Telemaco Signorini was born on 18 August 1835 in Florence, the son of Giustina Santoni and Giovanni Signorini, the latter being an esteemed painter in the service of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II.
After initially studying classics, the young Telemaco turned to art, thus complying with the wishes of his father, under whose guidance he began his pictorial training. In 1852, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts, but he followed its courses listlessly, and strongly disliked the rigid style which was taught there.
As early as 1856, he left the Academy, breaking away from academic rules and turning to outdoor painting, which he practised with his friends Odoardo Borrani and Vincenzo Cabianca.
In 1855, he began to take part in the lively, animated discussions at the Caffè Michelangelo in Florence, the same year in which the artist Saverio Altamura began to experiment with light and shadow. Immersed in his painting, and feeling creatively frustrated, Signorini travelled extensively during this period. After a study trip to Venice in 1856 in the company of Vito d'Ancona, he travelled to Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, the lakes, Venice, Ferrara, and in 1859 even enrolled as a Garibaldi volunteer.
An important trip for the development of his artistic style was the one he made with Vincenzo Cabianca to La Spezia, where he visited the villages of Pitelli, San Terenzo, Vezzano Ligure, Lerici, Sarzana, Riomaggiore and the coast of the Cinque Terre. This trip gave a new impulse to his painting, endowing it with vigorous contrasts between light and shadow which put colour at the heart of the painting.
Signorini himself wrote that: "On my return to Florence, I had my first works rejected by our Sponsor (Academy of Fine Arts in Florence) for excessive use of shading and I was savaged by the newspapers as a mere painter." In the meantime, he fired off several paintings with military subjects that received a certain degree of appreciation. In 1861, with Cabianca, he painted a series of paintings with a military theme.
In 1861, Signorini went to Paris with Cabianca and Banti, where he befriended Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and Constant Troyon and became passionate about Courbet's realism. Returning to Italy, he stayed for a short period in Castiglioncello with other artists following the Macchiaioli movement and then founded the so-called "Piagentina school" with Lega and Borrani, named after the Florentine town where they used to paint outdoors, taking inspiration from nature and its poetic seasonality. During these years he painted Pazze (1865) and Novembre (1870).
In his last years Signorini went regularly to Paris, where he came into contact with Impressionist painting and its major exponents, such as Degas, Manet, and Monet, which influenced many of his works (such as Porta Adriana in Ravenna and Pioggia d'estate a Settignano). In the meantime he continued to travel tirelessly, going to the Marne and Seine areas in 1873-1874, to England and Scotland in 1881, to Naples in 1870 and 1871, but he also repeatedly visited Cenisio, Elba and above all Riomaggiore, where he worked hard to keep his artistic vision alive. He died in Florence on 10 February 1901
sue opere (come Porta Adriana a Ravenna e Pioggia d'estate a Settignano). Intanto continuò a viaggiare instancabilmente, recandosi anche nelle zone della Marna e della Senna nel 1873-1874, in Inghilterra e Scozia nel 1881, a Napoli nel 1870 e 1871, ma visitò ripetutamente anche Cenisio, l'Elba e soprattutto Riomaggiore, dove lavorò alacremente nella prospettiva di rinnovare la propria visione pittorica. Morì, infine, a Firenze il 10 febbraio 1901.