Biography of Adolfo Scalpelli
His parents desired he will become a good artisan and he was interested to the figurative arts. Hence, it was enrolled to the technical schools, that he frequented with good results. In 1902, Ettore Roesler Franz, that had established to Tivoli his second residence buying the house of Onorato Carlandi, knew him at Villa of Este (you can see a picture above). In a shor time, Ettore acknowledged the good abilities of the young and recommended to the family of Adolfo to let him become his pupil. So, Scalpelli, taking advantage of the lessons of Ettore, started to learn with great humility and constancy the first notions of the painting, “stealing” little by little the secrets of the work of the great watercolorist. Ettore was prodigal of suggestions and recommendations also in the abundant corrispondance between them.
A tenacious training, careful to the teachings of his teacher and to the suggestions of the nature, gave to the young painter, in a few years, enviable help and safety. Scalpelli learned patiently the rudiments of the work and copied for a long time the models that the teacher submitted him, with pencil, pen, charcoal and crayon, contemporarily venturing himself with subjects studied in the reality. The most recurrent themes in the watercolors of the student and his teacher are landscapes representing views in Rome (the ruins on the Appian Way, the aqueduct Claudio, the Chair of the Devil, Acqua Traversa, the Tevere at the doors of the Capital, the Roman countryside and the swamps in Maccarese and Villa d’Este in Tivoli.
As professor Renato Mammucari remembers, already in 1906, when he was eighteen years old, he opened the study in Via di Porta Pinciana 30, and began to expose with the Society of the Amateurs and Students both in Rome and in Turin. In 1907, the year when Ettore died, he was admitted in the Acquarellistis actually exposing uninterruptedly in the shows of the Association.
Adolfo Scalpelli inherited for will from his teacher “all the utensils for the painting both found in my study to Rome or found in my apartment in Tivoli; all of my books that have connection to the art and the artists, all the sketches, photos etc. (I excluded complete watercolors or pictures) of my hand ore other artists’ hand not having any commercial value; I desire that they will give to him, if he desires to hold them as profits for his/her study.” It gave besides him piano “Yot Schreck and C.” which was in Tivoli and “clock with gold pencil that usual son to bring”, as well as the sum of 3.000 liras “to face his difficult career”. Besides that, Ettore Roesler Franz imposed to his relatives to purchase from Adolfo Scalpelli “one or more works for the sum of 1.500 liras for four consecutive years, starting from the first anniversary from the death”. And he specified that the jobs so purchased had to be ownership of the Roesler Franz family, because “these purchases must be made in order to encourage, therefore in the choice of the works you must considered the reason of my legacy”. Finally, he underlined that “if, at the time of my death, my student was not established in a personal office yet, I beg my Heir to assist him in the best way to this purpose. I desire that all of this that I have given to my student will freely be given to him and without tax of whatever sort”.
In 1910, the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III purchased one landscape of him. Scalpelli, then, move in 1913 to Paris, where he frequented the Academie Carrée di Rue du Départ, absorbing the lesson of the Impressionists, without “betraying” the teachings of Roesler Franz, from which however, as justly Charles Bernoni annotates, already for his nature he was detached for the densest colors.
Left for the First World War, Scalpelli fought to the front as sottotenente of the 248° Regiment Infantry of the Brigade Girgenti and it was conferred him the Cross of St. George (imperial Russian decoration equivalent to our silver medal to the military valor). He died at 29 years on the plateau of the Bainsizza.
In 1918, one year after his death, the king and the queen, inaugurating in 1918 the exposure of the Amateurs and Students, purchased 3 of his last jobs.
Just for his premature disappearance their works are rather rare. The last exhibition of his pictures together with those of his teacher – about forty of works – was held in the Gallery of art of the Roman antiquary Alessio Ponti from November 18 to December 23 rd 2004, allowing to admire for the first time the unpublished works of these two artists, representing of the studies from the reality.
Bibliography of Adolfo Scalpelli
Carlo Bernoni on Quaderno n. 1 – 1984 of Municipality of Tivoli and on the catalog of 2004’s exhibition.
Exhibitions of Adolfo Scalpelli during his life
– 1909, 1910 e 1915 Association of Watercolorist of Rome;
– 1914 Venice Biennale.
Here are some pictures of him and his self-portrait: