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Angelo Morbelli

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Angelo Morbelli


Biographical Notes (by Dionigi Roggero)

Angelo Morbelli was born in Alessandria on July 18th, 1853, during one of the frequent transfers of his father Giovanni, born in Casale, employed as deputy minister at the superintendence of Casale. Angelo’s mother, “Giovannina” Ferraris, soon died in 1858 and left two children – Angelo and Alfredo, who completed their studies as boarders at the Somaschi Fathers priests of Casale Monferrato, where, as a matter of fact, the Morbelli Family had several estates.

Angelo Morbelli (on the left)  and the

Portrait of his father Giovanni Morbelli (on the right)

Further to a youthful auditory disease, Morbelli was forced to leave his musical interests and in 1867 he entered the Brera Academy thanks to a scholarship offered by the Alessandria’s municipality (his father was on leave with a half salary cut). He attended with profit and he succeeded in gaining plenty of acknowledgments such as the silver medal for a figure drawing. At the end of school, Morbelli started his long displaying career: his work of art soon started being known in Milan, then in the rest of Italy and finally in the main European and American cities.

During these years he lived in Milan, with the exception of few summer periods in which he spent his holidays in the countryside house situated in the Colma of Rosignano: a charming place in the Monferrato region, called “Villa Maria” in praise of the beloved Morbelli’s wife, who was always his irreplaceable locus animae. This residence was the starting point and place of arrival of a complex epistolary net, which tightly united many guests from Casale and its surroundings, among the others: Leonardo Bistolfi and Francesco Negri (who secured the memory by photographing the original Morbelli’s atelier), Pellizza da Volpedo, Giovanni Cena and the English artists: Samuel Butler and his biographer Henry Festing Jones.

Angelo Morbelli with his wife and sons

At the beginning of the ‘800s dated back the first Morbelli’s series of successes. The painter became popular with the anguished theme of the old age, depicted in the famous paintings realised inside the Pio Albergo Trivulzio in Milan. The following years Morbelli joined the group of artists close to the painter Vittore Grubicy. Grubicy worked out studies on the light and its colours, essential premises for the upcoming choice of the Pointillism, which characterises Morbelli’s unmistakeable pictorial style.

Angelo Morbelli and friends in its atelier


A brief interlude, influenced by symbolism, between the two centuries, did not take Morbelli’s mind off his growing interest for the landscape painting, which became his favourite subject in many paintings realised in the Colma of Rosignano, many of them set in “Villa Maria”. The wonderful atelier-house, where he loved to immortalize the geranium vases with the background of the beloved Monferrato hills, became the artist’s meeting place of the “new pictorial art of Pointillism”, visually recalled by the portraits of the artists such as: Segantini, Pellizza, Longoni, Bistolfi and Quadrelli, immortalized by the paintbrush of Giovanni Sottocornola.

Towards the end of his prolific life, Morbelli devoted himself to the theoretic meditations on aesthetics, carefully noted in his diary titled The Via Crucis of Pointillism. Angelo Morbelli died in Milan on November 7th, 1919.

Morbelli's art (by Giuliana Romano Bussola)

Angelo Morbelli has finally been dutifully and praiseworthy recognised among the greatest painters of the pointillism; scholars regretfully considered for too long Morbelli’s art less important as hierarchically compared to the other exponents of the movement; though each of the pointillist artists had his own personal style. Morbelli’s realism is no less important than: Previati’s dazzled decorativism, Pellizza’s proletarian mysticism or Segantini’s pantheism. As soon as fashion faded away, the social moods which influenced the taste succeeded in undermining the prejudice according which the technical skill works against art and Morbelli clearly showed not only how the pointillism rules-abiding was, which was his main creed, but also how sensitive towards the humanity he was.

2nd may 1909 - Angelo Morbelli (first on the left)

with other artists at the VIII Art Exibition  in Venice

Representative of the Verism and fatalistic in his way of seeing life, sometimes even with a light touch of scepticism, Morbelli describes the reality throughout the use of photography, without judgements, without arguing or gratifying himself; he dares not sweetening or dramatizing the reality yet Morbelli succeeds in seizing the moods and psycho logic aspects of the human nature. Some of these elements are clearly showed in the paintings of the Pio Albergo Trivulzio and also the landscape paintings where a tender twilight melancholy brings to mind feelings of participation between man and nature.

his wife Maria with little friends (coll. Lativa 2)

To the climate of philanthropy to which Morbelli clearly approaches, though in a warmer way as compared with his affectionate friend Pellizza, more active and utopian, Morbelli adds his deep love for nature. Linked to this subject, dealt with a great care in his “vecchioni e vecchine” (Old men and old women), we can seize the shift from Impressionism to Neo-Impressionism. The main outlines concerning the pure colour, the optic “melange”, the anti-academicism have been preserved, but he substitutes the fleeting impression given by the “plein air” with the reflection and the subsequent accurate and strict drawing up in study. Morbelli’s study is still intact within his summer residence situated in the Colma of Rosignano, preserved with accuracy by his heirs, where the artist spent his time with his friends and his beloved to immerse himself in the simple countryside atmosphere. In particular, the garden has been maintained untouched, the same place where Morbelli set his easel to sketch: La lezione sul prato (The lesson on the grass), I vasi di geranio (Geranium vases), Il capitello (The capital), L’ingresso alla Colma (Entrance to the Colma). In all these paintings come out not only Morbelli’s stylistic greatness but also a man who made art his main reason of life.