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 Elsio Bolino (Belino) San Giacomo  (1915 - 1998)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: portrait, figure and landscape painting

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Ellis St. James is primarily known as Elsio Bolino (Belino) San Giacomo

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Elsio Bolino San Giacomo
An example of work by Ellis St. James
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Elsio San Giacomo, also known as Ellis St. James, worked on Rocky Neck in Gloucester, MA in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a member of the Rocky Neck Art Colony and, from 1979 to 1982, the Rockport Art Association. He exhibited with the North Shore Arts Association from 1981 to 1985; the Salmagundi Club in NY; the Rockport Art Association in MA; and the McNichols Gallery in FL. Elsio studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology in NY and the Phoenix School of Design. Listed as a marine painter in the 1994 edition of "Currier's Price Guide to American Artists at Auction" and the 2003/2004 "Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide", San Giacomo also painted portraits, figure studies and landscapes.

Research on Elsio began because of a 1980, commissioned portrait of a 24-year old woman by the name of Anna. He liked the final work so much he decided to keep it, saying he would soon paint another one for her. A short time later Anna returned to see him but he had already packed up and left Rocky Neck. None of the resident artists knew where he went and Anna has been searching for him and her portrait ever since. Although money was never exchanged, Anna would like to find her portrait and any information pertaining to Elsio.

John Nesta, of The John Nesta Gallery, Rocky Neck, Gloucester, MA is a member of the Rocky Neck Art Colony. During an hour-long phone conversation, John enthusiastically shared information and personal insights about his good friend and painting companion, Elsio Bolino San Giacomo.

It appears that San Giacomo was a very successful advertising executive working in the Washington, DC area under the name Ellis St. James - the Anglo version of his wonderful Italian name. Elsio said this change was necessary to fit in with the advertising world. In the 1970s he tired of the advertising business, moved to Rocky Neck, opened a gallery and studio, joined the Rocky Neck Art Colony, and began doing what he loved - painting pictures. His seasonal studio and gallery were in separate locations but not far from each other. His second floor studio, with its14-foot windows and north light was an artist's dream. Light flowing through massive windows was just one part of the ambiance that created the perfect setting for portrait commissions and figure studies. Reference material has him listed as a marine painter but, from my conversation with John, I would place his subject order as portraits first, followed by figure studies, landscapes, and marine.

When the Grumbacher Art Supply company visited Rocky Neck, Elsio and John were two of the artists they chose to do painting demonstrations. Elsio could capture a likeness with just a few strokes of the brush, not just portraits, but any image. This provided quick money and some much appreciated art supplies.

Elsio was a gifted, innovative portrait painter but his unconventional style sometimes worked against him. Most of his clients wanted traditional portraits of themselves and their family members. Maybe this is why he would lose his desire to paint and sometimes go for days and weeks without picking up a brush. Or, maybe this lost desire stemmed from heath problems: Elsio was a heavy smoker and drinker and developed emphysema in mid life.

In addition to painting together, John and Elsio would travel in their motor homes along the east coast to exhibit their work. John feels he is fortunate to own a few of Elsio's paintings, including a portrait of himself when he was in his late twenties. With a few quick brushstrokes and some bold colors, John's image and character were captured on canvas.

In the 1960s, before the Michael Jackson fad, Elsio started to wear one white glove. For Elsio this was more necessity than style. He wore the glove to protect his sensitive skin from the turpentine he used to thin his oil paint. John said he made quite an impression: about 5' 7" tall, wiry frame, white beard and glove, a little lazy, and a fantastic personality that drew people to him. When Elsio was in his sixties he met and lived with a much younger woman by the name of Tina.

Tina, not yet twenty years of age, was completely devoted to him and became his inspiration and motivation to paint. He painted her over-and-over again: sometimes changing her hair color or placing a hat on her head or letting a strap fall over her shoulder or partially or totally in the nude. Tina would encourage him to go out to paint. She stretched canvas, squeezed out paint, setup the easel and then, when the painting session was over, she would pick up and clean the brushes he had cast aside, clean his palette, and bring him home. They stayed together for almost twenty years.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, Elsio left Rocky Neck without letting his friends and fellow artists know where he was going. After a while he made a few return visits but never said anything about where he settled. Some say he moved to California or Florida. Others say he went back to Washington, DC because he had a son living there. According to Elsio, he just traveled and painted around the country. Gordon Goetemann, another Rocky Neck Art Colony artist, said that Elsio was a facile and spirited painter he admired. The last time Gordon saw Elsio his health was failing badly. A short time later he passed away leaving much of his life an enigma.

Resources:
Davenport's Art Reference 2003/2004, page 768;
Currier's Price Guide to American Artists at Auction, 1994 edition, page 187; John Nesta,
The John Nesta Gallery, Rocky Neck, Gloucester, MA, 7-28-04 phone conversation;
Gordon Goetemann, The Gordon Goetemann Gallery, Rocky Neck, Gloucester, MA, email dated Wednesday, 7-28-04;
David Hall, David Hall Fine Art, Dover, MA, 7-29-04 phone conversation;
Margaret Redington, The Rockport Art Association, email dated Sunday, 8-1-04.

Submitted by Peter Kostoulakos, AOA, NEAA: Fine Art Consultant
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Following is a note from Susan St. James, a daughter of the artist:

*** The son mentioned in the above article, is Jardean St. James, currently an artist in the Rochester, New York area.  He also had a daughter, Susan St. James, from his first marriage; a daughter, Lisa from his second marriage and a son, Damon from his third marriage.

My dad & his 2 older brothers changed their given name twice.  Once to Sangiacomo, which did not help them to get jobs; and the second time to St. James.  Edward Bolino was my father's brother - the oldest of the 3 boys.  He was also an extremely talented artist.  His second older brother's name was Phil.  They were a very close knit family.

My Uncle Eddie once told me that my dad had (or has) a couple of items hanging at the Guggenheim Museum.  And also that my dad had designed the original Xerox logo.  I have nothing to confirm that, except for my Uncle's word.

I have a painting that confirms that sometimes he spelled his middle name is 'Belino'.

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