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Lorenzini, Augusto Leopoldo Francesco (1852–1921)

by Megan Martin

This article was published:

Augusto Leopoldo Francesco Lorenzini (1852-1921), artist and decorator, was born on 3 August 1852 in Rome, son of Giovachino Lorenzini, engineer, and his wife Santa, née Tinbastari. Augusto's education, including art training, was in Rome and there in 1873 he married 18-year-old Maria Boleta. Late in 1879, after a sojourn in Paris, Lorenzini travelled to London where he established himself as a decorative artist and teacher of decorative fine art with a studio in Newman Street, off Oxford Street. He took on some specialist commissions for the house painting and decorating firm of Thomas Bates & Co. and was known among the staff there as 'Tangerini', almost certainly a reference to his red hair.

In 1883 the Lorenzinis left London for Sydney, possibly induced to emigrate by Charles James Roberts, publican and politician. Soon after his arrival in September in the Orient, Lorenzini began work on a major commission for Roberts: the painted decoration of his Potts Point mansion, Chatsworth, featuring on the ballroom ceiling a large-scale, allegorical painting of Amphitrite. With a flyer announcing 'Augusto Lorenzini, Italian artist decorator' he quickly became part of a small but highly visible circle of Italian artists and artisans in Sydney. He joined the Art Society of New South Wales in 1884 and worked in a studio in Phillip Street with the sculptor Tomaso Sani.

In the 1880s and early 1890s Lorenzini's commissions in Sydney, mostly carried out in the High Renaissance style of Raphael, ranged across commercial, ecclesiastical and domestic work. They included the decoration of Gunsler's Café, Pitt Street, the Roberts Hotel on the corner of George and Market streets, the Garrick Theatre, Castlereagh Street, new ceiling and wall decorations for the head office of the London Chartered Bank, George Street, a ceiling and organ front for the Wesleyan church at Waverley and a design for the painted decoration for St Mary's Catholic Church at Concord.

He was awarded a first order of merit for his mural art decorations in the New South Wales court at the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition, but his plan to establish an 'Industrial Studio of Art' came to nothing, despite the publication of a detailed prospectus in February 1886. A less ambitious 'advanced art decoration class' had recently been established by Parnell Johnson at Sydney Technical College. Lorenzini tried unsuccessfully to persuade the college that the existing evening classes in art instruction were useful to intending tradesmen such as carpenters and masons but inadequate to provide the necessary knowledge for those who wanted to make their future living as art decorators.

In the early 1890s Lorenzini formed a short-lived partnership with Giuseppe, brother of the painter Giulio Anivitti. Unable to survive the deepening economic depression in the mid-1890s, Lorenzini retreated to his orchard at Dural. When he applied for a certificate of naturalization in September 1904, he described himself as art decorator and orchardist. He was declared insolvent in 1914 and he was still involved in legal wrangles when he died of cardiac failure on 29 July 1921 at Dural. The Cumberland Argus, reporting the death and subsequent inquest, expressed sorrow for a 'highly respectable man'. The coroner described him as 'a man with a big head of hair'; neighbours remembered him for his artist's beret. Lorenzini's wife, and a nephew who had migrated from Italy in 1905, survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Plummer, A Mayoral Year (Syd, 1885)
  • S. Carlin and M. Martin, Augusto Lorenzini (Syd, 2001)
  • Australasian Decorator and Painter, 1 Mar 1917, p 144
  • Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, 17 Aug 1921, p 1
  • M. Martin, ‘Augusto Lorenzini: Unravelling an Auction Room Mystery’, World of Antiques & Art, no 61, July-Dec 2001, p 116
  • M. Martin, ‘Augusto Lorenzini: Italian Artist Decorator in Victorian Sydney’, Italian Historical Society Journal, vol 8, no 2, July-Dec 2002, p 4
  • Lorenzini archive (Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, Conservation Resource Centre, Sydney)
  • A1, item 1904/8160 (National Archives of Australia)
  • insolvency file no 19823, 10/23720 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Megan Martin, 'Lorenzini, Augusto Leopoldo Francesco (1852–1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 22 September 2021.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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