He was born in Verona. He began his artistic training at the Verona Academy, and then studied at the Venice Academy from 1845–47. During the 1850s Cabianca became acquainted with the artists, including Adriano Cecioni, Cristiano Banti, and Telemaco Signorini, who frequented the Caffè Michelangiolo in Florence, who would be known as the Macchiaioli.
He became a friend of Telemaco Signorini, and travelled with Signorini and Banti to Paris, his friend's influence led Cabianca to turn away from genre paintings towards a bolder realism, beginning in 1858. De Gubernatis terms the Macchiaioli enemies of all conventionalism and accurate researchers of effects, and describes Cabianca as principally interested in the effects of sunlight. Garollo in his Dizionario Biografico describes Cabianca as a painter of the "effects of the Sun".
Like the other Macchiaioli, he painted landscapes en plein air, but he was more reluctant than his friends were to abandon historical and literary subjects.
Among his works are La Mandriana and il Porcile al sole (1860). Returning from travels to Tuscany and Paris in 1864, he domiciled in Parma from 1864-1868, then moved to Rome. He also painted in watercolors, including La neve a Venice, Il fait sa cour, and Sulla marina di Viareggio.
Among his other works are Il bagno fra gli scogli; Sant'Angelo all' Isola di Giudecca; Reminiscenze del mare; Gondola bruna; La neve in Ciociaria; Le mura del convento; and Sotto il portico dei barattieri a Venice. At Naples in 1877, he exhibited Piccola via presso Perugia; La neve; Una casa ad Anacapri; and Reminiscenze d'Amalfi. At Rome in 1883 he displayed Rocca di Papa; Il caligo a Venice; Sul far del giorno; La pace del Chiostro; and Una sera sulla laguna.
Many of his paintings depict nuns; a well-known example is Le monachine (The nuns; 1861–62, Turin exhibition). The works of Cabianca's later years show the influence of the Symbolists and the Pre-Raphaelites. He died in Rome on March 21, 1902.
- Steingräber, E., & Matteucci, G. 1984, p. 107.
- nemico di ogni convenzionalismo e accurato ricercatore degli effetti, cura molto le tonalità della luce e la verità del soggetto., De Gubernatis, page 81
- Dizionario biografico universal, By Gottardo Garollo, 1907, page 402.
- Broude 1987, p. 107.
- Dizionario degli Artisti Italiani Viventi: pittori, scultori, e Architetti., by Angelo de Gubernatis. Tipe dei Successori Le Monnier, 1889, page 81-82.
- Steingräber, E., & Matteucci, G. 1984, pp. 33–34.
- Broude 1987, p. 111.
- Broude, Norma (1987). The Macchiaioli: Italian Painters of the Nineteenth Century. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03547-0
- Steingräber, E., & Matteucci, G. (1984). The Macchiaioli: Tuscan Painters of the Sunlight : March 14-April 20, 1984. New York: Stair Sainty Matthiesen in association with Matthiesen, London. OCLC 70337478
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