A Boat on Lake Maggiore
oil on canvas • 103 x 58,5 cm
This work from late in the artist’s career shows the gulf of Lake Maggiore as seen from a boat, with a woman leaning out to enjoy the view of the Madre island and the Baveno shore. The interest in places near Colma di Monferrato was hugely connected with their new popularity with the prosperous middle classes as holiday resorts. In this painting, the woman on a boat trip is an explicit reference to one of the most common pastimes during these holidays. The new approach to the view was the result of a series of studies carried out by Morbelli with the aid of photography, in accordance with a creative procedure that characterises his work as a whole. This is something he shared with his friend Giuseppe Pellizza, who also undertook careful investigations of light and its pictorial rendering through the technique of Divisionism. In particular, the female figure is the mirror image of the young woman in the same pose and clothing to be seen in a photograph in the painter’s archives, taken in the early years of the 20th century.The sophisticated effect of backlighting is obtained through the application of separate strokes of white, pink and blue to recreate the dazzling shimmer of the sun on the waters of the lake in contrast to the penumbra of the boat. The tricolour flag fluttering in the breeze on the left is probably a patriotic touch, as the work dates from the year during World War I when Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire.