No results found

Filter by Type

Filter by Category

Filter by Size

Width
Height

Filter by Year

Letterio Calapai

Letterio Calapai

American, (1902-1993)

Letterio Calapai made for himself a fruitful artistic career that spanned well over fifty years, during which he was deemed “a printmaker for the twentieth century” by The Chicago Sun-Times in 1984. The son of Sicilian immigrants, Calapai was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Although the Calapai family was not monetarily wealthy, their lives were “rich in the pleasures of music, poetry, and art.” Both the artist’s mother and father made every effort to expose their son to the arts; his father recited poetry, his mother played the piano, and together they provided Calapai with violin lessons. During his childhood, Calapai frequented the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge. There, his exposure to the work of the Old Masters would come to have a profound influence on his art; as he later declared, “their realism was my goal…” John Taylor Arms recognized the artist’s unique appreciation for the Old Masters and said of Calapai, “He wants to study the great men. Very often the artist just wants to study his own ability.” Calapai’s interest in art continued to flourish at East Boston High School where he earned impressive grades and exhibited great artistic talent, particularly at drawing. His high school art history teacher, recognizing his notable artistic skill, gave him a paint box and brushes as a graduation present. Calapai recalled that “this wonderful gift was a tangible sign that I really did have some talent. It was the inspiration that led to the beginning of my career as an artist.”

Calapai embarked upon this career at the Massachusetts Normal Art School (today known as the Massachusetts College of Art) where he turned his attention to painting. He received a two-year scholarship to the School of Fine Arts and Crafts in Boston after proving his exceptional artistic ability with several oil paintings. Under the instruction of Charles Hopkinson, Calapai excelled in figure painting and planned to enter a competition to study in Florence, Italy. Sadly, a devastating fire erupted in the summer of 1928 and destroyed all of his work, without which he would not be able to enter the contest. Disillusioned by the loss, Calapai believed, “Boston had little to offer in advancing my career.”

Encouraged by his pianist cousin, Vincent Aita, Calapai relocated to New York City. For seven years he worked at a lithographic office while continuing drawing classes at the Art Students League and sculpture classes at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design. To the great dismay of his former teacher, Charles Hopkinson, Calapai devoted little time to producing his own artwork. Thus, Hopkinson offered to help Calapai financially, so that he could spend more time advancing his artistic career. Subsequently, Calapai immersed himself in his art, and the outcome of this effort was recognized in his first one-man show at the Montross Gallery, New York in 1934. Calapai attributed the success of the exhibition to Hopkinson’s “interest and financial support.”

In the years following 1934, Calapai expanded his artistic repertoire to include printmaking, a media that was deemed “limited” in previous years. He explored wood engraving, developing religious and literary themes. He often used the words of such authors as William Carlos Williams and Thomas Wolfe in his artwork. His religious depictions were described as “cataclysmic…scenes, emotional in color, form and design” by Stuart Preston, an art critic for The New York Times. “Harvest”, a 1945 print, exemplified Calapai’s interest in scenes of society’s progress in both rural and urban landscapes. In 1946, Calapai began to explore the abstract realm of printmaking, primarily as a result of his exposure to Stanley William Hayter’s workshop, Atelier 17. At this intaglio workshop, Calapai mastered and adopted unique metal engraving techniques. Hayter referred to his admirer as a “leader in the new ways.” 11:45 P.M. (1947) demonstrated Calapai’s newfound influence, utilizing Hayter’s theory of “space visualized through lines in space of infinite dimensionality.” His images continued further into abstraction, as he became interested in Social Realists, German Expressionism, and Post-Expressionism. Such ideas were seen in Jehovah’s Eye, Empyrean, and La Valse, which demonstrated his increasingly fantastical and imaginative approach to his subject matter. Calapai, “constantly inspired by nature,” experimented with organic, circular shapes and color. He successfully evoked the images of an imaginary underwater world through his blue and black intaglio prints, including Arioso Dolente and de Profundis, both from 1952.

While Calapai absorbed new ideas from established artists and movements, he simultaneously imparted his knowledge to promising young artists. In addition to working as a printmaker, Calapai dedicated himself to teaching art. He founded and chaired the Graphic Arts Department of the Albright Art School in Buffalo, NY (1949-1955), then taught art at the New School for Social Research (1955-1965). He also established the Intaglio Workshop for Advanced Printmaking in New York (1962-65) and worked at numerous other colleges and universities. The creative relationship between teacher and student was an important catalyst in Calapai’s career; Calapai found a “great reward in following the eminent careers of many students who still keep in touch… and occasionally ask advice about technical matters.”

Letterio Calapai continued to explore the technical and aesthetic aspects of all artwork in his studio in Glencoe, Illinois while maintaining the tradition of teaching through his workshop. In 1962, Calapai wed Jean Hillard, to whom he attributes his “modest success”. He describes her as a “rare and devoted wife.” Letterio Calapai passed away on March 29, 1993, his ninety-first birthday. He died peacefully after a private concert given to him by Vladimir Leytchkiss. Leytchkiss performed music by Franz Schubert, a man Calapai had previously illustrated in his artwork. His wife, Jean, remembers this time as “a celebration of a beautiful life. There was very little pain…” No commemorative show was planned, as Jean explained “Letterio always said, ‘My work is my memorial.’”

Compiled by Laura Conover and Allie Reilly

“His work is truly well-orchestrated. Like a composer combining the various instruments at his control to create sound images, Letterio Calapai uses the many techniques at his control to create powerful visual images.”

--Alfred P. Maurice, Professor of Art and Design, University of Illinois at Chicago, Jan. 1984

Print by Letterio Calapai: Earthquake, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
19×31IN.
$5,500
Earthquake
Print by Letterio Calapai: The City, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
24×18IN.
$4,500
The City
Print by Letterio Calapai: January 11, 1964, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
18×14IN.
$3,500
January 11, 1964
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Seven Last Words of Christ: No. 2, "Today shalt thou be , represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
19×15IN.
$3,000
The Seven Last Words
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Seven Last Words of Christ: No. 3, "Woman, behold thy so, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
15×19IN.
$3,000
The Seven Last Words
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Seven Last Words of Christ: No. 4, "Why hast thou forsak, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
19×15IN.
$3,000
The Seven Last Words
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Seven Last Words of Christ: No. 5, "I thirst", represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
17×12IN.
$3,000
The Seven Last Words
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Seven Last Words of Christ: No. 7, "Father, into Thy han, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
19×15IN.
$3,000
The Seven Last Words
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Seven Last Words of Christ: No. 6, "It is finished", represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
19×15IN.
$3,000
The Seven Last Words
Print By Letterio Calapai: Nocturne Ii At Childs GalleryQuick View
13×10IN.
$2,750
Nocturne II
Print by Letterio Calapai: Bay Music, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
22×11IN.
$2,500
Bay Music
Print by Letterio Calapai: Mediterranean Memory, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
17×22IN.
$2,500
Mediterranean Memory
Print by Letterio Calapai: He heard a great bell ringing, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
4×5IN.
$2,250
He heard a great bell ringing
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Intruder [2nd edition], represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
15×18IN.
$2,000
The Intruder [2nd edition]
Print by Letterio Calapai: Nocturne I, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
13×10IN.
$2,000
Nocturne I
Print by Letterio Calapai: Elemental Figure, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
5×8IN.
$1,950
Elemental Figure
Print by Letterio Calapai: Dream of the Unforseen, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
11×17IN.
$1,950
Dream of the Unforseen
Watercolor by Letterio Calapai: Mountain Chiaroscuro, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
20×16IN.
$1,800
Mountain Chiaroscuro
Print by Letterio Calapai: Jehovah's Eye, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
10×7IN.
$1,750
Jehovah's Eye
Print by Letterio Calapai: Jehovah's Eye (relief printing), represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
9×6IN.
$1,750
Jehovah's Eye (relief printing)
Print by Letterio Calapai: Moon Man, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
23×18IN.
$1,750
Moon Man
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Breakthrough, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
16×13IN.
$1,650
The Breakthrough
Print by Letterio Calapai: Ascent and Descent, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
11×19IN.
$1,500
Ascent and Descent
Print By Letterio Calapai: Crepuscolo At Childs GalleryQuick View
4×6IN.
$1,500
Crepuscolo
Drawing by Letterio Calapai: Nocturne II, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
13×10IN.
$1,500
Nocturne II
Print by Letterio Calapai: Transubstantiation, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
15×9IN.
$1,500
Transubstantiation
Print by Letterio Calapai: Patterns, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
15×17IN.
$1,500
Patterns
Print by Letterio Calapai: Astronaut, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
13×9IN.
$1,450
Astronaut
Print by Letterio Calapai: Pas de Deux, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
16×10IN.
$1,400
Pas de Deux
Print by Letterio Calapai: Arioso Dolente [b], represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
12×8IN.
$1,250
Arioso Dolente [b]
Print by Letterio Calapai: Energico, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
13×9IN.
$1,200
Energico
Print by Letterio Calapai: Circus I (Acrobats), represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
8×5IN.
$1,200
Circus I (Acrobats)
Print by Letterio Calapai: Circus II (Space Man), represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
8×5IN.
$1,200
Circus II (Space Man)
Print by Letterio Calapai: Circus III (Elephant II) [2nd edition], represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
8×5IN.
$1,200
Circus III (Elephant II) [2nd edition]
Print by Letterio Calapai: Galaxies [Color edition], represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
5×2IN.
$950
Galaxies [Color edition]
Print By Letterio Calapai: Cosmic Play At Childs GalleryQuick View
6×4IN.
$950
Cosmic Play
Print by Letterio Calapai: Sky + Wave, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
8×5IN.
$850
Sky + Wave
Print by Letterio Calapai: Bird Dream, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
5×10IN.
$850
Bird Dream
Print by Letterio Calapai: The Erl-King [Edition d], represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
10×16IN.
$850
The Erl-King [Edition d]
Print by Letterio Calapai: Into the Unknown, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
12×9IN.
$850
Into the Unknown
Print by Letterio Calapai: Vortex I, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
19×15IN.
$800
Vortex I
Print by Letterio Calapai: City Canyon, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
10×6IN.
$800
City Canyon
Print by Letterio Calapai: Circus IV (Clown), represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
8×5IN.
$800
Circus IV (Clown)
Print by Letterio Calapai: Sea Swirl, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
9×6IN.
$800
Sea Swirl
Print by Letterio Calapai: Lyrica, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
10×7IN.
$800
Lyrica
Print by Letterio Calapai: Ozymandias, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
14×11IN.
$600
Ozymandias
Watercolor by Letterio Calapai: Man and the Universe, represented by Childs GalleryQuick View
4×7IN.
$600
Man and the Universe
You've reached the endBrowse for more works