Painter, designer and illustrator born in Catania, Attanasio studied at the Institute of Fine Arts in Naples, under Domenico Morelli. In Naples, he became famous for his portraits and paintings of historical theme including “Dominant Thought” and “Wealth and Poverty, Gulnava, and Tears and Crimes (1877; National Exhibition of Naples). In 1882 he moved to Rome and in 1884 presented at the exhibition of Turin what is considered his most famous work, “Sunt Lacrimae Rerun” (also known as The Mad). The work, which won the first prize, was then bought by the Modern Art Gallery and later became part of the collections of the Museum of Catania inside the Ursino Castle.
In his hometown he worked for the Teatro Massimo Bellini and the apse of the church of Carmine while in Palermo he decorated the palace of Prince Montesano. In Rome, Attanasio painted the “Reading Room” of the Italian Senate. From 1886 to 1889 he also taught at the School of Arts and Crafts in Catania .