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 Antonio Salemme  (1892 - 1995)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Massachusetts / Bermuda/Italy      Known for: classical portrait sculpture, landscape and marine painting

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Ad Code: 3
Antonio Salemme
from Auction House Records.
Bust of a man
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Antonio Salemme was born in Gaeta, Italy, November 2,1892. After the death of his mother, he moved to Newton, Massachusetts with his father in 1904.  He began the study of Art at the Eric Pape Art School*, Boston, painting with George L. Noyes and other painters.  He began studying sculpture in Boston.

In 1910, he went on a study tour of Spain and France with Prof. R. R. Goodell of Simmonds College, Boston. In 1912 he was sent by his patron, William A Read of New York, to study sculpture in Rome, where he worked under Angelo Zanelli and studied the Old Masters in the museums.

He served in the Italian Army from 1915 to 1919, spending 31 months at the front. During this time he did sculpture portraits of two of his generals, and a bronze relief honoring a lieutenant who was killed on a dangerous mission.

After the war, he worked a short while in Rome and then returned to the United States. On his return from Rome he continued to work in sculpture. He exhibited in the following national exhibitions:

1920's National Academy of Design*
1929 National Sculpture Society*
1930 Art Institute of Chicago*
1928 Palace of Legion of Honor, San Francisco
1930's Whitney Museum, New York City
1932,1933, 1934, 1935 Salon d'Automne*, Salon des Tuileries, and Gallerie Zac in Paris, France
1930- 1950 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts*, Philadelphia
1950 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1931 Sculpture, Ferargil Gallery, New York
1935 Sculpture and drawings. Ehrich-Newhouse Gallery, New York
1937 Sculpture and drawings. Findlay Gallery, New York
1939 Sculpture and drawings. Wakefield Bookshop Gallery, New York
1950 Sculpture, paintings, and drawings, Wellons Gallery, New York
1961 Paintings, Sagittarius Gallery, New York
1964 Sculpture and drawings. Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York
1972 Paintings, sculpture and drawings. Historical Cultural Center, Gaeta, Italy
1972 Paintings, sculpture, and drawings. Fahlnaes Gallery, International Trade Fair, Gothenburg, Sweden
1979 Paintings and sculpture. Edward-Dean Museum of Decorative Arts, Cherry Valley, California
1980 Paintings and Sculpture. The Yellow Box Gallery, New York

Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Newark Museum, Newark, N.J.; Bronze portrait of Ethel Waters at Yale University; Bronze portrait of Pres. Dwight D Eisenhower at Columbia University, National Headquarters of the Republican Party, Washington D.C., USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, CVN 89; Bronze portrait of Vilhjalmur Steffansson, Manitoba Centennial Center, Winnipeg, Canada; Bronze portrait of Pres. John F. Kennedy, Kennedy Library, Boston; Bronze portrait of Paul Robeson, Fine Arts Collection, Rutgers University; and many private collections.

Submitted December 2004 by William DeRaymond

"The source for this information is from material I was given by Antonio when I first started representing him in 1980. There is the Antonio Salemme Foundation, which was created in 1995, upon his passing, of which I am a trustee.  I have never doubted the anecdotes and information he passed on to me, and I am sure much would be easy to verify.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information about the artist Antonio Salemme (1892-1995), is submitted by Joseph C. Skrapits, an artist and former student of Salemme, who is currently president of the Antonio Salemme Foundation (

While best known as a sculptor, Antonio Salemme was also an accomplished painter, in oil and watercolor.  Salemme began painting as a teenager in Boston around 1908. His teacher, the New England Impressionist George L. Noyes, introduced him to the scenic beauty of Cape Ann and instilled a solid understanding of plein-air painting techniques and Impressionist use of color.  By the summer of 1909 Salemme had his first studio in East Gloucester, where he received a critique from Cecilia Beaux.  He also studied, briefly, with Charles Hawthorne at the Provincetown School of Art.  During this period Salemme was also studying sculpture under Richard Recchia, and in 1912 he received a stipend to work in Rome.  For the next two decades Salemme devoted himself exclusively to sculpture, and established himself as one of the foremost contemporary-classical sculptors in New York.

In the mid-1930s, after a two-year sojourn in Paris, Salemme began spending summers on Cape Ann again, and his interest in painting reawakened.  His landscapes of the late 1930s and 1940s, done mostly in the area around Rockport, Massachusetts, in Central Park near his 57th Street studio, and in Westchester County, show a definite Cezannesque influence, with separate touches of clear, luminous color used to model form and indicate spatial planes.  Still lifes and portraits from this period, of which there are many, are somewhat more realistic, with delicate outlining and thin applications of paint.  Color harmonies are subdued, but based on Impressionist use of complementary warm-cool oppositions.

Salemme painted in Bermuda in 1954, producing a number of landscapes that feature characteristically colorful Bermudian architecture.  That same year he and his wife Martha purchased a country house in eastern Pennsylvania, where they eventually moved in 1962.  Salemme turned 70 in 1962, and began his most prolific and inventive period as an artist.  In painting, his landscapes became more vivid and abstract; a new group of still lifes carried him in the direction of Surrealism and Metaphysical painting; and he painted the first of what would eventually mount to more than 100 “imaginary portraits,” which typically feature classically beautiful women in environments of fractured color planes.  Often the women peer at themselves in mirrors, a device which allowed Salemme, the doubly gifted sculptor/painter, to depict the third dimension on a two-dimensional surface.

Salemme’s late-period paintings, typically done in oils on heavy paper, were the fruition of years of meditation practice and insight into the nature of the creative process.  Seemingly effortless and with a childlike delight in intense color contrasts, they express Salemme’s attainment of complete freedom and spontaneity, the ultimate stage of mastery in the art.

Submitted May 2010 by Joseph Skrapits, an artist, former student of Salemme, and current President of the Antonio Salemme Foundation.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in 1892 in Gaeta, Italy, Antonio Salemme moved with his family to Newton, Massachusetts in 1904.  At the age of thirteen he began his studies at the Eric Pape Art School and continued later at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School studying with George L. Noyes.  While in Boston he began to study sculpture, and, in 1910, continued his study in Spain and France.  He then studied in Rome in 1912 as a protege of Angelo Zanelli.  From 1915 to 1919, Salemme served in the Italian Army and returned to the United States at the end of the war.

He worked exclusively as a sculptor until the 1930s at which time he again took up painting in addition to sculpting.  He received the Guggenheim Fellowship for sculpture in 1932 and 1936. During his first fellowship, Salemme studied for two years in Paris and at the Salon des Tuilleries exhibited his Negro Spiritual for which renowned actor Paul Robeson posed.  French sculptor Despeau deemed the piece a "superior work of art."

During the 1920s and 1930s, Salemme taught painting and sculpting and was the Director of the WPA Mural Project in 1935.  Salemmes works have been exhibited over the last seventy years mainly in New York and Paris.  Most of his exhibits were during the 1920s and 1930s.  A resurgence of his gallery exhibits occurred in the 1960s. 

His bronze portraits of famous Americans are permanent collection pieces in major museums and universities along the east coast.  His busts of John F. Kennedy are exhibited at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

In 1962, Salemme, with his wife Martha, moved to the countryside of Easton, Pennsylvania where he continued to paint and sculpt until the age of 101.  Antonio Salemme died in 1995.

Newman Galleries

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Bill Egan, Canberra, Australia:

In 1926 Salemme made a very beautiful, life-size nude statue of Paul Robeson.  He considered it his greatest work to that date.  A full length nude statue of a black man was very controversial at the time, and I have been told that the statue was hidden for many years.  I don't know what has since happened to it.  A photograph of it appeared in the November 20, 1926 issue of the Pittsburgh Courier.

Salemme also made death masks for Sacco & Vanzetti in 1927, and for Florence Mills in the same year.  The latter was in preparation for a statue he was to make of Florence Mills but it was never made due to lack of funds.

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