Gaetano Previati was an Italian Symbolist painter in the Divisionist style.
Previati was born in Ferrara. He relocated to Milan in 1876 and enrolled at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, studying under Giuseppe Bertini, Giovanni Morelli, and Federico Faruffini. He became strongly attached to the Divisionist style, and even published a treatise on I principi scientifici del Divisionismo (1909).
He won the Canonica competition in 1879. In 1880 at Turin, he exhibited Gli ostaggi di Crema and Cesare Borgia at Crema. Having settled in Milan definitively in 1881, he came into contact with the Scapigliatura movement. In 1881 at Milan, he displayed the genre painting Preferenza as well as Christ Crucified (1880); Abelard; and At the entrance of the Harem. In 1883, he exhibited Un angolo del solaio, May, and Saleswoman. At the 1883 Mostra of Rome he exhibited Angels and A November at Ferrara. In 1884 at the Mostra of Turin, he displayed the following oil paintings: Oporto; May: First Communion; and Crepuscoli; and four watercolors: Aurora; Herb Market; Suonatori; Storia di un nudo: Studio.
1886–87, at Milan and Turin, he exhibited the patriotic historical painting titled Tiremm innanz (Fire away). Lorenzo Benapiani wrote about Fire Away in his book titled Ars. The canvas depicts the execution of the patriot Antonio Sciesa who had been active in the rebellion in Milan against Austrian rule.
At Venice, in 1887, he exhibited L'Haschich and at the 1888 National Exhibition of Fine Arts of Bologna: Christ and the Magdalen; Oporto and Le fumatrici di haschisch.
He took part in the 1st Brera Triennale in 1891 with a work clearly showing his adoption of Divisionism, of which he was also a theoretician, and Symbolist themes. He took part in the Venice Biennale by invitation from 1895 to 1914, including solo shows of his work in 1901 and 1912. He was involved in the creation of the Dream Room at the 7th Biennale in 1907 and exhibited at the Salon des Peintres Divisionnistes Italiens organised in Paris by the art dealer Alberto Grubicy. It was Alberto and his brother Vittore who founded the Società per l’Arte di Gaetano Previati in 1911, purchasing a large number of his paintings and showing them in exhibitions in Genoa (1915) and Milan (1916 and 1919). Grief-stricken over the death of members of his family, he died in 1920 at the town of Lavagna in Liguria, where he was in the habit of staying for long periods.