Nincheri: An Italian-Canadian Treasure
Nincheri is arguably one of Canada’s most important artists
because he contributed so significantly to our national culture.
a stained-glass artist and fresco painter, devoted much of his life
to creating religious art. His work can be seen in over 220 churches
and other secular sites across Canada and the United States. In
fact, Ottawa is home to four of his beautifully decorated churches:
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ste. Theresa Church, St. Patrick’s
Basilica and St. Anthony’s
Church. Saint Aémlie, one of his many churches in Quebec,
has 1500 square metres of frescoes, possibly one of the largest
single fresco surfaces ever painted by a single man.
Nincheri (1885-1973) was born in Prato, Tuscany, and studied painting,
drawing and architecture in Florence for 12 years at the Academy
of Fine Arts. In 1914, he and his wife immigrated to Montreal, where
he soon opened an art studio.
of Nincheri’s early work was done in frescoes, or “affresco”
in Italian. He was instrumental in introducing “buon fresco”
to North America, a fresco technique used by Michelangelo in the 16th
century. Buon Fresco or “True Fresco” involves creating
wall and ceiling murals with water colours on fresh lime plaster.
The resulting artwork becomes an indestructible part of the wall as
it is essentially “woven” into the fabric of the building.
Nincheri also followed the Renaissance tradition of immortalizing
the people of the community by placing them within his frescoes.
in Montreal, Guido Nincheri learned the art of stained glass, most
likely from Henri Perdriau. In time, Nincheri came to be considered
one of Canada’s principal masters of stained glass. He painted
more than 2000 stained-glass masterpieces in different churches across
glass, a major form of the decorative arts, has an intimate link with
architecture. It is most often used to create a special atmosphere,
such as can be found in a church, which suited Nincheri’s artistic
vision. Nincheri used traditional stained-glass techniques that had
remained virtually unchanged since the Gothic Period. He was known
for his use of “verre plaqué,” a transparent glass
covered with a thin layer of coloured glass. This technique accentuated
the dramatic intensity of his compositions.
Nincheri's legacy also includes the design and execution of church
decorations using metalwork, wood carving, sculpture and oil painting.
He also designed stage sets and museums and drew architectural plans.
In a sense, Nincheri was a 20th century Renaissance man.
the years, Nincheri received several distinctions for his work.
In 1933, Pope Pius XI appointed him Knight-Commander of the Order
of Saint-Sylvester, acknowledging him as one of the great artists
of the church. In 1972, Nincheri’s Italian homeland appointed
him Knight of the Republic; 20 years later he was given the posthumous
title of Builder of the City of Montreal. In 1997, the Department
of Canadian Heritage declared Saint Léon of Westmount Church
a National Historical Site.
recent years, the Maisonneuve-Hochelaga Historical Society has been
working hard to renew interest in Guido Nincheri’s art. Through
their efforts, Montreal’s Chateau Dufresne Museum and St.
Eustaches’ Musée des Patriotes held exhibits of Nincheri’s
art. Another person working tirelessly to preserve Nincheri’s
legacy is his grandson Roger Nincheri. A retired school teacher,
Roger Nincheri now devotes his time to traveling across Canada and
the United States photographing and cataloguing his grandfather’s
grandfather’s art and cultural legacy is too beautiful and
too important to be forgotten by future generations,” says
Roger Nincheri. “We must leave a testimony to this man’s
contribution to Canada’s cultural history.”
“Nincheri Remembered,” Luciano Pradal: Il Postino,
Nincheri: The ‘Canadian Michelangelo’,” Oliviana
Mingarelli: Il Postino, February 2001.
Art of Guido Nincheri”: collections.ic.gc.ca/nincheri
Nincheri, an Italian artist in Canada,” January 2002, by Emilie
Moniez: Il Postino, January 2002
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