Born in Naples in 1839 he spent the first 25 years of his life growing up and studying art in Italy. By 1855 Perugini had made the acquaintance of the great British Neo-Classical artist Frederic Leighton who was traveling and studying on the Continent. A strong friendship developed between the two and Leighton took the young artist under his wing… giving him great encouragement and financial support.
By the late 1850’s Perugini left for England – accompanied by Leighton. Upon his arrival he worked in Leighton’s studio, but soon set up his own atelier and by 1863, the year he exhibited his first work at the Royal Academy, he was living and working at 13 Sutherland Terrace. Through Leighton’s social connections the young Italian artist gained access to many of the wealthy patrons in England, enabling him to achieve great financial success. His works were admired and collected by many and he received favorable remarks from the critics. A writer for the Art Journal of 1874 made the following comments about the work he exhibited at the Royal Academy that year:
There is much grace showing itself in A Cup of Tea, as well in the carefully drawn figure of a lady who sips the cup of tea as in the general harmony of color secured for the whole composition. Mr. Perugini understands the sense of rich effect in setting the creamy tints next the flesh, and in banishing almost entirely the colder colors.
Among his many acquaintances was Kate Dickens (1839-1929), the daughter of Charles Dickens. Kate, an artist herself, was married to the historical painter Charles Allston Collins and their marriage lasted until Collins’ death in 1873. Soon after, her friendship with Perugini blossomed and the two artists were married.
Throughout his career, Perugini continued to paint portraits and genre paintings that displayed his love for the ancient times in Greece and Rome and a great influence from Leighton and his fellow Neo-Classical artists. Among his most notable works are: Pompeian Interior (RA, 1870); Fresh Lavender (RA, 1878); Dolce far Niente (RA, 1882); Pandora (RA, 1893); A Willing Slave (RA, 1900) and The Green Lizard (RA, 1902).
Graves, Algernon, The Royal Academy of Arts, S.R. Publishers, Ltd., London, 1970.
Waters, Grant M., Dictionary of British Artists Working 1900-1950, Eastbourne Fine Art, 1975.
Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of British Art, Volume IV – Victorian Painters, Antique Collectors Club, 1991.
Waters, Clara & Hutton, Laurence, Artists of the Nineteenth Century and Their Works, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston & New York, 1894.
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