Born to a working-class family (his father was a cobbler), he began his training at the Accademia Albertina under Antonio Fontanesi in Turin, and then with Giuseppe Bertini at the Brera in Milan, where he befriended Tranquillo Cremona. He alternated his early years between his hometown of Intra, where he was a guest of the sculptor Paolo Troubetzkoy and Milan.
He was a member of the Milanese movement known as Scapigliatura and his style was later influenced by Divisionism. He was known for his portraits, especially of women. Starting in 1877, he spent two years in Great Britain but did not find commercial success. When he returned to Italy he began to show signs of mental illness. In 1887 he entered into an asylum.
- Norman, Geraldine (1977). Nineteenth Century Painters and Painting: a Dictionary. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles. p. 175. ISBN 0-520-03328-0.
- La Pittura lombarda nel secolo XIX., Tipografia Capriolo e Massimino, 1900, page 77.