Pietro Annigoni – portrait artist

A man whose name you might not know but you have likely seen his work. #PietroAnnigoni (1910-1988) was a portrait artist from Italy. His nickname was ‘the painter of queens’ for his renown came from his portraiture of royals and important personages from around the world.

He was born in Milan (1910) but spent most of his life in Florence (1920 onwards). He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and had his first solo exhibition at the age of 22. His technique was most reminiscent of the great Italian Renaissance painters. Throughout his life, he stood against modern art and other movements which arose in his life time.

The list of names whom he painted is a veritable who’s who. He has painted Queen Elizabeth II (twice), HRH Prince Phillip, Princess Margaret, Pope John XXIII, US Presidents JF Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson, the Shah and Empress of Iran, Salvatore Ferragamo, Margot Fonteyn, Julie Andrews, Rudolf Nureyev and the list goes on.

The portrait of a man’s head in my collection bears a dedication to Nicholas Eadon. It is done in #sanguine (blood on paper) which is a red-brown iron oxide chalk (hematite). Today most artists draw with conte crayon or coloured pencil but sanguine was a staple tool of the old masters especially when used on cream paper. It works wonderfully well for figure drawing. Even though Annigoni uses only the one colour, yet, he is able to evince a depth, a personality, even a mood into his portraits. They make you want to look at them.

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