The ancestor

Italo De Grandi
Gouache on paper | 69 x 29.5 cm
Period 1929-1939 : Juvenile Impetus
Imaginary | Portrait
Inventory IDG_913 | Private collection
Photo : L'Atelier De Grandi

Artistic features


Imaginary portrait of a grandfather against a backdrop of hillside vineyards

Probably inspired by Italo's maternal grandfather, who wore the same imposing moustache.


Overlay | Diving

The central figure in the foreground is superimposed on the hills in the background.
The horizon placed very low magnifies the character by projecting him high into the sky.


Gouache on paper

In this early work, Italo, with his strong background as a chromo-lithographer, who was used to engraving colours one by one on stone and their successive superimposition effects, chose gouache precisely for its covering properties. His use of Cangiante, a Venetian Renaissance technique, is proof of this. It consists of creating volume effects by superimposing a light hatched variation of the basic tone of the object; here clearly visible in the folds of trousers or jacket.


Palette 10 colours The Ancestor
Dominant: 9198662

The clear contrast between earthy colours and airy tones reinforces the character's position in an idealized environment. The use of separate, adjacent or superimposed hatching and flat strokes further accentuates this contrast, in the manner of a Staccato in music.



A global light includes almost multi-directional, almost shadow-free lighting. In this imaginary portrait, everything is visible in broad daylight. The mystery does not lie in the shadows or the blurring of shapes: it emanates from this light that is as global as it is all-encompassing.



1929-1939 : Juvenile Impetus

A steady hand and life ahead of you open up all the prospects that are invigorated by the advent of innovative artistic currents. This is the time of freedom and daring. Full-length portraits, allegories tinged with symbolism and futurism, depicting thoughtful, even ecstatic characters, celebrating cultivated nature, friendship and family, in a kind of mysticism of immanence.

Artistic current:

Surrealism, even New Objectivity, against the backdrop of the Italian Renaissance

Confronted, particularly during their stay in Paris, with surrealism and other questions of form and colour, Italo, like Vincent in a more dreamlike way, prefers to celebrate the reality of the world rather than engage in its deconstruction according to the concepts and aesthetics of modernity. On the contrary, he worships reality and tries to grasp its mystery through an original and virtuous practice of painting, characteristics close to the New Objectivity, although in deliberately Latin forms, resurfacing from his passion for the Italian Renaissance.

Related artists:

Masaccio, De Chirico, Magritte

Masaccio for the simplicity of the character: he is neither an aristocrat nor a prelate, but a man of the earth, very modest in spite of his Sunday dress.
Giorgio De Chirico for his immobility and his timeless bath of light.
René Magritte for the audacity of the composition, magnifying the surreal disproportion of its elements.

Historical events:

The Popular Front in France, the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany

The character in this imaginary portrait lies between these two extremes: he imposes his dignity by his calm and stature, carrying the wisdom of his gaze far above the daily vicissitudes, outside of political gesticulations.

Social facts:

Depression after the 1929 spit and invasion of fascist propaganda

In this period of extreme insecurity, Italo and Vincent will return to their roots, to their roots: Italy, its culture and customs.
In 1934, they make a stay in Florence, where they absorb and digest all the artistic abundance of the Renaissance, deeply. This rediscovered knowledge enabled them, once back in the reactionary artistic context of French-speaking Switzerland, to create an original and modern, though rather figurative, painting, escaping the reactionary and fascist sirens, as well as the protectionist withdrawal into the values of the Waldensian terroir, for example by presenting here a vineyard in parchment similar to the Lavaux, but in the form of Piedmontese hills, bathed in Mediterranean light.

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The ancestor