Girolamo Pieri Nerli was an Italian painter who worked and travelled in Australia and New Zealand in the late 19th century. He influenced Charles Conder and Frances Hodgkins and helping to move Australian and New Zealand art in new directions.
Nerli caused quite a stir in Australia by exhibiting paintings which were considered risqué or even immoral. The general public were excited by their subjects, but the art world was equally excited by their brushwork and unfinished appearance. When the artist moved on to Dunedin in 1893, the city’s art circles were clearly in for a change.
Nerli encouraged his students to look beyond the limitations of New Zealand art to the innovativeness of Europe. Among these students was Frances Hodgkins, who later became one of New Zealand’s most famous expatriate artists. Nerli encouraged her to concentrate on figure studies like The Girl with the Flaxen Hair. His influence can be seen in the fluid watercolour handling of the subject and the unfinished sketch-like character of the painting.
In 1896, Nerli suddenly moved to Auckland where he opened a studio and exhibited his work. In 1898, he married Marie Cecilia Josephine Barron, and immediately after their marriage the couple sailed for Australia. They never returned to New Zealand, although from time to time Nerli sent back paintings for exhibition. Eventually, he went back to Europe with Marie. The last years of his life were a struggle with poverty as he tried to rebuild his declining reputation. He died in Italy in 1926.
‘Hyde Park Promenade’ by Girolamo Pieri Nerli on display at Jonathan Grant Gallery. For more information please visit our website.