SPOTLIGHT STORY

'Alpine Pasture' by Giovanni Segantini

Celebrate the artist's birthday by taking a closer look at this dazzling artwork

The painting you see here, Alpine Pasture, is Segantini's last monumental alpine scene from his time in the Savognin region of Graubünden in Eastern Switzerland. To capture this remote lake the artist hiked for several hours each day to the location!

It's curious that he chose to present the lake within a vast space, which is quite unlike the actual spot. Segantini however combines all these elements in a majestic, almost cosmic, view of the world.

ALPINE PASTURE, 1838-39 by Giovanni Segantini (collection: Kunsthaus Zürich)

Fractures of light and shadow emphasize the horizontal format of the composition. A mountain crest bathed in sunlight runs along the entire width and conveys the impression of infinity – and at the same time the insignificance of human beings. The harshness and rigors of nature are reflected in the figure of the exhausted young shepherd, and vibrating heath spreads over animals and vegetation.

Segantini achieved the sensuous impression with his own painterly technique, which he evolved under the influence of the Divisionist theories. In this late impressionist method the palette is restricted to basic colors or divided into complementary contrasting colors. The paint is then applied as distinct dots, which you can see by zooming into the painting in Gigapixel here. The blending color effect only occurs when the picture is viewed from a distance.

The long threads of pure colour which Segantini combined, give the motive a sensuous materiality. 
The addition of gold and silver, for instance in the hair of the shepherd boy, heightens the impression of crystalline light in the thin air. 

The painter Giovanni Segantini had an impoverished and joyless childhood. He had barely turned eight before both his parents died. For a while, he lived with relatives in Milan, then he was sent to a community home. That was where a teacher first recognized and encouraged his talent. Yet it was only with great difficulty that Segantini managed to train as a painter. He did receive recognition and encouragement as a young artist in Milan, but it wasn’t until he moved to the mountainous region of Graubünden in Switzerland in 1886, then to Engadin in 1894, that he discovered the subjects that were closest to his heart.

HIGH NOON IN THE ALPS, 1892 by Giovanni Segantini (collection: Ohara Museum of Art)

From that time onwards Segantini devoted himself, far from the city, to the basic rhythms of the life of mountain folks, their animals and the magnificent mountains.

Continue exploring Segantini's work here.

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