The foundation of the Painting Academy of Verona on 18 December 1764, under the aegis of Giambettino Cignaroli (1706-1770), an acclaimed painter celebrated far beyond local borders, secured the recognition of the Verona school of painting, heir to a long and prestigious tradition. As early as the 18th century, documents confirm that artists and “amateurs” among the nobility joined together in a “Veronese Academy of Drawing” to practice the depiction of a nude in private residences made available by academics. They included Count Alessandro Pompei, painter and architect, and Marquis Scipione Maffei, a scholar of European repute who left a deep mark on Verona culture in the Age of the Enlightenment. It can be argued that it was the participation of this extraordinary intellectual figure, who established Europe’s first public museum in the city of the Scaligeri dynasty, encouraged Cignaroli to establish the “Academy of Drawing” as an institution, with an annual contribution from the Verona Municipality and use of a municipal building.
Once the academic chapters had been approved by the Venetian Senate at the beginning of 1765, the Verona Academy of Painting opened its doors with Cignaroli, its “Principal in perpetuity”, three Presidents (including the aforementioned Count Pompei, who designed the new “Nude Room”), three “Masters of Painting”, appointed each year, and thirty painters collectively assigned the title of founders.
In a city long fought over by the French and Austrians, the years that followed Napoleon’s Italian campaign and the fall of the Republic of Venice were not easy for the institution, by then renamed the Academy of Painting and Sculpture. The difficult task of running the Academy under the pro-French government of the Kingdom of Italy (1805-1814), and later under the Austrian Restoration, fell to Saverio Dalla Rosa (1745-1821), a painter trained in the studio of his uncle Giambettino Cignaroli, who guided the destiny of the entire artistic life in Verona during that difficult historical period. While busy cataloguing and conserving the artistic heritage of Verona, then threatened by Napoleonic suppression, and working on an ambitious project of an illustrated history of painting in Verona, Dalla Rosa still found time to reorganise the Academy, furnishing it with new teaching tools and selecting, including for the training of students, paintings by the ancient masters that would form the core of a public gallery, established in 1812 in the Municipal Council Hall (at that time, the Loggio di Fra Giocono).
The Academy was not close to the museum, as were many important Italian academic institutions, until the beginning of 1856, when it moved to the Palazzo Pompei alla Vittoria, designed by the architect Michele Sanmicheli, which then housed the Civic Museum.
While many young artists of Verona sought the road to success in other Italian cities in the years before the annexation of Verona to the Kingdom of Italy (which was the case with Vincenzo Cabianca who, after initial training at the Verona Academy, moved first to Venice and Bologna and then Florence, where he joined the Macchiaioli group), the Academy gained a reputation for its outstanding vivacity in the 1870s, due to the boost the institution received from a bequest by Count Paolo Brenzoni.
Following a nationwide competition, he was appointed head of the school and there taught the painter Napoleone Nani (1841-1899), the Venetian artist with a bent for “realism”, who brought to Verona the modern teaching methods of the Venetian Academy, reformed some time earlier by Pietro Selvatico. His school was also where Angelo Dall’Oca Bianca and Vincenzo De’ Stefani were trained, artists who would later meet with great acclaim in the international exhibitions at the end of the century.
The Academy entered a period of extraordinary vitality in the first quarter of the 20th century when, after a short time under the guidance of Mosè Bianchi, Alfredo Savini (1868-1924) of Bologna was appointed its principal, later assisted by the pointillist Baldassare Longoni. The numerous talented painters who trained there in those years, from Antonio Nardi to Guido Trentini, from Ettore Beraldini to Giuseppe Zancolli, from Angelo Zamboni to Pino Casarini, later had the good fortune to learn from Felice Casorati, in his Verona season, and the group of artists of the Ca’ Pesaro. At the Cignaroli Academy in the middle of the twenties, where Antonio Nardi had succeeded Savini and Egidio Girelli taught sculpture, major figures were encountered like Giacomo Manzù and Fiorenzo Tomea, Sandro Bini and Renato Birolli, who, after transferring to Milan, retained his links with the artistic circles of his city.
With the backing of the Municipality and the Province of Verona, the Art College was annexed to the Academy (located in Palazzo della Ragione since 1895) in 1924, and remained so during later moves: from 1927, it was once again in Palazzo Pompei, from 1941 to 1943 in Palazzo Forti, then Castel San Pietro and, finally, from 1949, the sixteenth century Palazzo Verità Montanari, which still houses the historic institution.
In 1984, the Accademia di Belle Arti di Verona obtained official recognition as a School of Painting, Sculpture and Scenic Arts, to which the title of School of Decoration was added in 1998 to be joined, in 2003, by experimental schools of Restoration and Artistic Design for Business.
In 2009, it obtained accreditation and upgrading of five three-year courses to the First Level and, in 2012, accreditation for a single-cycle five-year course in Restoration for the educational pathways PFP 1 (Stone Materials and Derivatives. Decorated surfaces of architecture) and PFP 2 (Painted Artefacts on Wood and Textiles. Sculpted artefacts in wood. Furnishings and wooden structures. Artefacts in processed, assembled and/or painted synthetic materials).
On 5 March 2012, the Municipality and Province of Verona, together with the “G.B. Cignaroli” Accademia di Belle Arti, established the Fondazione Accademia di Belle Arti di Verona, which was listed on the register of Legal Persons by the Verona Prefecture under decree no. 230 of 17 October 2012. The Fondazione Accademia di Belle Arti di Verona seamlessly continued the work of the “G.B. Cignaroli” Accademia di Belle Arti in delivering the teaching required to obtain the educational qualifications of 1st and 2nd level Degrees as part of the artistic and musical higher education of the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research.