Tomaso "Tommy" Macaione (1907-1992)
"In The Garden of John Fisher"
o/c, 30" x 48"
$ 35,500


A New Mexico Monet
     Tomaso Silvestri ("Tommy") Macaione was born in New London, Connecticut, in 1907. His mother was Italian, his father was Greek. At the age of 7 his parents took him, his two brothers and his sister to Sicily to visit his mother’s parents. His father returned to the US and the rest of the family was stranded in Italy by WWI and the immediate aftermath. Apparently Tommy returned to the US in 1921 or 1922 (a little sooner than the others) when he was 14 or 15 years old. He worked for a while at a mill in Rhode Island, then as a caddy at a country club. Eventually, probably around 1925, he took up barbering, in which trade he would support himself until the US entry
into WWII.
     Other than some anecdotes regarding childhood charcoal sketching Tommy apparently first became seriously interested in art while working as a barber. Starting out by drawing pictures of the women whose photographs appeared in the "Police Gazette" he next tried landscape painting in oils. As he put it in a 1987 interview, he was initially frustrated because: "I didn’t know how to paint. But later on, little by little, I got to do something you could recognize of nature, and then I was reading every book that was in the public library about art, and so I was quite well-informed about it, and then I studied more and studied more."1
     Following the US entry into WWII Tommy was drafted into the Army. After about a year, however, he was given a medical discharge. Determined now to pursue his interest in art, he studied at The Rhode Island School of Design for the next 21/2 years. At the conclusion of the War he moved to New York City and enrolled (on the GI Bill) at the Art Students League. After several years in New York a friend’s concern about his health and calendar pictures of "wide open spaces" convinced Tommy that he should "go west". He started out by heading for Tucson and then Palm Springs. After a stint working at a truck stop there he tried San Francisco, working odd jobs and doing charcoal tourist portraits at Fisherman’s Wharf.2 He chanced to read an article in "Life Magazine" about Santa Fe and knew that the "City Different" was the place for him. He arrived in 1951 and "El Diferente" (as he eventually came to be known) painted Santa Fe and the Southwest until he died (at the age of 84).
     An early influence on Tommy’s art in Santa Fe was Alfred Morang. In a 1987 "Santa Fe New Mexican" article, gallery owner and long-time friend of Tommy, Bill Tate, (who met and got to know Tommy within a year or so after Tommy arrived in Santa Fe) said Tommy was "a little Italian washing dishes in a restaurant who could paint and that [I] told him that if he wanted to be an artist he should associate with the Canyon Roaders, as [I] called them. He fell for Alfred Morang, the King of Canyon Road, adopting him as his mentor; Tommy and Randall Davey were frequent guests on Morang’s radio show – The World of Art with Alfred Morang.’"3
     Morang died in a fire in 1957 but his influence showed in Tommy’s work in his use of the palette knife and a thick impasto technique. Tommy quickly became known for his colorful garden scenes and landscapes and for his colorful personality as well. His fondness for animals led him to trade many paintings for veterinary care and food for his numerous dogs and cats. He was constantly running for public office – even once for president – on a platform of interpersonal harmony and environmental concern and believed that "artists contribute more to civilization than politicians."4 In addition to Morang he cited primary influences on his art by the Fauvists, particularly Maurice Vlaminck and Andre Derain but also felt that his overall philosophy of art placed him in the general tradition of the Ashcan School, with a measure of Sicilian temperament added to the mix.5 Certainly as far as the Ashcan School is concerned he may have become aware of John Sloan’s New Mexico work at an early point in his Santa Fe career.
     In any event he soon became a familiar sight in Santa Fe and its environs as he set up his easel outdoors in all seasons and kinds of weather and proceeded to translate the vitality and excitement around him into the colors of the rainbow. As he put it: "I try to interpret the warmth of this great city, its ancient aspect and especially its romanticism."6 He became particularly well known for his fall and winter landscapes and extraordinarily colorful garden scenes.
     According to Cheryl Wittenauer, the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe wanted to do a show of Tommy’s work in 1983 but no one could locate him.7 Finally in 1987, for his 80th birthday he was "found" and given a show and birthday party (in November) at the museum. Twenty-five of his canvases were shown and as noted curator Sandra D’Emilio said of a painting in the show called "Springtime Blossoms." "He shouldn’t be known for his irrational love of animals but for his work. Just look at that color. There is so much feeling in his work. It explodes with color and joy. He has captured this area like no one else."8
     During his lifetime Tommy's colorful personal characteristics and political playfulness may have tended to obscure his incredible abilities as a colorist. Rather than a Fauvist we would classify him as a "late" impressionist with certain aspects of Monet's "eye" and Van Gogh’s intensity. A truly extraordinary artist—our "New Mexico Monet". We are pleased to offer the following major work by Tommy:
"In The Garden of John Fisher", o/c, 30" x 48", $ 35,500

1 Steinberg, David (Journal Arts Editor) – "Tommy Macaione: Fixture of Santa Fe…". Albuquerque Journal, March 15, 1987, pp. G1, G3.
2 Wittenauer, Cheryl (Staff Writer). "Tommy – Macaione the man nearly 80 and 'El Diferente’ the artist to celebrate with museum show". Santa Fe New Mexican, October 25, 1987, pp. D1, D3.
3 Ibid, p. D3
4 Deats, Suzanne. "A Legend In His Own Town – Tommy Macaione (1907-1992)". Focus/Santa Fe; January – March 2000, p. 16
5 Ibid, p. 17
6 Ibid, p. 19
7 Wittenauer, op cit, p. D.1
8 Ibid.

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