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Francesco Spicuzza (1883 - 1962)

Lot 45: Francesco Jiaconino Spicuzza (1883 - 1962) Italy

Coral Gables Auction

October 10, 2022
Coral Gables, FL, US

More About this Item


Francesco Jiaconino Spicuzza (1883 - 1962) Italy
Oil on Board
Measure 18"in H x 24"in W and 21"in H x 26 3/4"in W with frame

Known for: Landscape, genre and still-life paintings
Biography: Italian-born Francesco Spicuzza was primarily a Wisconsin painter who did portraits, still-lives and local landscapes. He spent the first part of his life in near-poverty to become a painter. An eternal optimist, in 1917, the artist reported: "I am happy and my only ambition now is to paint better and better until I shall have reached the measure of the best of which I am capable." (Spicuzza, 1917, p. 22). His predilection for beach scenes germinated early: reportedly, the five-year-old boy first drew the outlines of his father's fishing boat in the sand on the seashore near their home in Sicily. After setting himself up as a fruit peddler in Milwaukee, Spicuzza's father sent for his family when Francesco was eight years old. For the following six years the boy was unable to attend school because of his job in his father's fruit and vegetable business. The poor lad suffered a caved-in shoulder from carrying a heavy wooden crate. The earliest influences in his work appear to be from Edward H. Potthast and Maurice Prendergast, though Spicuzza never mentioned either artist. Already in August 1910, Spicuzza was described in a newspaper as "one of the most talented of Milwaukee's rising workers." He undoubtedly received lasting inspiration from his one summer study period in 1911 with John F. Carlson at the Art Students League's Summer School in Woodstock, New York. Certainly Spicuzza would have picked up spontaneity in handling the brush from Carlson. Although he executed numerous still-lives and an occasional religious work, Spicuzza is best known for his Milwaukee beach scenes populated with frolicking bathers in multi-colored attire, not unlike the images of Potthast, who used a similar technique. Many of these are small, preparatory works on canvas board executed between 1910 and 1915. Frequently with even greater animation than Potthast, Spicuzza produced moving images of youthful energy and uninhibited child's play. These beach genre scenes reflect the attitude of American impressionists who depicted the more pleasant side of life. Spicuzza spent a great deal of time painting en plein air and by 1925 he began summering at Big Cedar Lake, near West Bend, Wisconsin to gather his subject matter. Easter Morning (1926) owes something to the Symbolist movement, with its figure of Christ appearing over a seascape. During the difficult era of the Depression, patrons came to Spicuzza's aid and during the 40s, he taught housewives, businessmen and students at the Milwaukee Art Institute, the Milwaukee Art Center, and in his private studio. In the following decade, although his kind of art was no longer popular in the "make-it-or-break-it" New York gallery world, Spicuzza enjoyed regular patronage and sales. His beach scenes became more static and he would experiment with modernist techniques. Spicuzza died at the age of seventy-eight.

Condition Report

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