Stella's "The Brooklyn Bridge: Variations on an Old Theme"
Joseph Stella and other outstanding artists of first half 20th century.

Diversity and heterogeneity so characterized the art of Joseph Stella (1877-1946) that although art historians have great difficulty in classifying his work, they nevertheless avow that he was one of the most impressive artists of his time. Stella was born in Muro Lucano, Basilicata, Italy in 1877, the youngest of five sons. His father was a lawyer. After a classical education, he followed his family by emigrating to New York in 1896. From childhood he was attracted to drawing, an interest that he pursued as a career by formal art school study, winning awards for his mastery of technique. He was not, however, a studio type artist preferring his subjects from real life on the Lower East Side. His natural mastery of traditional drawing won a commission in 1905 from The Outlook magazine to draw a series depicting immigrants -a considerable achievement for the 28 year-old artist.

Not one to remain steadfast to a single style, Stella experimented with glazing as in his "Italian Church" with paintings considered in Precisionist style, with pastels, and with surrealist works. He is also connected with the "furturist" school as exemplified in his big canvas "Battle of Lights, Coney Island". His best-known painting is "New York Interpreted" that includes "The White Ways," "The Brooklyn Bridge," and "The Skyscrapers." Inspired by life in New York, he painted numerous city scenes: buildings of gas tanks, factories, smokestacks and other marvels of modern engineering. His drawings of Pittsburgh evoke contrasting themes: the beauty of great structures versus the poverty and grimness of life. In that regard he possessed a feeling of Italianita.

Among other major Italian American artists of the early half of the 20th was Gottardo Piazzoni, a muralist who was described as "dean" of San Francisco painters. Nicola D'Ascenzo gained fame with stained glass and mosaics in various libraries, and churches. Mention should be made of Onorio Ruotolo, who excelled with paintings of famous people like Enrico Caruso. He was also a co-founder of the Leonardo da Vinci Art School that flourished In New York in the 1940s.

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