world war 1 he was employed by the Ministry of War to design medals and certificates for war heroes.
He died in Rome on the 7th of February 1928, but, in 1950, his mortal remains were returned to Montefiore by the then mayor, Francesco Egidi, and re-interred in a marble tomb in the church of San Francesco.
And ten years later Egidi donated a series De Carolis’ oil sketches for the ‘Salone del Podestà’ in Bologna (the most prestigious public building in the city) which he worked on for over twenty years, between 1908 and 1928. The De Carolis family also donated the complete collection of engravings on wood (xylography) in 1976.
The Carolis room at the ‘Polo Museale di San Francesco’ Museum in Montefiore displays a total of five hundred of his finest works of art.
Phone: 39 0734 938743
Adolfo De Carolis with his wife Lina in his studio, Florence 1909
Adolfo De Carolis with his daughter Donella, Florence 1909