Giuseppe de Nittis, born 1846 in Italy, was the ‘Italian Impressionist’ or nowadays, perhaps, the ‘Forgotten Impressionist’. Despite exhibiting in the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874 and despite his great talent, today he is little known outside of specialist art circles.
De Nittis settled in Paris in 1868, became friends with Degas and Manet, and displayed work in that first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, partly because Degas felt that the presence of this by then successful artist would make it harder for critics to dismiss it as an exhibition of rejects. During his subsequent career he moved between Paris, London and Italy, and enjoyed much commercial success.
Although de Nittis painted a wide range of landscapes and scenes of city life, women were a favourite subject and appeared in various settings – in parks, on walks, at the races or in the salons. He also became an enthusiast for Japonisme, which was beginning to be popular among the Impressionists. These two themes are combined in the painting ‘The Orange Kimono’.
In The Orange Kimono, the elegant model turns her back on the viewer, forcing our eyes to focus on the sumptuous colours and flowing fabric of the kimono. The indistinct green and cream background serves to highlight even more the eye-popping orange of the robe. With this painting, de Nittis shares something of the boldness characteristic of his friends Degas and Manet.
Just a few months before his death, de Nittis painted one of his most popular and technically accomplished works – Breakfast in The Garden, showing his wife and son sharing a meal. The following detail from the painting shows de Nittis’ superb handling of light and colour:
Giuseppe de Nittis died suddenly of a stroke in August 1884, at the age of just 38.