California / Italy
Often Known For
landscape, portrait, still life and flower painting
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Michele Cascella (1892-1989)|
Michele Cascella was a very congenial and humane person, as well as a tenacious worker. The techniques Michele used were pastels, pencil and pen and ink drawings, oils, watercolors, ceramics, lithography and textiles. His most frequent subjects were the landscapes of Abruzzi, locations all over Italy, Portofino, Paris, London, New York, California, Mexico, Hawaii, Tuscany, flowers, portraits and still life. Michele himself said that Henry Rousseau and Picasso had the greatest impact on the art world, while Van Gogh, Utrillo and Raoual Dufy most influenced his own work. He is referred to as an Italian Impressionist, post-impressionist and neo-impressionist. Also primitivism and crepuscular landscape artist are used to describe his work.
He was born in Ortona a Mare, province of Chieti, in the region of the Abruzzi in Italy on September 7, 1892. Michele was the second of 7 children (3 boys and 4 girls). Michele’s father, Basilio Cascella, was also born in Ortona in 1860, as was his grandfather, Francesco Paolo Cascella, who was a tailor for women. Michele’s mother, Concetta Palmerio, was from Guardiagrele, the daughter of a very popular veterinarian in the area at the time.
Michele’s father was his first and most influential teacher. Basilio was a painter, engraver, ceramist, lithographer and illustrator. Before Michele was born, he lived and worked in Naples, Milan, Turin, Venice, London and Palermo. In 1895, Basilio moved the family from Ortona to Corso Manthone` in Pescara, across from Gabriele d’Annunzio’s house. The Pescara city council gave Basilio a piece of land to build a chromolithographic laboratory and art studio. This building today is the site of the Museo Civico “Basilio Cascella” (Pescara). It holds more than 500 pieces belonging to three generations of the Cascella family. Most of the works are Basilio’s, the others are of his sons Tommaso, Michele and Gioacchino and the two sons of Tommaso, Andrea and Pietro , who became well known sculptors.
In 1899, Basilio began publishing the magazine L’illustrazione abruzzese, then L’illustrazione meridionale and finally La Grande Illustrazione. Among the collaborators to these publications were some of the most important literary figures of the times, such as Gabriele d’Annunzio, Luigi Pirandello, Umberto Saba, Gennaro Finamore, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Sibilla Aleramo, Matilde Serao, Grazia Deledda, Ada Negri, Guido Gozzano and Giovanni Pascoli
Michele finished elementary school with difficulty and his teacher said his head was always in the clouds. The following year, after his art teacher humiliated him in front of the class, he abandoned school entirely, because of his poor grades in all subject matters. His mother, who was deeply religious, wanted him to follow an ecclesiastic career, but his father who was a socialist and very anti religious, wanted him to become an artist, like himself. Right away Michele began to work in his father’s chromolithographic laboratory in Pescara. Basilio put Michele to work filling the backgrounds of the designs on the lithographic stone, with the black graphic ink, Lorilleux. Michele would often turn the star-shaped wheel of his father’s press and was involved in the various lithographic processes of transfers and proofs. Meanwhile Basilio had Michele copy the drawings of the masters (Leonardo, Pisanello, Botticelli, and Donatello) or simplifications of large mouths and noses which Basilio prepared specifically for Michele to practice over and over again. Michele was very proud and happy to be working for his father and he was becoming very familiar with the tools of the trade. Basilio was not able to paint from nature very well himself, so to compensate for this lack of ability, he taught his sons from the beginning to work in the open air, from the real, to see, to grasp and to interpret the language of nature. Soon Basilio would send Michele and Tommaso alone, at dawn, on foot to the shores of the Pescara River and the surrounding hills or by coach to the Majella to study the scenery from close by. They brought only their boxes of pastels, some bread and a caciocavallo, so they could stay out all day to paint.
When Basilio felt his sons were ready to show their work, he shifted his role from shop master to organizer and promoter of their art. Michele had now been out of school and working for his father for almost 5 years. Their first show was held in Milan at the Famiglia Artistica in Via San Raffaele in 1907, far from their provincial cultural limits. Basilio wanted to expose Michele and Tommaso to a more stimulating environment, richer with activity and possibilities. There was talk of “Enfants prodiges”. Michele was only 15 years old.
Michele sold his first painting privately in 1908 had his first show in Paris the following year. His technique mainly consisted in the use of pastels. In 1910, Michele began to frequent the cultural circles of Milan, where he became acquainted with his great friend, the poet Clemente Rebora, as well as the philosopher Antonio Banfi and the writer Sibilla Aleramo, who in her turn introduced him to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni and Margherita Sarfatti. Giorgio de Chirico became a good friend of his. Michele presented the pastel La casa blu to the Biennale of Venice without success. Shortly after, Eduadro de Filippo, the great theater actor, comedian, and director, bought it.
In 1912 Michele’s father opened another studio in Milan on Viale Monza #26. Most of the family remained in Pescara. Basilio made illustrations for a magazine Nature and Art for the Antonio Vallardi Publishing House. By 1914 Michele was having an affair with the poetess Sibilla Aleramo, who was 16 years older than him. She was 38 at the time. He was 22. He met her while working on his father’s magazine L’illustrazione abruzzese, to which he collaborated with drawings and graphic illustrations.
In 1915 Michele was mobilized and sent to the front (in the Trentino), but he did not stop painting: in fact the general Enrico Caviglia, his commander, gave him the job of drawing the life of the soldiers at the front. One evening, at the command seat of Chiut Zuin two foreign deserters arrived: an officer and a simple soldier. They were Russian. The moon was coming up behind them, when they arrived, they were both of an unreal light yellow color similar to hay, from head to toe. He made a little design and upon his return to Pescara he painted a small piece entitled The Russian Soldiers, 1915. Some of these scenes of military life at the front are today preserved in Museum of the Risorgimento and the Civil Historical Collections in Milan.
In 1917 Basilio moved with his sons to Rapino where he dedicated himself to ceramics. In 1919 Michele moved to Milan where he shared an apartment with this good friend and inspiration, the poet Clemente Rebora in Via Tadino, #8. Michele dedicated himself to engraving and ceramics, later returning to oil and watercolor painting.
In 1923 Michele was finishing a watercolor of a fountain in a Piazza in Palermo, when he heard an older woman turn to her friend and say: “Look what he has to do to eat, poor guy!” The following year he exhibited at the Venice Biennale for the first time.
In 1924 Michele exhibited at the War Show of the Villa Reale in Monza, dedicated to the artists who painted or drew events during the First World War. Carlo Carra`, who was a great supporter of the primitivism in Michele’s paintings, gave him good reviews. That same year, Michele exhibited three watercolors at the Biennale of Venice for the first time and one of them, Mattutino, was bought by His Majesty the King. From that year on until 1942, Michele participated, at almost all the Venice Biennal exhibitions, except for 1938.
In 1927 Michele’s painting Pineta in Pescara, presented at the National Exposition of Art, was bought by the Provincial Administration of Milan.
In 1928 Michele made his first trip to Paris, even though he had held several exhibits there already, and he exhibited in Brussels. Michele considered Paris his second home from then on. Life there reminded him of certain areas of Italy.
In 1931 Michele participated at the Rome Quadriennale I, along with his father, and continued to participate at all the Quadriennales until 1951. In April Michele exhibited 28 paintings at the Bastford Gallery in London and he met the architect Alfred C. Bossom who bought three paintings. He then donated the watercolor The entrance to the village, to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Still that same year Michele exhibited at the Gallery of the Toison d’Or in Bruxelles and in June, the Belgian Minister of The Sciences and Arts stated that it had acquired Evening at Montecatini.
In 1933 the director of the Corriere della Sera Aldo Borelli, invited Michele to collaborate on the newspaper with a series of sketches of important Italian localities. Almost everyday the paper published one of his designs. After Michele’s military experience, pen and ink sketches had become his favorite method of expression. Michele also exhibited six works at the Fall Social Exposition of the Society for the Beautiful Arts and Permanent Exposition in Milan. On June 4th, 1933, pushed by his father and with special dispensation of a friend, Michele was able to paint the canonization ceremony of Andrea Uberto Fournet in Saint Peters. Though Michele initially thought this painting was a flop, Antonio Mariaini (Dacia Maraini’s grandfather), then secretary of the Biennal of Venice, had it figured prominently in the Biennal the following year. The Italian King, Victor Emanuel, wanted to buy it, but Michele put a very high price on it for that time and the royal family offered only half of what Michele was asking, which Michele refused because of an excess of pride. Later on he regretted it, because he could not find a buyer for it.
In 1934 Michele went to Libya for a few months and shortly afterwards Michele received a commission from Her Highness the Princess of Piedmont for a series of paintings dedicated to southern Italian landscapes. She gave him itinerary tips from Amalfi to Sila. The Civic Gallery of Modern Art in Turin acquired Sera a Montecatini Alto.
In 1937 the Honorable Stefano Benni, then Minister of Transportation, wanted Michele to do the wall decoration for the new Maritime station of Messina. Michele thought his father would be better suited for this job, but ended up accepting it. He agreed only to do the sketch and had his father and brother Tommaso do the actual execution. He also won the gold medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris. And at the Permanente in Milan Michele exhibited Roma, sport esultanza, inspired by the Carnera-Paolino fight held in 1933 in Piazza di Spagna in the presence of Mussolini.
In 1938 Michele did the drafts of the opera Margherita da Cortona, directed by Franco Capuana and interepreted by Augusta Oltrabella, which was performed at the Scala Opera House in Milan. He then began to reside in Portofino which became the inspiration for many of his later works.
In 1942 Michele had a room at the Biennal of Venice, his last year there, and he exhibited works made at the request of the Ministers of the Navy and the of the Air Force.
In 1955 Michele designed the costumes for La moglie saggia by Carlo Goldoni, shown at the Sant’Erasmo Theater under the direction of Carlo Lari. The French State bought the watercolor Piazzola di Padova and Michele’s native town of Ortona a Mare gave him and his brothers a gold medal and held a celebratory exhibition.
In October of 1959 Michele made his first trip to the U.S., to New York. From then on he would spend half of the year in Palo Alto, California, where Isabel Lane became his agent and organized all of his shows. Later Michele was represented by the Juarez Gallery in Los Angeles.
In 1965, while in Ortona, Michele dedicated a painting to the Apostle San Tommaso, whose remains are preserved in the Cathedral there, and gave it to the then mayor, who in turn donated the painting to His Holiness Paolo VI.
In 1967, Michele traveled to Hawaii for the holidays. Michele’s brother, Tommaso, died in Pescara in 1968 and the following year Garzanti published Forza zio Mec, a short autobiography written by Michele while he was in the U.S.
From 1969 Michele spent much of his time in the countryside of Colle Val d’Elsa (province of Siena) with his second wife, Isabel Lane Cascella. He painted many Tuscan landscapes during this period. In 1972, the Comune of Milan gave Michele a gold medal of merit.
In 1975 in Pescara the Museo Basilio Cascella was opened in the original location of Michele’s father’s lithographic establishment, with works of Basilio, his sons and grandsons. During the same year, Portofino made Michele an honorary citizen.
In 1977 the city of Ortona dedicated the Pinacoteca Comunale to Michele which exhibits around 50 of his paintings. In 1980, the Comune of Milan gave Michele the medal of merit.
Michele died on Tuesday, August 31, 1989 at the age of 97 in Milan and was buried in Ortona.
In 2003, Michele was featured in the collective exhibition, De Chirico et la peinture italienne de l’entre-deux guerres (De Chirico and Italian Painting of the Interwar Period) at the Musee de Lodeve.
Michele won the gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1937. In 1972 the Comune of Milan gave Michele a gold medal of merit and again in 1980. In 1975 Michele became an honorary citizen of Portofino. In 1977 the city of Ortona dedicated the Pinacoteca Comunale to Michele. In 1979, the Academy of Art Dino Scalabrino of Montecatini Terme gave Michele the Life of artist 1979 prize.
Michele’s works are preserved at:
The Basilio Cascella Civic Museum in Pescara
The Pinacoteca Comunale M. Cascella in Ortona
The Risorgimento Museum and the Historical Collections in Milan
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London
The National Modern Art Gallery in Turin
Banca Nazionale del Lavoro in Rome
The Museum of the Jeu-de-Paume in France
The National Gallery of Luxembourg
The House Museum of Gabriele D’Annunzio in Pescara
The De Saisset Art Gallery of Santa Clara University in California, Permanent Collection
The Modern Art Gallery in Brussels,
The National Modern Art Gallery in Rome.
1907 – Milan, Artistic Family, end of November
1908 – Turin, Caffe` Ligure at Porta Nuova
1909 – Paris, Druet Gallery, 20 rue Royale, April
1910 – Milan, Artistic Family
Paris, Salone d’Automne
1911 – Roma, Ridotto of the National Theater
1912 – Milan, Palace of the Permanente
1913 – Pescara, Gallery unknown, July-August
Buenos Aires, San Paolo del Brasile, Gallery not identified
1917 – Milan, Salone dell’Associazione della Stampa and the Central Gallery of Art
1920 – Milan, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, ceramic show and pastels
Paris, George Petit Gallery
1922 – Milan, Palace of the Permanente, National Expostions, by the Academy of Brera
1923 – Milan, Pesaro Gallery
1924 – Milan, “Lidel” Saletta
Biennale of Venice
Monza, War Show at the Villa Reale, dedicated to the artists that painted or drew events of the First World War.
1925 – Milan, Pesaro Gallery
1926 – Biennale of Venice
Biella, Bottega d’Arte
1927 – Rome, Bragaglia Gallery, April
Piacenza, Association Friends of the Arts, December
Milan, National Exposition of Art, Pineta in Pescara bought by the Provincial Administration of Milan
1928 – Milan, Pesaro Gallery, paintings in the show were inspired by Milan.
Biennale of Venice
1929 – Milan, Pesaro Gallery in Milan, February along with his father
Genova, Valley Gallery, April
London, Beaux Arts Gallery
1930 – Paris, George Petit Gallery, March
Turin, Codebo` Gallery, April
Stresa, Municipal Casino`, September
Biennale of Venice
1931 – Paris, 23 Gallery, January, the French State acquired Abruzzi Dawn at the Convent, for the Museum of the Jeu-de-Paume.
London, Bastford Gallery, April, Alfred Charles Bossom, bought three paintings, including a watercolor of Guardiagrele, which he later donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Rome, Camerata of the Artists, November
Rome, Quadriennale I
1932 – Milan, Milano Gallery, February-March
Paris, Bernheim Jeune Gallery, June-July, Roma, Via Aurelia, bought for the National Gallery of Luxembourg.
Genova, Vitelli Gallery, December
Biennale of Venice
1933 – Turin, Guglielmi Gallery, January
Rome, Sabatello Gallery, May
Milan, Fall Social Exposition of the Society for the Beautiful Arts and Permanent Exposition
1934 – La Spezia, House of Art
Livorno, Art Shop, February
Naples, II International Show of Colonial Art
Bruxelles, Pavillion for Modern Art at the Universal and International Exposition
Biennale of Venice
1935 – Milan, Pesaro Gallery, December-January with 90 works mostly of Southern Italy
Rome, Quadriennale II
1936 – Milan, Pesaro Gallery, December, including maioliche he made at the Richard-Ginori factory in Doccia.
Biennale of Venice
1937 – Rome, S.A.C.A. Gallery, Doria Palace, March
Johannesburg, Gallery unknown
Milan, Gian Ferrari Gallery, December
1939 – Rome, Quadriennale III
1940 – Rome, Gallery of Rome, first retrospective of fifty works from 1908 to 1940.
Bienale of Venice
1942 – Biennale of Venice
1943 – Rome, Quadriennale IV
1944 – Milan, Philological Circle, January
Naples, Artistic Circle, April
Rome, Gallery of Rome, May
Milan, Gian Ferrari Gallery
1945 – Milan, Dedalo Gallery, November, retrospective of 36 pieces
1946 – Turin, Martina Gallery, February
Varese, Prevosti Gallery, November
1947 – Sanremo, Parodi Gallery, January
Milan, Gussoni Gallery, March
Florence, Michelangelo Gallery, April-May
1948 – Buenos Aires, Van Riel Gallery, August
Montevideo, Berro Gallery, August
Rosario, Renon Gallery of Art by the O.C.I.S.A. (Organizacion Cultural Italo-Sudamericana), September-October
Los Angeles, The Mid 20th Gallery, Giorgio de Chirico wrote the catalogue introduction.
Milan, Gussoni Gallery, December
Rome, Quadriennale V
1949 – Florence, Michelangelo Gallery, May
Paris, Allard Gallery, May, French Minister of Education acquired Firenze, Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
1951 – Milan, San Babila Art Center, April
Rome, Babuino Gallery, May
Como, Column Gallery, May
Genova, Rotta Gallery, June
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Artistic Circle
Rome, Quadriennale VI
1953 – Milan, Cairola Gallery, January-February
Livorno, Art Shop, March
Los Angeles, Rosati Art Studio Gallery, April
Rome, Giosi Gallery, May
Milan, Prints of Art
1954 – Paris, Marseille Gallery
Lugano, Caccia Museum, Villa Ciani, July-September, first anthological show under the auspices of the Lyceum of Swiss Italy with over 240 pieces from 1908 to 1954.
Ginevra, Art and History Museum, Salle des Casemates, October-November
Losanna, Salons du Palace, November
Trieste, Trieste Gallery
1955 – Florence, Spinetti Gallery, April-May
Paris, Marseille Gallery, May
Rapallo, Kursaal Excelsior, July
Milan, Gussoni Gallery, November-December
1956 – Naples, Giosi Gallery, January
Paris, Weil Gallery, April
Rome, Il Camino Gallery, May
Portofino, Azienda Autonoma, August
Ortona a Mare, Comune di Ortona, celebratory show, August-September
Genova, Rotta Gallery, October
1957 – Rome, Giosi Gallery, May
Lione, Malaval Gallery, May
Rome, Russo Gallery, October
Milan, Gussoni Gallery, November-December
1958 – Paris, Andre` Weil Gallery, Avenue Matignon, April
L’Aquila, second Regional Biennal Show of figurative Arts of the Abruzzo and Molise, 2 rooms dedicated to Michele, July and August.
Santa Margherita Ligure, Kursaal, August
Rome, Russo Gallery, November-December
1959 – Turin, Fogliato Gallery, May
Bologna, Loggia Gallery, June
Rome, La Marguttiana Gallery
New York, Chase Gallery, December
Pescara, Verrocchio Gallery, December-Janaury
1960 – San Francisco, Maxwell Galleries, February
Beverly Hills, Edgardo Acosta Gallery, April-May
San Francisco, Laky Galleries, August
Milan, Gussoni Gallery
1961 – Saratoga, Montalvo Gallery, January
1962 – San Francisco, Maxwell Galleries
Paris, Andre` Weil Gallery, September
Milan, Gussoni Gallery, November-December
1963 – Beverley Hills, Edgardo Acosta Gallery, May-June
Palo Alto, Palo Alto Art Club, October
1964 – Salsomaggiore Terme, Azienda Autonoma di Cura, Saloni mostre, September
Venice, Santo Stefano Gallery, September
Paris, Andre` Weil Gallery, october
Westport, Cupola Art Gallery, October
Milan, Gussoni Gallery, November
1965 – University of Santa Clara, De Saisset Art Gallery, June
Paris, Andre` Weil Gallery
1966 – New York, International Gallery, March-April
San Francisco, Maxwell Galleries, June-July
Paris, Andre` Weil Gallery, retrospective 65 works from 1907-1966, September-October
Beverly Hills, Edagardo Acosta Gallery, October-November
1967 – Milan, Levi Gallery, February-March
Beverly Hills, Edgardo Acosta Gallery, October
1969 – University of Santa Clara, De Saisset Art Gallery, July-August
Milan, Levi Gallery, November
Los Angeles, Gregg Juarez Galleries, November
1970 – Palm Beach, Gregg Juarez Galleries, March-April
Milan, Levi Gallery, April
Pescara, G. D’Annunzio University, August
1971 – Ascoli Piceno, Rosati Gallery, November-December
1972 – Francavilla al Mare, Sirena Palace, anthological show, August
Milan, Levi Gallery, November
1973 – Milan, Comanducci Gallery
Giulianova, La Riva Gallery, July
Lanciano, “The Cube” Art Center
Udine, At the Arches Gallery
1974 – Reggio Emilia, Libreria Prandi, April-May
Pescara, Margutta Gallery, July
Molfetta, “La Medusa” Encounter Center for Art, November
1975 – Milan, Levi Gallery, January
Venice, Santo Stefano Gallery
Bergamo, La Simonetta Gallery, October-December
Pescara, Ponterosso Gallery, December
1976 – Bergamo, Simonetta Gallery, October-November
Genova, Genova Gallery
1977 – Milan, Comanducci Gallery, October-November
Turin, Comanducci Gallery, November-December
1978 – Teramo, Rizziero Gallery
Vigevano, Castello Sforzesco, anthological show with more than 100 works
Lanciano, “The Cube” Art Center, August
Venice, Santo Stefano Gallery
1979 – La Jolla, Burdett-Juarez Galleries, November
1980 – Rome, The Indicator Gallery, April
Montecatini Terme, “D. Scalabrino” Academy of Art, Viale Diaz 6, anthological show, with 102 pieces, September, Life of artist 1979 prize
Ancona, Gioacchini Gallery, September
1981 – Milan, Palazzo Reale, anthological show, April-May
Campione d’Italia, Civic Gallery, anthological show, November
Rome, Barberini Palace, anthological show
Genova, Rosso Palace, anthological show, October
Milan, Sant’Andrea Gallery, November
Ferrara, Diamond Palace, anthological show, December-January
1983 – Pisa, Il Centauro Gallery, March
Catania, Art Club, February-March
Varese, Ghiggini Gallery, March-April
Chiari, The Encounter Gallery, October-November
1984 – Cattolica, Delfino Gallery, January-February
Sasso Marconi (Bologna), The Art House, anthological show, March
Pescara, Questarte Gallery, July-August
1985 – Rome, Sant’Angelo Castle, anthological show, June-September
1986 – Reggio Emilia, City Gallery, March
Cosenza, Il Sagittario Gallery
Imperia, Battifoglio Gallery
1988 – Montecarlo, Sporting d’Hiver, anthological show, July-August
1989 – Palermo, Basile Gallery, October-November
Arzignano, Arzignano Art Gallery, December-January
1990 – Pavia, Sansoni Gallery, March
Dolo, Civic Halls of Villa Petrolini, May
Chieri, Civic Gallery, May
Busto Arsizio, Museum of the Arts, Bandera Palace, anthological show with 100 pieces, November-January
1991 – Passariano (Udine), Villa Manin, anthological show, December-January
1992 – Como, Continental Hotel, April
Manerbio, Cultural Center, May
Milan, Palace of the Permanente, Michele Cascella, Works from 1907 to 1946, September-October
1993 – Pescara, D’Annunzio’s House, anthological show, November-December
1994 – Sorrento, Correale Museum
1996 – Viterbo, Palace of the Popes, anthological show, March- April
1999 – Aosta, Saint-Benin Center, Michele Cascella, Anthological show 1907/1987, July-October
2000 – Rio de Janeiro, National Museum of Beautiful Arts. Anthological show, May-June
San Paolo del Brasile, Memorial da America Latina, Galeria Marta Traba, June-July
Buenos Aires, National Museum of Beautiful Arts, October-November
2005 – Arona, Villa Ponti, December-April
2008 – Francavilla al Mare, Museo Michetti, Palazzo San Domenico, La gioia di vivere, July-September
2011 – San Francisco, Museo ItaloAmericano, Michele Cascella Retrospective, February
Forza zio Mec, Michele Cascella, 1969
Taccuino di un pittore, Michele Cascella, 1975
Michele Cascella… On Art, Architectural Digest, Spring 1970 pg. 62-67
Michele Cascella La gioia di vivere, Vittorio Sgarbi, 2008
Written and submitted by Francesca Lane Kautz
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