San Pietro
Augusto Giacometti (1877–1947)

Augusto Giacometti, San Pietro (St Peter), 1935, oil on canvas. MASI Lugano. Collezione Città di Lugano

Augusto Giacometti was born in Stampa, in Val Bregaglia. He spent several periods in Paris and organised numerous trips to Italy, France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Britain and North Africa, but he mostly lived in Zurich. During his artistic training he was influenced by Ferdinand Hodler and Art Nouveau. Following his fundamental encounter with the late-19th-century French modernist movements, he developed an artistic language based on the expressive potential of colour, translating reality without naturalistic intentions, but in a pure semblance of light and colour.

This painting dates from Giacometti’s final artistic phase, during which abstract works were once again flanked by figurative subjects, depicted with a new vigour, and in particular scenes of urban life and landscapes inspired by his extensive travels. He demonstrated great luministic sensitivity in the application of colour to the canvas in blurred patches, like parts of a stained-glass window, conveying the atmospheric vibration and luminosity of a sunny Mediterranean day with intense colour harmonies. Giacometti uses the harbour, trees, boats and roofs to create a fascinating composition of diagonal lines, enlivened by the contrast between the warm tones of the reds and yellows and the cool ones of the blues and purples. The painting was displayed at the annual Exhibition of the Ticino Society of Fine Arts (STBA) at the Swiss National Fair in Lugano, held from 2 to 17 October 1943, and was later purchased by the Caccia Foundation for the Museum.