In 1897 Emilio Sommariva enrolled at the Brera Academy where he attended Angelo Comolli’s School of Decoration from 1898 to 1899. Financial difficulties forced him to abandon his studies. He was then employed as a photographer by the Compagnia Continentale Brunt & C. foundary and subsequently by the Ganzini photographic studio. A few months later in 1902 he opened his own atelier in Viale Monforte (now Viale Pavia) and during the following years he moved to Via Paolo and Via Montenapoleone. With some difficulty Sommariva eventually became established as a portraitist who photographed the intelligentsia of the day. He also made reproductions of works of art, took industrial photographs, architectural and landscape photographs. His fame was sealed by the recognition received at the 1911 Esposizione Internazionale di Fotografia Artistica e Scientifica di Roma (Comitato delle Feste gold medal) and the Turin Esposizione e Concorso Internazionale di Fotografia (diploma of honour). In 1922 he made a name for himself on the international scene by winning the first prize at the International Exhibition of Professional Artistic Photography in London. In the 1920s he also began to exhibit as a painter: he participated in the Brera Biennale in 1925, in the Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte di Venezia in 1926 and in the exhibitions held by the Permanente in Milan the following decade. During this period he executed numerous landscapes inspired by the foothills of the Alps in Lombardy and Piedmont where he went during his frequent stays at the family villa at Lanzo d’Intelvi. A retrospective of his extensive pictorial output was held at the Galleria Ranzini, Milan, in 1950.