Portrait of an Artist

“Annigoni was not only the greatest painter of the twentieth century but his works rank with the most celebrated paintings of all time” ~ Bernard Berenson

This is the story of the life and times of the last century’s most famous portrait painter, Italian master Pietro Annigoni. This award-winning, critically acclaimed film follows the journey of Annigoni. From his artistic birth in Florence, to the height of his world fame and fortune. Annigoni pursued his own path, standing alone against the forces of modernism in art. He was an enigmatic character, a generous bohemian, a drinker, a fighter, a womanizer and the world’s most powerful and celebrated people sought him out for portraits. Pietro Annigoni was once called the painter of beautiful women, but chose instead to be the painter of beggars.

Annigoni: Portrait of an Artist reveals many of Pietro Annigoni’s previously unseen paintings and for the first time, the unveiling of a lost fresco masterpiece!


For the years we were working in Florence and immersed in Pietro Annigoni’s world, it became hard to imagine that “abstract” or modern painting ever existed.

We were surrounded by the last faithful students of Annigoni and it was like stepping back in time. The old artists most of whom work in studios that have been artist studios since the 1700’s, continue to carry on in the ancient “workshop” tradition, passing down their knowledge to next younger generation of painters. Today these artists not only survive but prosper as portrait painters, in perhaps the only city in the world where this is still possible.

Many contemporary Florentine artists continue to be stifled or overwhelmed by the weight of Florence’s history. But for Pietro Annigoni and his followers this is their inspiration. To quote from the maestro, “It is the duty of every artist to strive to say something new with an old language”

As the pendulum of art criticism swings back, the importance of narrative and figurative painting once again asserts itself. And with each passing year the legend of Pietro Annigoni grows.

Our hope is that this film, Annigoni: Portrait of an Artist will renew interest in the work and ideas of this great artist. ~ Stephen Peter Smith

  • Pietro Annigoni born on June 7, 1910 in Milan, Italy.
  • As a child he shows early promise in drawing. His father said, “You will become a great artist.”
  • 1925 – Family moves to Florence.
  • 1927 – Enrols in the Accademia de Bella Arti.
  • Annigoni’s first love was art. In those days he was a “young man mad about drawing.”
  • 1932 – First one man show of paintings and drawings at the Palazzo Ferroni, Florence
  • 1934 – Sold out show in Galleria Botti – portraits of prominent Florentines.
  • 1937 – Starts first major fresco – Convent of San Marco, Florence – “Desent from the Cross” and “Death of Abel.”
  • Travels extensively throughout Italy and Europe.
  • 1945 – Commissioned by the British Fine Arts Office to sketch the destruction of Florence.
  • 1949 – Exhibits numerous self portaits in London at the Royal Academy where his work causes a stir among artists and art lovers.
  • Mid 50’s – Starts commissions from notable society figures: Lord Moran; Juliana Forbes; The Duchess of Devonshire.
  • 1956 – Commissioned to paint what became Annigoni’s most famous portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Receives an enormous amount of publicity worldwide. The portrait and Annigoni achieve tremendous fame.
  • The portrait exploited on commonwealth currency and postage stamps around the world.
  • Annigoni becomes world famous. He travels around the world.
  • Paints the rich and famous – Margot Fonteyn; Princess Elena Corsini; Princess Margaret; Prince Philip; The Queen Mother; The Maharanee of Jaipur; John F. Kennedy; Pope John XXIII. etc.
  • He uses his new found wealth to pursue his first love frescoes. He paints monumental religious narratives at:
    — Cathedral of San Antonio in Padua
    — San Michele Arcangelo in Ponte Buggianese
    — San Marco in Florence
    — San Martino in Castagno.
  • Annigoni’s work hangs in:
    — The Vatican, Rome
    — The Uffizi Gallery, Florence
    — The Museum of Modern Art, New York
    The National Portrait Gallery, London.
  • Annigoni dies in Florence in 1988.
  • 1992 Annigoni is given a state funeral and is interned to his final resting place in San Miniato overlooking his beloved Florence.