Ted De Grazia
(1909 - 1982)
Ted (Ettore) De Grazia was active/lived in Arizona. Ted De Grazia is known for mod-naive Indian figure-child.
Ted De Grazia
Biography from DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
Born in the mining town of Morenci, Arizona, Ted DeGrazia became one of
Arizona's most prominent painters, illustrators, and graphic
artists, resulting in his studio gallery being listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. He lived most of his life near
Tucson, and worked in his
studio, open to the public, that he called "The Gallery of the Sun."
His signature work is paintings and illustrations of 'angel-like'
Southwest children, many of them Indian and Hispanic.
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He was the son of an immigrant father who was a copper miner for Phelps
Dodge Company, but Ted, at age eleven, returned to Italy with his
family for the next five years. When he returned to Morenci, he
had forgotten most of his English and entered first grade at age
16. One of his teachers decided to Anglicize his name from Ettore
to "Ted" because it was easier to spell. He did not graduate from
high school until age 23. During this time, the Depression, he
had developed interest and skill as a musician and earned money playing
trumpet in local bands at houses of "ill repute." He attended the
University of Arizona to learn to paint, but dropping out, went to
Mexico City to study fresco techniques with social-real muralists Diego
Rivera and Jose Orozco, who in turn were so admiring of his painting
that they sponsored an exhibition of De Grazia's work. He also
traveled extensively throughout Arizona, experimenting with ceramics
and depicting on paper and canvas local people.
In 1941, a special exhibit was held of work completed during these
travels. In the late 1930s, he had his first trip to the Navajo
Reservation, which stirred a special feeling for subjects he depicted
from that time. Previously he had had much exposure to the other
Arizona tribes--Pimas, Papagos, Apaches and Yaquis, but he became
especially fascinated with the seemingly empty land, life around the
trading posts, and children herding their sheep. He returned to Tucson
from Mexico in 1943, and built an adobe studio and in 1945 earned his
Master's Degree in music and art.
His illustrations for greeting cards brought him early attention among
Arizonans, but he was hurt that the University Art Department showed
little interest in his accomplishments. This rejection caused him to go
it alone, so he built his own gallery in Tucson from adobe and
decorated it with Indian and Mexican motifs. His paintings were
devoted to subjects related to the history of the region, and he was
fascinated with the purity of their life before the infiltration of
However, the busy-ness of Tucson caused him in 1951 to build another
gallery he called Gallery of the Sun. It was modelled after haciendas
on Mexican ranches and was located in the Santa Catalina Mountains
north of the city. About that same time, he formed a friendship with
Buck Saunders, a gallery owner in Scottsdale, and Saunders held a
one-man show of DeGrazia's work. To their amazement, it was a smashing
success, and from that time DeGrazia's reputation was insured and he
stayed exclusively with Saunders.
In addition to painting, he also did textile designs and traveled to
New York for that venture but was unhappy being away from Arizona and
the Indian subject matter that inspired him. A piece that brought him
national renown was Los Ninos,
the Christmas card he designed as a
commission from UNICEF. Over five million boxes of cards were
sold. Following this success, he had wide distribution of his
many forms--prints, serigraphs, decals, collector plates, needlepoint,
cards, books and even key chains. He also wrote several books on
painting. For a man of humble beginnings, he became an artist
with much financial rewards and personal satisfaction of doing what he
wanted to do. In 1976, he protested for himself and for other
artists who had achieved financial success by burning in the
Superstition Mountains some of his paintings because of what he
perceived as unfair inheritance tax on artists' estates.
Ted De Grazia died September 17, 1982 at age 72. He is buried at
the site of his Gallery of the Sun near an adobe chapel he had designed
and had built to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe. He had also
established a De Grazia Foundation to provide funding for exhibitions
of his work at the Gallery.
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
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