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 Ugo Giannini  (1919 - 1993)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey      Known for: geometric abstract, non objective painting

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An example of work by Ugo Giannini
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is a review of a 2005 exhibition honoring the artist at the Bedford Welcome Center in Bedford, Virginia.


Unique WWII Prints to be on Exhibit at Bedford Welcome Center
-- Works by artist Ugo Giannini to hang until October 29th--

Beginning on Tuesday, October 11th, 22 prints of drawings by the late artist Ugo Giannini depicting scenes of war from D-Day to V-E Day will be on display at the Bedford Welcome Center.  The prints were originally sent to Bedford on loan to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation for display at the recent 29th Infantry Division Reunion.  They are on loan from the artist’s widow and will remain at the Welcome Center until October 29th.

Ugo Giannini (1919-1993) was born in Newark, New Jersey, where he studied art at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts and also at the National Academy of Design of New York. Prevented by World War II from continuing his studies, he entered the Army and in time found himself assigned to a military police platoon in the 29th Infantry Division.  His training as an infantryman and skill with a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) stood him in good stead on D-Day, when he landed on Omaha Beach, probably closer to Easy Green than Dog Green, the intended debarkation point.  By the following morning, he had reached his assigned objective, Vierville-sur-Mer, and assumed the duties as a military policeman, which included traffic control, casualty evacuation and guarding of prisoners, that occupied him until the German surrender. Through it all, Ugo was never far from paper and pen to sketch what he saw.

After the war Giannini continued at The Art Students League in New York, then utilizing the GI Bill he studied in Paris under renowned modernist Fernand Léger in 1949.  Ugo was a Professor of Art at Caldwell College from 1963 to 1990 and taught painting, drawing, design, art history, and senior seminar.  It was the senior seminar course, which, as former chairperson of the art department, Sister Gerardine Mueller, O.P., M.F.A. said he enjoyed the most since that was where he would "impart so much of himself to his students." In the years that followed he began his exploration in the direction of non-figurative, or abstract art.

The artist’s widow, Maxine Giannini, lives in New Jersey.


Source:
www.visitbedford.com

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
From February 19 to March 14, an exhibition of work by Ugo Giannini was held at the Visceglia Art Center at Caldwell College in Caldwell, New Jersey.  Following is the description provided for the exhibition, which was under the supervision of  Kendall Baker, Director of The Visceglia Gallery.  The exhibition title was "Ugo Giannini - An Exploration: Artist, Student, Teacher"


"Giannini, a Professor of Art at Caldwell College from 1963 to 1990 began his art education at the Newark School of Industrial Fine Arts where he was encouraged to further his studies at the prestigious National Academy of Design in New York.  Drafted into World War II and a survivor of the battle of D-Day, Giannini was never far from paper and pen to sketch what he saw.  After the war Giannini continued at The Art Students League in New York, then utilizing the GI Bill he studied in Paris under renowned modernist Fernand Léger in 1949.  In the years that followed he began his exploration in the direction of non-figurative, or abstract art.

While at Caldwell College he taught painting, drawing, design, art history, and Senior Seminar. It was the Senior Seminar course which, as former chairperson of the art department, Sister Gerardine Mueller, O.P., M.F.A. said he enjoyed the most since that was where, she said, he would 'impart so much of himself to his students.' "

The exhibition featured "figurative work created on the battlefield, St. Lo (1944) and culminate with the never the before seen, Requiem to Those Who Died:June 6, 1944 D-Day Omaha Beach (1992), a powerful work, which was Giannini’s last before his death.  The works between will examine the growth of a 20th century artist as he explores the complex struggle between order and chaos, seeking balance through non-objective art."



Biography from Rehs Galleries, Inc.:
Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1919, Ugo Giannini was the son of an opera singer and a tailor.  After graduating from high school, he enrolled as a student in the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts.  He later went on to study at the National Academy of Design in New York.

World War II interrupted his art studies.  In 1944, he participated in the Normandy invasion and was among the first wave of soldiers to land on Omaha Beach shortly after H-Hour on D-Day.  On his return from Europe, where he served until the end of the war, he continued his studies at the Art Students League in New York.  But in 1949, at age thirty, he decided to return to Europe to study in Paris with Fernand Léger. 

The year Giannini spent in Paris was to be of decisive importance for his career. Exposed to the major modernist currents of the first half of the twentieth century, most notably Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism, he abandoned the realist style in which he had been working until then, becoming increasingly interested in formal issues.  The year in Paris thus turned into a fertile period of experimentation during which he produced works that give evidence of a broad variety of artistic influences but nonetheless show great integrity and originality.  Indeed, even though they contain hints of Matisse, Picasso, and Léger, these works from the 1950s are the products of a mature and confident artist, who did not slavishly copy the European masters he admired, but absorbed what he found interested in their works and made it his own.

When Giannini returned to America in 1950, he took a studio on Parker Avenue in East Orange, New Jersey.  There he continued to experiment with colors and forms in a series of completely non-objective works that he referred to as Contrasting Forms.  Unlike the works he had produced in Paris, these paintings no longer make any reference to perceived reality.  For the artist, however, they formed a new kind of reality.  Or, as he wrote in an undated essay, probably written around this time: “Subject matter is mere appearance.  Painting … is the art of discerning and manipulating the structures and processes of seeing. … Reality for me is what I experience by working with forms and colors.

In 1955, Giannini married Maxine Yellin, a classical pianist, and eventually secured a teaching position at Caldwell College, a Catholic women’s college in New Jersey. More interested in creating and teaching than in promoting his career, Giannini lived a quite life in West Orange, together with his wife and two children.  Working steadily, he produced an impressive oeuvre in a variety of media—painting, gouache, pastel, drawing, and collage.

Most of his later works are non-objective, though on occasion recognizable elements re-appear in his work.  As he approached retirement, Giannini felt a need to return to Normandy to revisit the battlefield of his youth. His trip was cut short in Paris by the disease that eventually would fell him but the resurgent memories of Normandy materialized in a series of elegiac works in which his lifelong, silent preoccupation with the war was powerfully condensed.

Upon the artist’s death in 1993, his heirs found in his modest studio a large and impressive body of works, one more beautiful than the other.  Giannini had quietly produced them over the years and had neatly stored them away for posterity to discover.

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