It’s Day 235 and tonight I had an improv show so my brain has been there all day. But I did have a good time painting my piece in honor of Giorgio Cavallon today. His wikipedia page was pretty skimpy, but I found his obituary in the New York Times which was really nice.
Giorgio Cavallon, a pioneer Abstract Expressionist who brought to American painting a Mediterranean feeling for color and light, died last night at New York Hospital. He was 85 years old and lived in Manhattan.
While not widely known to the general art public, Mr. Cavallon’s airy, luminous, cautiously daring
work has long had a llllowing among poets and painters. ”There are those who escape fame, but not respect,” wrote the Abstract Expressionist scholar Francis V. O’Connor in a poem to Mr. Cavallon that was published in the Art Bulletin last year.
William Agee, a historian of American art, said: ”He never made the official list of the big-name artists of that generation of Abstract Expressionists. I had conditioned myself to think of him as a lesser artist. But he kept showing us to be wrong in that.”
In Mr. Cavallon’s paintings, rectangles of color, their edges soft and irregular, are woven into screens or veils that seem diaphanous yet impenetrable, light, yet capable of absorbing all the space behind and in front of the surface.
The paintings are carefully but intuitively balanced. Learning from Cezanne and Mondrian and then studying with Hans Hofmann, Mr. Cavallon put down one color here and another there, then tested and expanded their relationship and opened it up into others, finally tying everything together with a precision few of his peers could match.
Writing about the experience of a Cavallon exhibition, Frank O’Hara, the poet and critic, wrote in 1958: ”It resembles a town in southern Italy the walls of which have absorbed the sunlight for centuries and even on a cloudy or raining day give off the intense light of what they have absorbed.” The ”final luminosity,” Mr. O’Hara wrote, is ”achieved by white.”
Mr. Cavallon was born on March 3, 1904, in the village of Sorio in the province of
Venice. His parents were Augusto Cavallon, a cabinetmaker who worked in both Italy and the United States, and Agnese Scarsi.
When Augusto served in the Italian Army during World War I, he sent his two daughters to a convent and his son to the farm of his brother-in-law, Dominico Cavallon. A Farm Child’s Life
”When Giorgio was a small child,” said the painter Vita Petersen, a longtime friend, ”he had to get up at 4 and bring the cows to the field and he was so tired that he took the oxen by the horns and went to sleep, swinging between the horns.”
During the war Mr. Cavallon drew in the earth. Sometimes he scratched drawings on bombshells.
He came to the United States in 1920 with his father and two sisters and settled in Springfield, Mass. In 1926, he moved to New York, where he remained – except for 1930 to 1933, when he returned to Italy.
He began as a figurative painter and studied at the National Academy of Design. He began exploring abstraction in the 1930’s but like other Abstract Expressionists, did not take the full plunge until the late 1940’s.
In 1936 he was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group, a contentious and polemical organization that championed the cause of abstract art. The group’s link between political radicalism and abstraction helps explain Mr. Cavallon’s unshakable faith in
abstraction and the consistently upbeat, almost utopian feeling of his paintings. He Did It His Way
Mr. Cavallon was remarkably self-reliant. He preferred to do everything by himself, by hand. He built his own freezer, stove and sofa, made his duck press, motorized his pasta machine and was known to spend days disassembling and assembling cars.
He made his own paints. ”He ground his own pigments, mixed it with oil and put it in the tubes,” Mrs. Petersen said.
He had a reputation as an excellent cook. Mushrooms were a passion, and he used to hunt for them with the composer John Cage. His recipes for spaghetti with clam-and-anchovy sauce, for spit-roasted leg of lamb and for risotto with mussels found their way into Craig Claiborne’s cooking column in The New York Times in 1969.
Mr. Cavallon exhibited with several New York galleries, including Egan, A. M. Sachs, Gruenebaum and Jason McCoy. He was given a retrospective by the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, N.Y., in 1977. Works in Many Collections
Last year, his work was shown at the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice. His work is in the collection of numerous major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. In March there is to be a Cavallon retrospective at the William Benton Museum of the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
In 1983 he was given the Marjorie Peabody Waite Award, granted to an ”older artist for continuing achievement” by the American Institute of Arts and Letters.
His marriage to Fabiola Caron, a singer, ended in divorce. He later married Linda Lindeberg, a painter, who died in 1973.
He is survived by his sisters, Domenica Italia Shulman of Storrs, Conn., and Marie Ida Kitzmeyer of West Brookfield, Mass., and St. Petersburg, Fla.
I hope you enjoy my tribute today! I will see you tomorrow on Day 236!