November 4, ON THIS DAY
People say I paint every leaf on the tree. I don\’t…I paint what I think is there. I mean I try to make it look as though it belonged there, but very often when people look at my landscapes and look at the painting I am doing, ‘Oh, you changed this, you changed that,’ they don\’t realize that…you can\’t cope with nature, as you know, and therefore you can\’t put in all the little things that nature can do so easily and you can\’t. So you have to get the essentials of these things and that is my idea of realism…for me nature is the greatest artist that ever lived, you know, and all the great artists have tried to follow nature, well, [nature] can do so many things that a brush can\’t do, I mean, for instance, how can you paint, well to begin with you can\’t paint sunsets, you can\’t paint sunrises, you paint a blue sky, but if you paint it blue it looks absolutely opaque where nature can have it transparent. Nature is a great, great inspirer, but also a terrible tease for an artist, but you do the best you can.
Italian-born American painter and printmaker Luigi Lucioni is best renowned for his meticulous portraits, still lifes, and landscapes of the Vermont countryside. While the Modernist works of Paul Cézanne have also impacted the artist, Lucioni\’s paintings are careful and finished in a manner reminiscent of realist painters Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. With his singular perspective, Lucioni possessed a keen intuition and a remarkable way of approaching issues. One might think of Lucioni as an artist who is profoundly conscious of the tradition of nobility but who is also never tied to anything after observing his canvases and noticing the immaculate space within them, the odd arrangements, and the use of vibrant colours.
Luigi Lucioni, painter and etcher, was born in Malnate, Italy on November 4, 1900. When he was ten years old, his family made the journey to America and settled in Jersey City, New Jersey. While still a teen, Lucioni supported his family by working as an etcher for the New York Herald-Tribune. He attended the Cooper Union Art School from 1916 to 1920. Throughout his career, Lucioni found enjoyment in painting still lifes and landscapes, but that was not the case with portraiture. Despite the fact that portraiture benefited from his rigorous approach and a keen eye for detail, he complained that he did not particularly love it. His most popular portraits, such as the ones of Italian vocalist Mili Monti in 1942 and blues and jazz singer Ethel Waters in 1939, were painted in the first half of his career. Like many portrait artists, he preferred painting friends and family because he felt a genuine emotional connection to the subject and he never faced criticism.
In Lucioni’s work, a single lemon or a small grouping of fruit placed judiciously often serve as significant color accents in the prevailing tonal theme. He didn’t paint the ordinary very often. Lucioni’s attractive, airy Vermont landscapes, with their precisely outlined birch trees and barns and distant hilltops, stand apart from those executed by most other landscape painters, who adopt a broader, less focused manner of painting the great outdoors. His landscape etchings and watercolors most clearly exhibit his love of the precise line.
The National Academy of Design selected Lucioni as a full Academician in 1941. He was represented by Milch Galleries in New York from the 1940s through the 1960s after being represented by Associated American Artists in the early 1940s. Lucioni belonged to both the Audubon Artists and the American Society of Etchers. In 1968, the Shelburne Museum displayed a retrospective of his works on paper. In 1988, Lucioni passed away in Union City, New Jersey. Many of the artist\’s paintings were left at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont in 1988 after the artist\’s inheritance was distributed. Other institutions that own Lucioni’s work are The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art; Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England.