Printmakers You Should Know

For the last few months, I've been showing you printmakers that I discovered while working at the DMA. Today, however, we're going to hop to my current home at Shelburne Museum to meet an artist with very close ties to this institution: Luigi Lucioni.

Lucioni (1900-1988) was an Italian-American artist. He was born in Italy, but moved to the United States as a young boy, around age 11. He studied at Cooper Union, the National Academy of Art, and the Tiffany Foundation. He was both a painter and a printmaker, and created portraits, landscapes, and still lives in a distinctly crisp, meticulous style. Here are some of his paintings:

Luigi Lucioni, Alice in Grey, ca. 1940-1970, oil on canvas, 36'' x 27 7/8''. Collection of Shelburne Museum.
Luigi Lucioni, Northern Lombardy, 1938, oil on canvas, 14'' x 24 1/8''. Collection of Shelburne Museum.

Luigi Lucioni, Fowl and Glass of Red Wine, 1940, oil on canvas, 23'' x 30.'' Collection of Shelburne Museum.

So what does Lucioni have to do with Shelburne Museum? He was a friend of the Webbs, that's why. Back in the early 30s, when Lucioni was an up-and-coming painter, the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired one of his still lives, Pears with Pewter.

Luigi Lucioni, Pears with Pewter, 1930, oil on canvas, 20 1/4'' x 28 1/8''. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

At that time, Lucioni was considered the youngest living artist to have his work represented in the Met's permanent collection, so he was getting a lot of attention in the art world. One person who definitely noticed him was none other than the future founder of Shelburne Museum, Electra Havemeyer Webb (As an aside, Mrs. Webb's parents, Louisine and Henry O. Havemeyer, had recently bequeathed their formidable art collection to the Met, so she had close ties with the institution).

Anyway, Mrs. Webb approached Lucioni and asked him whether he'd paint a landscape for one of her daughters, who was about to get married.  Lucioni obliged, and from that point on was a family friend. His primary studio was in New York, but he'd come to Vermont in the summer, where he'd paint, sketch, hang out with the Webbs, and enjoy the scenery. He'd often give Mrs. Webb a print for her birthday or at Christmas: you can see his hand-written inscriptions to her on many of the Museum's prints.

Luigi Lucioni, Fall Shadows, 1957, etching, 3 3/4'' x 4 1/2''. Collection of Shelburne Museum. The inscription says, "To Mrs. Webb-Happy Birthday, Aug. 16, 59, Luigi."

In terms of printmaking, Lucioni specialized in etching. You won't find aquatint in his pieces; he creates his shadows and textures through line alone. He'd build up his compositions in layer upon layer of hatched lines, and submerged his plates in the acid bath multiple times to achieves a broad range of tonality in his lines. The result is a richly marked print, covered in delicate lines that all work together to create a richly detailed composition. Here are a few of them below:

Luigi Lucioni, The Three Graces, 1950, Etching, 11 3/4'' x 9 1/2''. Collection of Shelburne Museum.

Luigi Lucioni, Vermont Pastoral, 1940, etching, 8'' x 13''. Collection of Shelburne Museum.

Luigi Lucioni, Tree Rhythm, 1953, etching, 12 1/2'' x 10 1/2''. Collection of Shelburne Museum.

Luigi Lucioni, Shadow and Substance, 1944, etching, 8'' x 10 1/2''. Collection of Shelburne Museum.

Luigi Lucioni, The Big Haystack, 1947, etching, 9'' x 12 1/2''. Collection of Shelburne Museum.

Lucioni is definitely a traditionalist in terms of his subjects and style, but as a printmaker who enjoys exploring the possibility of line myself, I can't help but admire his precision and technical prowess. Like Ernest Haskell, this man definitely knew what he was doing when it came to etching, and that kind of mastery is something we should all strive for in our own lives.

Want to learn more? Here are a few sites: