Biography: Giovanni ('Nino') Costa was an Italian landscape painter and revolutionary, who was known for his close observation of nature. Born in Rome in 1826, he fought under Garibaldi in 1848 and served as a volunteer in the War of 1859. Influenced by Corot, he is chiefly known for his lyrical landscapes of the countryside of his birth. While he was a particular influence on the Macchiaioli painters in Florence in the 1850s and 1860s, his influence on English artists working in Italy was, if anything, even more profound, and he was to become a significant artistic link between the two countries.
It was in the Roman Campagna in the early 1850s that Costa met the English painters Charles Coleman, George Heming Mason, and Frederic Leighton, with whom he was to become especially close. Later he also befriended other English artists, including George Howard (an important Pre-Raphaelite patron and amateur artist), Walter Crane, William Blake Richmond, and Edward Burne-Jones. His studio on the Via Margutta in Rome became a meeting place for English painters visiting the city, and he was largely responsible for promoting the work of the Pre-Raphaelite painters in Italy.
Costa made several trips to England, and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London from 1869 onwards, while in later years was invited to show his paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery. In 1882 a large exhibition of Costa’s paintings was held at the Fine Art Society in London, achieving considerable success. It was just one year after this influential exhibition that Costa mentored a group of young British artists in Italy who called themselves the Etruscan School. By the time of his death Costa was arguably the most famous modern Italian artist known in England. As such he had a tremendous influence on British landscape painting of the period, including the late work of the Pre-Raphaelite circle.