Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Giulio Anivitti (1850–1881)

by Anthony Bradley

This article was published:

Giulio Anivitti (1850-1881), painter and art teacher, was born in Rome, son of Louis Anivitti, engineer, and Antonia Ermini. He received his artistic training at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, where he was a pupil of Alessandro Capalti. In 1871 he went to Brisbane, apparently with a friend, Achille Simonetti, sculptor, who had been encouraged to emigrate there by Bishop James Quinn. Three years later Anivitti settled in Sydney and was appointed the first instructor in painting and drawing at the Art Training School, opened on 18 May 1875 by the New South Wales Academy of Art in Clarke's Assembly Rooms, Elizabeth Street.

The academy had been formed in 1871 to promote the study of the fine arts in the colony and to exhibit the works of its members. Annual exhibitions were held in 1872-79 and from 1875 Anivitti took part in them, winning a gold medal for his portrait of Charles Badham in that year. From 1874 the academy received annual government grants in aid of its activities and used part of the money to buy works which later formed the nucleus of the collection in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. One of Anivitti's duties, outside his teaching, was to act as curator of this collection. In 1876 he had some thirty students, and the academy's report recorded satisfaction with his work as a teacher. Among his later pupils were Amandus Julius Fisher, W. T. Butler and Percy Williams; another was Frank Mahony whose sensitive pencil sketch of him is in the Mitchell Library. While at the academy Anivitti executed several commissions for public institutions in Sydney. The portrait of Badham was done for the University of Sydney, and is in the Great Hall. Other portraits done for the university were those of William Hovell, Canon Robert Allwood and Archbishop John Bede Polding whose picture is at St John's College. A portrait by him of Rev. William Branwhite Clarke is in the Royal Society of New South Wales. Other recorded pictures, their whereabouts unknown, include a portrait of John Sutherland, a biblical picture entitled 'David's Youthful Triumph' and several landscapes of Engineer's Falls, Mount Victoria; all of these works are oil paintings.

At St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, on 25 July 1877 he married Ellen, daughter of John McGuigan, a Monaro grazier. In 1879, possibly because of ill health, Anivitti decided to return to Rome and on his departure was presented with a richly-carved tray by his pupils. He died of tuberculosis in his native city on 2 July 1881. His estate in Sydney, sworn for probate at £300, was left to his wife in 'full confidence on her motherly love that she will educate my two children at the best of her means'.

Anivitti's portraits are competent but not inspired, and marked by a tendency to make heroes of his subjects in the grand manner. He was important primarily as a teacher, and as a transmitter of the august traditions of the Accademia di San Luca to the very provincial artistic world of Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • Rules of the New South Wales Academy of Art: For Guidance of the Schools in Connection with the Academy (Syd, no date)
  • New South Wales Academy of Art, Annual Report, 1-8 (Syd, 1871-79)
  • New South Wales Academy of Art, Annual Exhibition Catalogue, 4-6 (Syd, 1875-77)
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Illustrated Catalogue (Syd, 1883)
  • H. E. Badham, A Study of Australian Art (Syd, 1949)
  • C. Badham, letter 1878, in Macarthur papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Anthony Bradley, 'Anivitti, Giulio (1850–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 21 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Rome, Italy


2 July, 1881 (aged ~ 31)
Rome, Italy

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