Heckscher Museum of Art
Huntington, Long Island, NY
From the Front: World War II Watercolors by Peter Sanfilippo
May 6, 2000 - June 4, 2000
For one young G.I., art became salvation as he faced the horrors of World War II. Young and idealistic, Peter Sanfilippo shipped out in 1942. His unit, the 633rd Field Artillery, brought him to North Africa, Sicily and up through Italy. Although he had no formal art training, Sanfilippo turned to art as a way of preserving his own humanity and finding it in others. He wrote: "I was determined to paint of a humanity, be it civilian or military, struggling to survive the cruel events." Using the tools at hand in the field, his easel was a wooden ammunition box and his watercolors were rolled up into empty shell casings for shipment home. Those paintings, along with the artist's painful memories, were packed away for a half century until the celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of World War II.
A longtime resident of Port Jefferson Station, Peter Sanfilippo's watercolors will be on view at the Heckscher in a special lobby exhibition. "From the Front: World War II Watercolors by Peter Sanfilippo" opens on Saturday, May 6 and remains on view through Sunday, June 4.
Hidden for 50 years, Sanfilippo's watercolors stand as a documentary of the time and of the places and stories of war. Among the stirring works on view at the Heckscher is Relief Column, painted in Tunisia in 1943 and depicting the excitement of the local populace as they cheered on the arriving troops. Piper Cub shows maintenance men readying aircraft for the next mission. Other watercolors portray the artist's reaction to new and compelling landscapes. "Never was I separated from the beauty of a mountain, a tree, or a flower," he said. In this group are Constantine Sunset, painted in Algeria; and Olive Picking, depicting Sicilian women harvesting olives in a timeless tableaux.
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