Giovanni Romagnoli was born in Faenza in 1893 where he attended the "Manfredi" schools. In 1906, thirteen years old, he followed his family to Bologna. Strongly motivated and gifted for the design, he arrived in the capital with a substantial group of drawings that were evaluated positively by various local artists including Giovanni Chiarini; his parents allowed him to enroll at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna where he followed the lessons of Domenico Ferri and Augusto Majani. He graduated in 1911. At the Academy he met and attended a group of artists belonging to the "moderate avant-garde" Bolognese, Alfredo Protti, Garzia Fioresi, Carlo Corsi and Guglielmo Pizzirani and became a friend of Alessandro Cervellati.
The painters Giovanni Romagnoli and Franco Gentilini in a photograph by Nino Migliori
In 1915 he began teaching in elementary schools and carried out military service in town subsistence. From the beginning as a painter, Romagnoli obtained several awards: in 1917 the Premio Curlandese; in 1920 the Baruzzi Prize; in 1923 both the Baruzzi Prize and the Currie Prize whose award-winning painting (Ballerina with a bouquet of flowers) is now kept in the collections of the MAMbo Museum of Modern Art in Bologna. Between 1914 and 1916 he participated in three editions of the Roman Secession and in 1921 at the I Biennale di Roma and at the Fiorentina Primaverile in which he also participated in the group Valori plastici. In 1922 he participated for the first time at the Venice Biennale, but his work went unnoticed.
1924 is the year that marked a fundamental stage in his career: he won the second prize at the XIII International Exhibition of the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh and exhibited nineteen works at the XIV Biennial of Venice. During the Venetian exhibition, the critics compared his works to the intimate scenes of Armando Spadini, so much so that he saw Romagnoli as his heir . In 1926 he was appointed a jury member at the International Exhibition of the Carnegie Institute of Technology together with Pierre Bonnard. Now known in America, he exhibited in Chicago and Cleveland, and held a course of painting for a few months at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. In Italy, he participated annually in the exhibitions of the Francesco Francia Association and in various cultural and artistic events of national importance. In 1927 he was given the project to decorate the Teatro Verdi in Bologna, destroyed during the bombings of the Second World War. He continued his stays in Pittsburgh: in 1930 he held a course in painting and in 1929, 1930 and 1933 he participated in the Carnegie Award. In 1933, on the occasion of the official visit of Benito Mussolini, Romagnoli performed the decoration of the vault of the dining room with a little theater in the Palazzo del Governo of Bologna (Palazzo Caprara Montpensier). In 1935 he participated in the II Quadrennial in Rome with fourteen sculptures and twenty-four paintings, achieving considerable success. In 1936 he returned to Pittsburgh to exhibit at the Carnegie Prize and in 1938 he took readings at the Institute of Technology. In 1938 he was appointed Director of the Academy of Bologna, a position he held until 1940, when Romagnoli, an established artist, was called to exhibit in a personal room at the XXII Venice Biennale. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Giovanni Romagnoli temporarily interrupted the artistic activity, taking refuge with his family in Ozzano dell'Emilia. In 1948 he participated in the XXIV Biennale of Venice and in Rome at the V Quadriennale. In 1949 he painted on the wall of the Italian Hall of the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh the oil portrait of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro, the first woman graduate in the world. During his brief stay in America, he held a course on fresh technique at the University. 1950 is the last year in which Romagnoli took part in the Pittsburgh Carnegie Award. In 1956 he frescoed the apse of the church of S. Maria Maddalena in Bologna and, in the same year he was appointed director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna with a second term, until 1960. Between 1951 and 1965 he exhibited for four editions of the Rome Quadriennale and in 1954 participated in the XXVII Venetian Biennale. In 1975 the artist from Faenza donated some works to the MAMbo - Museum of Modern Art in Bologna. Giovanni Romagnoli died at the age of eighty-three on June 10, 1976.