Adolfo De Carolis (Biographical details)

Adolfo De Carolis (printmaker; painter/draughtsman; Italian; Male; 1874 - 1928)

Also known as

De Carolis, Adolfo; Carolis, Adolfo de


Text from Martin Hopkinson, 'Italian Prints 1875-1975', BMP, 2007
Born at Montefiore dell' Aso near Ascoli Piceno, De Carolis (sometimes spelt De Karolis) studied from 1888 at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna, before transferring to the Museo Artistico Industriale in Rome, where he studied under Alessandro Morani at the school of pictorial decoration. Between 1895 and 1897, De Carolis assisted Morani in the decoration of the Villa Blanc, Villa Manzi, and Palazzo Vidoni, as well as in restoration work in the Borgia apartments in the Vatican. During this period, he met Giovanni Costa, and in 1897 became a member of In Arte Libertas, the artistic group in Rome that Costa had founded in 1885. Also in 1897, De Carolis began painting a decorative cycle in the Villa Brancadoro, San Benedetto del Tronto, which took him seven years to complete.
Shortly before his appointment in 1900 as Professor of Ornamental Design at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Adolfo De Carolis made his first known woodcut. Two of the greatest Italian writers and poets of the day, Gabriele D'Annunzio and Giovanni Pascoli, swiftly appreciated his talent, and he became their preferred illustrator. Among the D'Annunzio books, for which De Carolis executed woodcuts, were 'Laudi di Cielo' of 1903, 'La Figlia di Jorio' of 1904, and 'Il Notturno' of 1917. De Carolis also frequently contributed illustrations to the journals, 'Marzocco', 'Leonardo', 'Hermes', 'Rivista Marchigiana Illustrata', 'Novissima', and 'Il Regn'o. His most significant individual prints were a series of four woodcuts that he devoted to the life of the sea in 1908.
A pioneer in the revival of the chiaroscuro woodcut, De Carolis studied the early sixteenth century prints of Ugo da Carpi and his followers. His interest in Renaissance woodblock printmaking also led him to admire British illustration and book production of the late nineteenth century. De Carolis was well versed in the products of William Morris' Kelmscott Press, as well as in the Englishman's model, the 'Hypnerotomachia Polifili'. From these he derived his keen interest in typography and mise en page, as well as in the Renaissance revival style. Rossetti, Burne - Jones and Albert Moore, were among the artists whom he admired. We do not know if De Carolis saw the chiaroscuro woodcuts of Charles Shannon, but he was certainly aware of the books of the Vale Press. Dürer, Botticelli and Michelangelo, were among the other artists to influence his work. In 'La xilografia', his treatise of 1924, De Carolis refers to the early nineteenth century Berlin printmaker, Wilhelm Unger (1775-1855). It may be that the mid century revival of the chiaroscuro woodcut by German artists, such as August Gaber, was also known to him. De Carolis also studied antique sculpture, and the Cinquecento engravings of Jacopo Caraglio, as well as prints after Rosso Fiorentino and Baccio Bandinelli.
De Carolis was the key figure in the revival of interest in woodcut in Italy in the early twentieth century, and exerted a powerful influence on the next generation of printmakers, none of whom, however, achieved the quality of his work. He was in part responsible for the organization of major exhibitions of Italian prints in London in 1916 and in Paris in 1922. De Carolis acknowledged his debt to Pierre Gusman's 1916 'La gravure sur bois et sur l'épargne sur métal du XIV au XX siècle', when writing his own treatise on the woodcut. In this enterprise, he was assisted by the printmaker and mural painter, Romeo Musa (1882-1960). De Carolis also wrote articles on art for a number of journals between 1896 and 1923.
Adolfo De Carolis was a phenomenonally successful mural painter. Among his most important works were his pictures of 1907 - 08 for the ballroom of the Palazzo della Provincia in Ascoli Piceno, and his decoration of the Salone of the Palazzo del Podestà in Bologna, the result of his success in a competition in 1908, which led him in 1910 to settle in that city. De Carolis began work on the Salone in 1911, and at his death he was still working on these murals with a team of assistants. For part of this time, De Carolis was also working on decorations for the Great Hall of the University of Pisa, a project which lasted from 1916 to 1920. Other murals that he painted were for the Sala Consiliare of the Palazzo della Provincia di Arezzo, and for chapels in the Collegiata di San Ginesio, Macerata and San Francesco, Padua. De Carolis also designed stained glass and mosaics for the Villa Puccini at Torre del Lago. His pre-eminence in the field of mural painting was recognized by his appointment as Professor of Decoration at the Accademia di Brera in Milan in 1915, and to the equivalent positions in Bologna and Rome in 1917 and 1922.