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 Sam Markitante  (1887 - 1960)

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Lived/Active: California / France/Russian Federation      Known for: floral still life, landscape, sculptor

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Sam Markitante
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is submitted by Paul Stone.

"Samuel Markitante" Article in the Evening Lookout Magazine- Saturday,, Nov. 25, 1972 Article by Dolores Eyler

Samuel Markitate believes fate has ruled his life.
It was fate he wasn't killed as a Russian art student prior to the Russian revolution. It was fate that brought him through World War II after three long years in concentration camps. But fate had no part in his becoming a successful artist.

"In Europe, you are surrounded by art," said Markitate, 85. "Though my relatives were all doctors, art and music filled our lives. I think I began painting in my mother's womb."

By age 6, Markitante was decorating the walls of his home with childish originals. "My parents knew by then they couldn't stop me from painting," he said.

Russian-born, Samuel Markitante had three brothers and four sisters, all talented musicians as well as physicians. "I was the first to give up music. You must concentrate on only one endeavor at a time," explained the diminutive artist.

At 16, Markitante entered the Academy of Sculpture and Painting in Odessa, Russia. He, the youngest student, enrolled. Thus began a painting and sculpturing career that has spanned seven decades and a multitude of countries.

Though the octogenarian has forgotten many of the dates and places in his past ("they don't really matter anymore"), he remembers important events and relates them with a combination of wit and friendly philosophy.

From Russia, where Markitante's talent was acclaimed by the czar, he moved to Paris, where for 30 years he occupied the former studio of the famed French artist, Renoir.

Named director of General L'Art in France, comparable to a Cabinet post in the United States, Markitante taught, painted and sculptured the famous of Europe, including the royal family of Monaco and busts of the 46 foreign following World War I.

Besides the famous, Markitante often painted the French Brittany countryside, his yearly vacation retreat. A frequent subject was the family of the Brittany fisherman. One, of a , old woman forlornly resting on her hearth, waiting for her husband to return, now hangs in his Santa Monica home.

"She is saying, 'I see the sun but no more life," explained Markitante haltingly in his unpolished English. "They had such lonely lives."

Markitante's favorite subject of painting and sculpturing was Ludwig von Beethoven, his lifelong idol.

His portraits and busts of the famed composer are still shown throughout Europe, including in the Paris and Berlin conservatories. Markitante's latest completed painting shows a pensive Beethoven standing among a cluster of autumn trees planning what was to be his last symphony.

"Beethoven represents to me the two greatest things in life... love and liberty caused him to lose it. Refusing to paint and sculpt Nazi heroes, the well-known artist was imprisoned in various concentration camps for three years during World War II.

Besides losing those important working years of his life, Markitante lost his wife, a young girl 17 years his junior.

"I gave her my fame and fortune; I also gave her freedom, so sure was I of my death," said Markitante. Upon regaining his freedom, he discovered she had remarried. He never saw her again.

Grateful to his American liberators, Markitante vowed to bring his art to this country. He moved to Southern California in 1954.

Markitante loves "Amerik," But he constantly chastises its citizens for their lack of culture, their ignorance of art and music.

"Amerik has no really famous artist," Markitante maintains. "They aren't even taught how to hold a paintbrush!" Markitante, whose sculptured-like impressionistic paintings are achieved by using only a palette knife, claims all possible colors and forms can be learned by painting the natural forms of fresh fruit and eggs.

Inflicted with heart trouble for the past three years, Markitante lives in semiretirement with Cecile, his wife of 19 years. She is a talented pianist and feverent Markitante admirer.

Markitante never paints from pictures. He prefers to travel throughout the Westside, painting the Santa Monica Mountains, bluffs and ocean. Only one painting remains unsold from a 100-picture Pacific Palisades collection he started 10 years ago.

He still paints in his back-yard workroom every day but wishes he had more energy for the teaching he loves.

"I could make an artist out of anyone," he vows. "Talent is a word I don't understand. Painting is finding something important to say and knowing how to say it."

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