Known as the Valley of the Painters, the Vigezzo Valley, one of the seven valleys in the Ossola, has hosted and inspired generations of artists, portraitists and landscape artists since the 17th century.
Between the 15th and 16th centuries, local paintings has a distinctly Romanesque style: there were many devotional frescoes of the Madonna, along with several saints, invoking protection against the frequent plagues.
The nucleus of the local painting tradition is the Scuola di Belle Arti “Rossetti Valentini” in Santa Maria Maggiore, which was officially founded in 1878 and is the centre of artistic and intellectual activities in Vigezzo Valley. It is still the only active school of fine arts in the Alps, offering drawing, painting and wood carving courses. Its art gallery, one of the most important cultural sites in the whole of Ossola Valley, houses valuable paintings by the great masters of the Vigezzo area.
The local school specialized in portrait and landscape painting: once Vigezzo artists had learnt the basics of painting in the village workshops, they began to paint frescoes, which can still be admired today, on the façades of private houses or inside churches, or they moved to major Italian or foreign cities, where members of the bourgeoisie were eager to commission their portraits.