Editor's note: The West Bend Art Museum provided
source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following
article. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material,
please contact the West Bend Art Museum directly through either this phone
number or web address:
Francesco Spicuzza An Exponent
of Beauty and Light: A Family Collection
October 2 - November 10,
West Bend Art Museum is widely recognized as the primary source for artwork
and information regarding Carl von Marr, as well as a source for early Wisconsin
art and art history. In keeping with that part of the museum's mission,
the museum occasionally features an early Wisconsin artist or artists in
its lineup of changing exhibitions. The October 2 - November 10, 2002 exhibition
features one of Wisconsin's finest and most remembered artists, Francesco
Spicuzza (1883-1962). (left: Francesco J. Spicuzza, Self-portrait-1958,
c. 1958, oil on board, 19 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches, Collection of Marguerite
The West Bend Art Museum is indebted to several individuals
who made the exhibition and biographical publication possible. They include
the artist's daughter, Marguerite Spicuzza Hambling, who loaned most of
the artwork for the exhibition as well as authoring the artist's extensive
and comprehensive biography and Joyce Newcomb, who worked in collaboration
with Marguerite to write the artist's biography. Joyce helped to organize
the exhibition and her family loaned a work of art to the exhibition. The
art museum is further indebted to Mr. & Mrs. Roger Mohr and Dennis &
Diane Stricker for lending artwork to round out the exhibition.
Readers interested in the 2002 book titled "Francesco
J. Spicuzza, Wisconsin Impressionist: Clippings of a Life," by Marguerite
Spicuzza Hambling in collaboration with Joyce Newcomb, may obtain a copy
of the 151-page illustrated book through the museum bookstore.
Following is the Preface from the gallery guide for the exhibition,
authored by Thomas D. Lidtke, Executive Director of the West Bend Art Museum,
and a brief artist's biography, also from the gallery guide, authored by
Marguerite Spicuzza Hambling with collaboration by Joyce Newcomb.
- Francesco Spicuzza's connection to the West Bend Art
Museum is circuitous and actually began many decades ago with another Wisconsin
artist the museum exhibits and holds in high esteem, Carl von Marr.
- When the young Francesco Spicuzza
was first developing his skills, the elder von Marr recognized his promising
talent. Von Marr encouraged Spicuzza to continue his studies and travel
- These two artists must have connected as friends, because
later von Marr would paint in Spicuzza's Milwaukee studio upon several
of von Marr's many return visits to his hometown. (left: Francesco
J. Spicuzza, Red Geraniums, c. 1937, oil on board, 23 1/2 x 29 1/2
inches, Collection of M/M Dennis Stricker)
- While Spicuzza is best known for his Milwaukee beach
scenes created in his cool blue palette, he created in a wide variety of
other genre including some winter scenes and many Wisconsin landscapes,
which dominate this exhibition.
- It is Spicuzza's Washington County Iandscape oil sketches
that complete his circuitous road back to the West Bend Art Museum. These
wonderful, little landscapes exist because the artist eventually bought
a summer home on Cedar Lake near West Bend where he would bring his family
every summer. While there, he completed numerous scenes of the lake, West
Bend and the rolling moraine around the region. Intimate woodland scenes
nestled in the kettles of the moraine and hilltop vistas created by receding
glaciers provided great inspiration for these summer paintings.
- Cedar Lake and West Bend were a second home for the family;
and Carl von Marr, due to his high ranking in Europe was as good a friend
in the art world as a regional artist could find. While these links were
established over a half-century ago, vestiges of them are still clearly
- The thought of having an exhibition of Spicuzza's artwork
and becoming involved in a publication about the artist seemed to be a
natural match for the West Bend Art Museum. This is especially true since
the West Bend Art Museum's collection emphasis is the work of Carl von
Marr and other important early Wisconsin artists.
- That was apparent from the start to his daughter, Marguerite
Spicuzza Hambling, who graciously offered to loan his artwork for the exhibition,
and to contribute to the success of this project. She presented the idea
of an exhibition and publication to representatives of the West Bend Art
Museum and it soon became apparent to us that not only was this work worthy
of public exposure, it also had these serendipitous connections to the
region and institution.
- The paintings in the October 2 - November 10, 2002 exhibition,
for the most part, are small-scale oil sketches that provide the viewer
and collector with another side of the artist that has rarely been seen
before. In fact, only one of the 63 paintings has ever been publicly displayed.
The publication presents us with a personal and intimate perspective of
the artist's life.
- Most who know the artist's work are familiar with his
vibrant cool blue palette. As a result of the exhibition, we now see his
passion for another color, the lush green hues that dominate his regional
landscapes, floral garden studies, lake scenes and paintings of Europe.
- Francesco Spicuzza
- Born 1883 in Termini, Sicily
- Died 1962 in Milwaukee, WI
- One of Wisconsin's most prolific
artists, Francesco Spicuzza, came to Milwaukee with his parents when he
was a child. His early art training began when a wealthy Milwaukee businessman
recognized the young teenager's talent and arranged for Spicuzza to have
art classes with Wisconsin artist Robert Schade. (left: Francesco
J. Spicuzza, The Splash, c. 1920, oil on board, 23 x 29 1/4 inches,
Collection of Marguerite Spicuzza Hambling)
- While in his early twenties, Spicuzza studied with Alexander
Mueller at the Milwaukee Art Students' League. Spicuzza painted in his
free time but made his living as a lithographer. His employer was forced
to terminate his position due to the panic of 1907.
- Spicuzza was offered an empty room, initially rent-free.
And, with his wife's urging, he opened his studio in this space from 1908
until 1911. He then left Milwaukee briefly to study Impressionism for a
summer under John Carlson in Woodstock, New York.
- When Spicuzza returned, he created numerous impressionistic
scenes of people enjoying Milwaukee's Bradford and McKinley beaches, as
well as florals, still lifes, portraits and nature scenes. He is best remembered
for his blue monochromatic beach scenes in pastel. He produced hundreds
of works for various levels of the art market. They ranged from small and
inexpensive to impressive major works of art. Like several of the early
20th century Wisconsin artists, his work was quite different from the German
academic style of the generation before him.
- Spicuzza taught art to hundreds of Milwaukeeans at the
Milwaukee Art Institute and in his studio. In the fifties he taught at
the Milwaukee Art Museum which replaced the Milwaukee Art Institute. Throughout
his long artistic career, his style changed little and he received numerous
regional and some national awards for his work. He was also a member of
the Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors.
Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional
source by visiting the sub-index page for the West
Bend Art Museum in Resource Library
Search for more
articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.
This page was originally published in 2002 in Resource
Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for
Copyright 2012 Traditional
Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit
corporation. All rights reserved.