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anthony angarola

Anthony Angarola (1893-1929)

anthony angarola,art institute
anthony angarola,art institute

By Richard Angarola (1920-2008), Constance Poore and Joel S. Dryer © Illinois Historical Art Project

“I see things like that. I paint what I see and the way they make me feel.” “Well, you have great influence on your pupils. I can tell your work and theirs as soon as I come into a gallery where any hang.” “He laughed and said, ‘I hope some day you will like it.’”1 Anthony Angarola (1893-1929) lived as he died, ignoring obstacles, in a hurry, clinging to his simple identity, absorbing what he would consider as worthless physical maladies to pursue the passion of his raison d’être, to paint the miracle of the American “melting pot.”2 If ever an epitaph existed to trumpet his short 36 years of life, it would have to be his own commanding words, “Say I am an American, won’t you. Be sure to say I’m an American.”3 While in Paris during the time of his Guggenheim grant he further reiterated this sentiment.4 This significant self-classification as American was a recurring event.

Born in Chicago of Italian immigrant parents, he was immersed in the culture of a completely Italian family from the start.5 The turn of the twentieth century left young Anthony motherless at the age of seven. He attended school through sixth grade. His frequent impulses to be an artist were disturbing to his classes from kindergarten on. Teachers sent home notes asking he be disciplined for disfiguring his assignment papers with wild drawings. One time when he had to stay after school for the misdemeanors the teacher changed her tone. She took him by the hands and quietly told him, “You are an artist, Anthony, I can’t tell you not to draw, but use a separate piece of paper. You’re making it hard for me with the other pupils. Promising not to send any more notes home about his picturesque embellishments, she made an early predication, “You will make pictures all of your life Anthony—yes, you are an artist—that’s what you want to be, isn’t it?”6

Despite being a superb musician,7 father Rocco pressed his survival theories and tactics on his children, sorting out the ways to keep food on the table. Jobs in plumbing and electricity were always in need. They had a future. These sort of jobs probably led Rocco to buy empty lots and apartment buildings in Chicago. When Angarola left school at the age of fourteen, he went to work for his father doing odd jobs in the many real estate holdings spread about Chicago’s North Side and the Loop, constantly assigned to making the premises ready for new tenants. From his experience of oppressive duties as a wall painter for his father, restorer of flat surfaces with paint, maker of enameled, insect-resistant kitchens, neutral walls, all bearing a certain cloak of unity to placate the majority of tasteless tenants, Anthony adopted the word “shacks” to describe the wooden-framed houses of working class America.8 Although there is the offhand disdain in the word “shacks,” in an ironic take, it is comfortable and truthful in Anthony Angarola’s definition of hope for change rather than bitter acceptance. After all, people of dreams and ambition, like him, would live in these decorating assignments he painted for his father. Angarola revered these dwellings and the immigrants inside them. The exterior surfaces would reflect their bustling lives.9 He would paint the accursed shacks, but on canvas, and imbue them beauty.10 Beyond this work, Angarola held several odd jobs.11

To escape his mundane existence, Angarola often found sanctuary in the Art Institute of Chicago. One particular museum guard named Neal, stimulated Anthony’s appetite as he stood before the forms and color expressions on canvas and wood, the marble and bronze sculptures.12 Neal would hear the youth say, “I’m an artist…that is, I’m going to be.” Neal answered in turn, “I think you are, Tony,” and told him about the Institute’s school of painting, and one day walked the boy the length of the museum to the school’s entrance.13 Angarola’s decision to enter the school was prompt. By the age of fifteen, he was a very animated, yet fixed entity in the renowned School of the Art Institute of Chicago, probably the most popular and certainly one of the most prestigious art schools of America in 1908. Since he had to support his appetite for artistic education himself, Angarola began with evening school classes, his first being “elementary cast drawing” for twelve weeks, from July to October 1908. Between October 1908 and July 1909, he studied advanced cast drawing with Charles Schroeder, followed by twelve weeks of life drawing from August to November 1909.14 Antonin Sterba (1875-1963), who came from the defunct Smith Academy in 1908 and immediately had become popular with the students, was Angarola’s chosen mentor.15 Sterba had an early influence on Angarola’s artistic development. By the age of eighteen, when many young men are just entering college, Angarola already had completed two and one half years of intensive art classes.

As another means of earning tuition during 1911, Angarola worked as a clerk in the Chicago Public Library. The library was also a sanctuary for Angarola. He loved literature and had the compulsion to pass his love on to friends and acquaintances. Academic records indicate he began as a regular day student on October 2, 1911. His classes included life drawing, illustration and portrait painting. Angarola remained in Sterba’s atelier through February 1914, when he changed instruction to newly appointed Edouard Vysekal, for the morning life drawing atelier lasting through March 1915.16 During school Angarola was an ardent activist joining other students in fighting for their artistic ideals. He participated in the September Morn demonstration and had a part in the student thespian production of the Trial of September Morn, a one-act farce presented by The Men’s Life Class Association.17 In the same program was another one act farce, The Problem of Art, written by Joe (John) Goossens (1887-1968) and A. Angarola, featuring the Angarola, in the lead role as “Drew Color Blind, a budding artist.”18 Angarola was also active in annual school shows such as Little Smudges of Paint Makes a Sorolla and his father often provided musical accompaniment.19 Beginning in the 1914 fall term, Angarola studied in the afternoon atelier of Harry Mills Walcott.20 A system of regular monthly competitions or concours had been instituted a decade earlier and these helped Angarola sharpen his senses.21 At the end of 1915, he won a special faculty honorable mention in life study and color composition.22 As the 1916 school year closed Angarola won the Frederic Magnus Brand Memorial first prize of fifty dollars, recognition as the school’s best student.23 Additionally, the school had already recognized Anthony for his figure drawing abilities, “during the years 1914-1916, Mr. Angola [sic] held the position of assistant teacher in the afternoon sketch class of the school.”24 For Angarola’s last year at the School of the Art Institute he was awarded a “…full tuition scholarship in recognition of the general excellence of his work.”25

During this school year, he validated the faith of the school administration by earning fifteen honorable mentions.26 Angarola remained with Walcott through the final Spring term of 1917, earning another fifteen honorable mentions in his last year, crowned by a Class honorable mention in Portrait Painting and Color Composition.27

Although he continued to live at home with parents and siblings, as a full time day student who needed art supplies, Angarola had to earn money in many creative ways. His stepmother Marquesa, mad huge sandwiches of freshly made bread stuffed with nourishing meats and vegetables. She hid them on the back porch for Tony to pick up as he left home to make the four mile walk to classes at the Art Institute. Angarola cut up the long sandwiches, kept part for himself and sold the rest to fellow students, using the proceeds to buy paints and art supplies. In this way, his stepmother supported his artistic education, something his father refused to do.28 Being one brother among seven, Angarola was not unaccustomed to sparring and skirmishes. It occurred to him that he might make some money by boxing. Tony began a short career as a prizefighter. His first three round fight won him three dollars and some bruises. A second, five round battle won him five dollars and bruises, a black eye, and ears swollen severely enough for his father to question their origin. “Stupido! You want to hear music? You want to see nature, listen to birds? All you’ll hear is bells in your head. You get a thumb in your eye and you’ll be the first blind painter!”29 This was the beginning of his father’s grudging support for Anthony’s dreams of art.30

Angarola had met his wife-to-be, Marie Ambrosius, in Spring 1916, when he accompanied his brother Joseph to a cello lesson with Robert Ambrosius. The teacher Ambrosius and his sister Katherine were guardians of pianist Marie.31 Over the course of eighteen months, in both Chicago and at the Ambrosius’ Glen Lake, Michigan, summer home, Angarola secretly courted Marie, instigating a massive mutual correspondence. The two were secretly married in August 1917, in Elgin, Illinois.32

Upon graduation in May 1917, the twenty-four year old soon discovered that “No student of any proffession [sic] ever make[s] a lump of gold after graduating, he must start all over again.”33 Ever a hard worker, Angarola was determined to succeed. “You know how stubborn I am when I make up my mind to do a thing no matter how trivial even a card game, I work serious with [sic] and have a good deal of confidence in whatever I tackle.”34 Angarola had to find a job in Chicago to support himself and his new wife. In a letter dated August 17, 1917, Angarola told Marie:

“Wednesday I put in a busy one above all... I went to the Record Herald newspaper, and I made quite an impression there… it is possible they will give me some illustrating to do within a week or so… I went to the Chicago Society of Poster Art and they said everything is stuck now [due to World War I] but I should go around again in two weeks, they liked the Butterfly Ballet [c.1917, Richard Angarola]and that Circus Parade [c.1917, Richard Angarola,] very much. Then the last firm I went too [sic] gave me some good solid advice... But he said you must make at least 15 or 20 samples then you are bound to land something with a fairly good income… so today I shall stay at home till Saturday and do nothing but samples… If I don’t land anything in these, I shall write to Milwaukee for a teaching Job, but the deans of the Art Institute advised me not to teach, as a man of your ability can make more money than teaching he said. But in a tight pinch I shall teach anyway.”35

Following advice, he made many advertising samples, an endeavor which ultimately paid off with a job at Meyer Both & Company.36 The reality of commercial art was a disappointment, as Angarola was required to practice for hours just drawing lines for a blue serge suit.37 Discouraged by the tedious work, which caused sore eyes, he also had learned the pay wasn’t good: “… one has to work for at least a year there before making $15.00 a week… it’s really hell to be stooped over all day making just straight lines on blue serge suits, the man promised me color work, but we can’t live on promises now.”38 Only ten days later, Angarola’s fortunes took a decided upturn. In a letter to his wife, he was almost ecstatic about his now permanent paying job:

“I’m working at Meyer Both & Co. yet and the head of the firm saw my work and they are quiet [sic] pleased or greatly pleased I will say over my color arrangements and ideas of the unique variety. They put me on color stuff already and I finished a color sketch for a twenty foot poster and they were satisfied with it… the job is good and a good chance for experience, but God knows how much they are to pay me, I know it won’t be much as I’m still considered slightly inexperienced… I also show[ed] my paintings the Ballet Butterfly [sic] and that circus parade. Say dearie, those guys up in that place just rave over my stuff and predict a good job someday…”39

Reunited with his wife in Chicago, his tasks compounded as two soon children were born, Yvonne Catherine, in 1918, and Richard Anthony, two years later. Angarola continued to labor at unwanted tasks to meet his responsibilities. He did at least nine political cartoons for an Italian language newspaper and contributed at least one article.40 Angarola steadily achieved his measure of success in the fine arts. As a student his work had been accepted at the Annual Exhibition of Works by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity at the Art Institute, as early as 1915. He was a regular exhibitor with the Art Students’ League of Chicago; and from 1916 to 1918, also showed works with Chicago’s Independent Society of Artists, a society comprised of both conservative and more modern artists. Between 1919 and 1921, he exhibited regularly at the Institute’s Annual Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture, and Annual Exhibition of Works by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, where in 1921, five of his works were accepted and Shady Rest [c.1920, location unknown] was illustrated in the catalogue.41 The Clyde M. Carr Landscape Prize was awarded his painting Backyard Paradise [1920, location unknown].42 Later in the year his painting Compassion [1921, also known as Christ Healing the Sick, Richard M. J. Angarola], was awarded an honorable mention, one of only a few given, at the Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture.43 Also in 1921, he held a one-man exhibition at the Penguin Studio, Chicago.44

Angarola finally accepted a teaching post in 1921, which paid $260 for the summer and required him to move to Milwaukee. He had to leave his wife and children behind in Chicago. This new opportunity coincided with Marie’s temporary move to New York, for the advantage of piano study with the Paulo Gallico. His appointment to the John Layton School of Art appeared in the Milwaukee papers: “The announcement that Anthony Angarola is to be the chief teacher of painting in the summer school of the Layton School of Art is of much importance in art here. Mr. Angarola is regarded as one of the most brilliant Italian artists in Chicago. His pictures, largely a combination of figures and landscape, have created a sensation in exhibits over the country during the past three years.”45

Despite his success in the more traditional exhibitions, Angarola also participated in the Salon de Refuses, for artists who had been left out of the annual Institute shows in 1921. The Salon was the precursor to the Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists, in which he showed at the first annual exhibition of 1922. Angarola was one of the very few artists who was exhibiting in both camps as relations between the conservatives and moderns had become somewhat derisive.46 Chicago critic Hi Simons probably best described the impact of Angarola’s early work when he said:


“That is how Anthony Angarola’s art, or any one of his pictures, becomes a thing you love. First it charms you. You become conscious of it as of an unassertive personality that you immediately want to know intimately. It puts you at ease with it’s [sic] simplicity, straightforwardness…The impulse of this art is a gentle one; it’s particular mood is meditation. You think of the one who expresses himself so, as contemplative, almost pensive. You feel constantly his love for, his sincerity in, all he does; else you would not always be discovering delicacies of patterning and tone that could not have been wrought if they had not been felt. You feel too that the artist is a young man - for the art is fresh. It is this freshness that more than charms you, engages your studious scrutiny. So that you observe that it’s construction is principled. The principle is organic rhythm; that’s why the loveliness of these pictures is a virile loveliness.”47

While Angarola was friends with both sides, he leaned toward modernism rather than the mostly academic style of the Art Institute teachers. Perhaps he knew the modernist rebels better than the traditionalists. But unlike the more radical element he chose to submit his works to the Art Institute shows with no apology. He told critic C. J. Bulliet: “They call me a traitor to the cause because I submit my work to the institute jury and have the luck to have it accepted. But I paint as sincerely as any of them, and if my pictures get in, I don’t see why I should worry. I neither cater to a jury nor deliberately distort in order to get my things thrown out and suffer martyrdom.”48

Raymond Jonson, who was becoming a fanatical modernist, convinced Angarola to paint his portrait [Portrait of Raymond Jonson, 1922, Jonson Gallery, University of New Mexico].49 The result was no traditional portrait. Jonson dominates the picture, looming out of the canvas, dressed in a dark charcoal suit topped with an olive overcoat, a black hat on his head, and cigar in mouth. He stares directly and almost belligerently at the observer. He also wears a sun-yellow tie and patterned scarf of brown, gray, orange and black, the only softening elements about Jonson. The background is a mass of steely blue-green trees with trunks stuck in, almost like cotton candy sticks, Angarola’s trademark foliage. The sky is orange, the ground deep brown. The portrait had a varied acceptance and was rejected at the Art Institute: “Sorry Raymond, your portrait was rejected by the famous American Jury of Chicago Artists.”50 A year later critic Sam Putnam said of the same work, exhibited at the 1923 Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists, “Mr. Angarola’s Portrait of Raymond Jonson is the best portrait in the show and one of the best paintings.”51

Although contemporary sources assign Angarola as a modernist, he was not to be included with the wild-eyed radical modernists in Chicago like Rudolph Weisenborn, founder of the No-Jury Society. Critic Hi Simon had done a creditable job explaining Angarola’s art and in so doing implied differences with the modern art that was becoming the trend in Chicago: “That he… attain[s]… unifying balance is one reason why you got your initial impression of Angarola as an artist who works – one who is considerate, almost deliberate, at any rate seriously studious of the requirements implicit in his material and in his intention. Another reason for it is that he contemplates his color-arrangement as patiently as he does his line.52

During the summer of Angarola was teaching at the Layton school of art in Milwaukee.53 Upon the close of classes in August, he moved to the Minneapolis School of Art where he taught from 1922 to 1925.54 The announcement of his appointment listed recent achievements: “Antony [sic] Angarola-…Exhibited: Chicago Society of Artists; Annual American Exhibition in Chicago, Philadelphia and Wilmington; Pittsburgh International Exhibition, Carnegie Institute; and in traveling exhibitions at San Francisco, South Bend, Terre Haute, Kansas City, Detroit, Illinois. Represented in permanent collection, John Vanderpoel Public School, Chicago, Member Chicago Society of Artists.”55

Angarola complained about his class sizes when he wrote to Robert Harshe, director of the Art Institute of Chicago: “My classes are, Life, Portrait Painting, Color Composition, Still Life and Sketch, the classes are very large and especially the color composition class which numbers as high as eighty.”56 The demands of his new position kept him from the easel as he complained in a letter to friend and fellow Chicago artist William Schwartz: “My hours are terribly cut up now, in this new term I teach every day but Saturday, only half a day on Tuesday, but I don’t have to teach night school anymore. In spite of that, I find little time to paint now except Saturdays and Sundays, but thank goodness I made use of the time before this term, as I have nine canvases since I came here in September, so dear friend, you know I have been working as well as teaching.”57 However difficult it was for Angarola, Minneapolis was proud of their new teacher. The Beard Gallery in Minneapolis gave him a one-man show in 1923, shortly after his arrival.58 When his works were accepted at the Corcoran Gallery of Art Biennial show, it was heralded in the papers: “Two paintings by Anthony Angarola of Minneapolis, instructor in painting, drawing and color composition at the Art school are hanging in the ninth biennial exhibition at the Corcoran gallery in Washington. Old Settlers [Picnic], [c.1920, location unknown], and Bench Lizards, [before c.1922, Private collection], the canvases shown, have both been seen in Minneapolis.”59

In 1923 disaster struck when Marie’s childhood guardians engineered her divorce from Angarola. They were sure that once divorced, she would continue her promising musical career rather than be a mere wife and mother. Their relationship was sadly misunderstood. The possibility that Angarola wished her to leave music was never considered by either of them in any of their letters; and in fact, the reverse was true, as he often reminded her to practice and showed pride in her accomplishments and offered support for her efforts.60 Their physical separation occasioned by his job, first in Milwaukee and then Minneapolis, and her study of piano in New York, had contributed to misunderstandings. Communications by letter were easily misunderstood, as well as comments intimated by others.61 Just prior to her death,62 Marie recounted the break:

“We were so young‚ -old as artists, but young in life. In those times, those inevitable altercations, ART always played the moderator, for ART was freedom in essence, and we were both free spirits living side by side in correlated, but somewhat different disciplines. In our separate arts, music and painting, the perspectives were the same, converging with love, tolerance, and impatience for needed peace to work in.”63

When Angarola had found himself alone, “… wifeless, childless, friendless…”64 in his teaching job away from Chicago, he turned to writing.65 Poetry became a favored medium, with at least fifty poems in existence,66 ranging from less than ten to almost two hundred lines. Angarola consistently wrote in the more avant-garde free verse rather than one of the strict rhyming conventions, such as iambic pentameter. Angarola’s personal disaster in 1923 was countered by professional acclaim. The French magazine, La Revue Moderne, included Angarola in a 1923 article, featuring illustrations of Bench Lizards, Compassion and The Enchanted Valley [1923, Richard Angarola], in which it described Angarola as: “both modern and primitive, thoughtful and impulsive, brutal and delicate, they all are facets of Anthony Angarola. The power of his art surprises, without the factor of the formulas of schools… they assert his powerful personality and symbolize quite a vigorous manner, original and expressive.67

In 1923, he also had expanded the range of his creativity by exploring sculpture and batik. His work was creative enough to elicit responses in the press. He utilized a series of colors to create designs which were more interesting than the “ash-colored wabbly-lined [sic] commercial products generally offered.” 68 The summer of 1923, he returned to Chicago where thirteen of his works were featured at the Art Institute of Chicago along with four other Chicago artists whose works were popular at the time. Critic Lena McCauley said his works followed “an imagination contrasting in a marked manner with that of the other men of the Chicago group.” She went on to comment that others thought his work “representative of the spirit of modern art.”69 In April 1924, Angarola had gained enormous praise from well respected critic Sam Putnam for three works at the Chicago Society of Artists own annual exhibition:


“In the west room, you will find: three paintings by Angarola, a young man with a future the limits of which it would be rash to predict… It was Angarola’s work that hit me the most smashingly. In the case of each of his tree paintings I found myself instinctly [sic] brought to a dead stop… Angarola’s work moves me profoundly; that may not be the only test; it is one.”70

He also supplemented his income in 1924 by illustrating The Kingdom of Evil by Ben Hecht, published in Chicago by Pascal Covici.71 But Angarola had started to become tired of Minneapolis. He wrote to his friend Schwartz: “I hope I could return to Chicago next year, ‘hell’ its [sic] so lonesome up here,
people are far behind in their art appreciation. Music is doing very well up here. People are more taken to that than Art or the Drama.”72 And although he won third prize at an exhibit of local artists in the Minneapolis museum, by 1924, he was quite wearied with the situation surrounding visual art, and wrote a letter to the editor, regarding the quality of the newspaper’s art criticism:


“I am sorry to say that I am disappointed in the Journal printing such an empty, stupid editorial on art… It is my belief that the writer knows very little about art, and nothing whatsoever about what we are teaching at the Minneapolis School of Art… If art is so simple as to be judged and limited to the knowledge of this layman’s criticism, then I will say, let us burn it up; there isn’t anything of vital importance. May I add in conclusion that the present exhibit at the Minnesota State Art Society is a very interesting show, when we take into consideration the size of the community and the little appreciation and encouragement the artists receive here.”73

At heart, Angarola always had been unhappy with Minneapolis and he thought better to return to his hometown and make his living teaching art in Chicago. In reality, his way home had been amply paved by awards which must have provoked his decision. In January 1925, he won the Business Men’s Art Club Prize,74 as well as the most prestigious award given at the Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, the Chicago Society of Artists Silver Medal.75 Additionally, his work at the Chicago Society of Artists own annual show, held at the Marshall Field and Company Galleries, was featured in Chicago’s most read art newspaper, The Chicago Evening Post Magazine of the Art World.76

Like every artist, trying to make a living from his work, Angarola wanted to sell his paintings. As with most artists, sales were sporadic.77 Anthony was philosophical and unwilling to lower his prices much merely to sell something. A newspaper writer questioned this practice, indicating that high prices prevented any sales at all; to which Angarola replied:

“You see, it takes me several months to paint a picture and I have to get good prices. But I do not care if they don’t sell... I teach and I make enough to live and I have time to paint these pictures in the way I want to paint them. And I am happy. Some day my paintings may sell; people may come to see something in them, see in them what I try to put there and see myself. And then I may be happier. But in the meantime, as I say, I am happy. And that is all any man can be.”78

His teaching activities can partially be reconstructed from a statement to the Minneapolis city tax collector: “I was idle and out of work from October 1st, 1925, until June 26th, 1926, at which time I went to work in the Chicago Art Institure [sic] as instructor for 2 months.”79 A clipping from the Chicago Evening Post, dated September 22, 1925, accounts for this idle time from October 1925 to June 1926:

“Anthony Angarola, one of the well-known artists of the modern school, is about to add a new and interesting institution to Chicago’s near north side. He has been an instructor in drawing, painting and color composition at the Minneapolis School of Art for the last three years, and he is thoroly [sic] convinced that the conventional academic ways of teaching were never meant for art students. Now he plans to open a school of his own to carry out the convictions he has gained as artist and teacher. To make an artist is impossible, but to help one to develop his genius is the mission of the school of art, he believes. No academic discipline, or strict regulation, ever manufactured an artist; artists are born, not made. Mr. Angarola expects to conduct his school so that his students may have absolute freedom of thoughts and moods. He will teach them how to draw, how to compose colors, but he will not dictate the exact form of the finished work. Beginning Sept. 26, Chicago’s near north side will have this interesting school at 617 Rush Street.”80

His teaching activities in Chicago were no doubt made more successful by the notoriety he had achieved in his many prizes. Angarola became known as an able colorist which when combined with his brand of modernism must have attracted younger students. His painting Spring (location unknown) was featured in a review of the thirtieth annual exhibition of Chicago artists at the Art Institute. The critic (most likely Ernest Heitkamp) said that “vitality and delicious humor” had characterized the work and that it was in coloring “a riot of vivid, deepening greens, accentuated with touches of red equally vivid.”81

During the Summers 1926 to 1928, Angarola taught outdoor landscape painting at the School of the Art Institute,82 supplementing his income with private teaching. Although private teaching allowed control of his own class times and topics, the pay was probably not substantial enough for his support. Because the regime of teaching at a fine arts school during the nine-month school year became a fiscal necessity, he secured a position at the Kansas City Art Institute for the 1926 school year beginning October first. This move was announced in the Chicago press: “Anthony Angarola has engaged himself to the task of instructor in the school of the Kansas City Art Institute for next winter. The school opens Oct. 1. During the summer this talented young painter, a modern who still retains the use of common-sense in excited moments, will continue his classes in his Chicago studio at 617 Rush Street.”83

Within one year, Angarola was promoted to the head of painting and drawing, a position he maintained through 1928.84 During this period, he exhibited frequently in most of the prestigious locales around the country.85 As another creative outlet, he began to work at sculpture.86 His acceptance for a one-man exhibition at the Chicago Galleries Association in 1926, had validated his position among conservatives and moderns alike.87 Art lecturer, teacher and noted critic Dudley Crafts Watson (1885-1972), wrote the introduction to the show:


“These young painters, with the heritage of Russia and Italy in their backgrounds, find a congenial and sympathetic program in the abstractions of contemporary expression. Angarola would not paint as he does, if he had not been a product of Italy, Schwartz likewise creates an emotional output in consistent keeping with his Russian childhood but neither of them are nationalists or realists; they are universalists, modernists… Angarola is more interested in the materiality and humanity of the world, altho [sic] at times he dips into the religious. Angarola’s pictures are entirely within the realm of painting. They are essentially dynamic designs. The sustained voice of static tranquility is no part of the language of Angarola. His compositions live and move with a fine thrust or a majestic whirl.”88

About the same time as the Chicago Galleries Association show, Angarola’s work was featured at the Kansas City Art Institute in January 1927.89 By January 12, the paintings from the Chicago Galleries Association exhibit were to arrive in Kansas City for additions to the show. Other major exhibits followed. The Art Institute of Chicago circulated a special one-man exhibition by Angarola shown at the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery in 1928 and later the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1929.90 The essay accompanying the exhibit describes him as a Modernist:

“Anthony Angarola, whose exhibition of twenty-five canvases is now on circuit, might be described as a ‘modernist’ from his new viewpoint, were that term not held in such disrepute. Unlike some of his more violent contemporaries, however, he does not depend on the stimulus of modern European Art; over a period of years, he has evolved a personal way of looking at things which, while decidedly untraditional, is wholly American… this artist has seen fit to go into the deeper structure of things; he has conceived nature not as made up of just trees, skies, and sunlight to be imitated by a fluent brush, but as a problem of design which often grows abstract… Color, which plays so important a place in his work, is an added strength to the design, or even occasionally subordinates the design to it… his achievement will be none the less remarkable in the field of American art.”91

Angarola’s entries in the Thirty-second Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, which opened February 9, 1928, elicited comment from Dudley Crafts Watson. Anthony received it second-hand in a breathlessly written letter from a friend: “He called it the climax picture of the entire exhibit. He said that you had thought deeply, you had thought big. There was something in the Lazarus [1927, Richard Angarola] that was very curious, masterful that freed one from this world. He said that someone had said of it that it was divinity in paint… He said, ‘You know I am not so sure but what this young man isn’t teaching us one of the great lessons in modern art: To see life, the common things of life in terms of truth and beauty.’”92

This exhibition was followed by honors of hors concours in Pittsburgh. Angarola had regularly passed the juries of the Carnegie Institute international exhibitions between 1922 and 1927.93 In 1928, Homer Saint-Gaudens, director of fine arts at the Carnegie, invited him to show a group of paintings. This honor meant his five canvases would not be subjected to the jury.94 As it turned out, 1928 was the pinnacle of Angarola’s career. The most important honor he ever won was granted in May when he was awarded $2,500 with the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim fellowship, “…awards… designed to give men and women of high intellectual capacity or unusual creative ability an opportunity to do research or creative work abroad in any country they choose.”95 He applied with the following proposal:

“A research of primitive Italian painting, its influence on the world at large, and its close relationship to the modern and impressionistic paintings of France, for the purpose of imparting my knowledge to students and to increase my material for lectures. I intend to get this knowledge by viewing the Art Galleries, Museums, as well as private collections throughout Italy and France…”96

To his great surprise, the foundation offered a fellowship which was more promising for the development of his fine art:

“The grant which the Trustees of the Foundation have made to you today is, as the award says, made for the purpose of assisting you in doing creative work in painting, abroad, and not for the purpose of engaging in the research outlined in your plans for study. You made your case as a painter, and not as a researcher. There is no restriction, of course, to your seeing as much of the work of the Italian Primitives as possible, but we feel your gift is creative, and that that side of you should be encouraged and fostered.”97

Angarola sailed from New York on August 25, 1928.98 Six days later in Cherburg, France, he began the most adventurous and strenuous period of his life.99 He virtually tore across Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary carrying out the directive of the Guggenheim committee to create art. Almost every other day the artist painted a piece. He also maintained an extensive correspondence with Schwartz. In one letter, Angarola talks about his hectic four weeks in Paris. He commented on paintings in the Louvre:

“…most of it is very fine. Fine Monet’s, Renoir’s, Degas, and Sisley’s are in it, the Cézanne’s and van Gogh’s are not as good as the ones in Chicago… The Luxembourg [museum] disappoints one terribly, tho [sic] I felt relieved to know that I am not such a bad painter after all….The Rodin collection is very good and the jack asses who knock him ought to realize their stupidity and shut up…After seeing all the modern painting in Paris, I’ve come to the conclusion that the American Modern painters are pretty darn good. You and I would give them all a dam [sic] good run for their money.”100

As winter approached, he traveled extensively through Italy, visiting Rome, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Naples, Paestum, Pompeii, Amalfi and Milan. He reported being thrilled with the works of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, in Venice.101 He also spent time in Assisi [St. Francis of Assisi, 1928, Ondine Angarola Langford] Capri, [Blue Grotto, Capri, 1928, Richard M. J. Angarola]102 and Rome [Borghese Pines, 1928, Richard M. J. Angarola]. While Italy had much to offer, Angarola found himself Suffering from the cold and damp conditions.103

He offered his thoughts on the Italian experience writing from Florence to art critic C. J. Bulliet:

“I can see how easily I would succumb under the weight of art of the past. Right now I am greatly inspired, and strangely enough I don’t feel the weight of tradition, but if I had been born in Italy instead of America and lived here, I am quite sure I would be submerged. I am mighty thankful I was born an American – one born there has a feeling of a pioneer… Possibly the most thrilling experience I have had in Italy was in Assissi, at the very wonderful church of St. Francis… The church of St. Francis is the most beautiful church I’ve seen in all of Italy, and believe me I saw plenty of churches… The Giottos alone were enough to take my breath away…”104

Bulliet described Angarola as a “militant modernist,” and continued with Angarola’s letter:

“In Venice I saw immense collections of Tintoretto – my hat off to him. Tintoretto is one of the most powerful painters in history – personally, I believe he influenced the whole modern school of painting – it is very easily traced to El Greco, Goya and right down the line to some of our present-day modern painters… After seeing so much primitive art [in Siena] and the Byzantine, you wonder why people rave so much about some of our modern imitators. Some of the things you see today are obvious reflections of the primitive painting – what’s the object? If they could do it better, to begin with”, they would not be imitating.”105

From Italy, he went to Cagnes Sur Mer, near Nice, France, where, as always, he painted, and the weather was warm and sunny.106 Angarola told his friend Schwartz that he would return to Paris by March 1 and for his remaining four months in Europe, Paris served as Angarola’s home ground. In addition to traveling and painting, Angarola kept a voluminous correspondence with his two children to whom he sent hundreds of postcards, telling them about where he had been, what he had seen and about his paintings.107 Up to this point, Angarola had been extremely productive. On March 30, 1929, he wrote, “To date, I have 24 large canvases and 16 small ones, now that I am back in Paris, I hope to do a few more lithographs.”108 Angarola was not to leave Europe until July 1929. During those four months in Paris, he completed another twenty-six paintings.109 Hard at work, Angarola wrote to his friend, William Schwartz:

“I am now painting a mural decoration in a rich American Ladies [sic] home near Paris, it is a very interesting decoration where I am allowed absolute liberty to do as I please. I hope to finish in two weeks. I also have been asked to illustrate a book when I return to America, I am to choose my own book and make as many illustrations as I please, a De Luxe Edition. I am painting steadily, I have 52 canvases done with a possibility of one or two more before return.”110 “… then the worst news I have dear friend is I lost my job in Kansas City, The school board does not want modern art in the school, so they decided to retain Lawson [Ernest]… here I am without a job, the most disgusting part of it all is, I could have taught at the Art Institute of Chicago, but I prefer Kansas City because of its salary and reasonable hours.”111

Angarola did some job hunting from Europe and wrote a letter to Charles F. Kelley, dean of the School of the Chicago Art Institute.112 However, Kelley replied he didn’t see “…any possibilities of an opening in the school for you this next year.”113 Angarola was left with no choice but to return to Minnesota, this time to the St. Paul School of Art. He signed a contract while in Paris accepting the position as Instructor of Painting and Drawing, a job which would encompass the 1929-1930 school year.114 In August 1929, Angarola returned to the United States. He was excited to return and the morning before departure had breakfasted in Montparnasse, inviting everyone he could find or to join him.115

Angarola left Cherbourg landed in New York and in a few days took the train to Chicago where he dropped off his trunk at the Bradley Hotel and immediately took a steamship to Glen Lake, Michigan, arriving in time to celebrate daughter Yvonne’s birthday on August 8.116 He then returned to Chicago, arriving on August 13 and checked into the Bradley Hotel. It is surmised his close friend William Schwartz saw him in the hotel room on the night of his death. They had plans to meet so Schwartz could show his friend and mentor the new style he had developed in Angarola’s absence.117 On August 15, 1929, Anthony Angarola’s died.118 Only a few days later critic C. J. Bulliet captured the feeling of many in the artist community in “Towertown” where Angarola had been a steady fixture:

“Nobody in Towetown thought in those first few hours [upon hearing of his death] to fix his ultimate fame as a painter – it was over Angarola the man they brooded. They called him ‘Tony,’ and eyes softened and glistened as they spoke. From the outset of the radical art movement in Chicago, Angarola was numbered with the rebels, and his accomplishments were among the best the group has offered. Yet such was the good nature of this soft-tongued, rather timid grandson of Italy that he escaped the brunt of the broils. Without hypocrisy, he chose to steer a middle course.”119

After learning of his friend’s death, Schwartz went into shock. While the trauma of the death was still fresh in his heart, Schwartz picked up his brushes with a vengeance recalling the love that Anthony lavishly bestowed on him, the loyalty and guidance. He painted a tribute, a bitter, loving memorial which he entitled La Commedia [1929, location unknown], dedicated to his best friend. Manuel Chapman, described the mental state of Schwartz: “For ten days Schwartz did not lay hand to brush, Later, still in mourning, he gave expression to his horror in La Commedia… La Commedia has the horror of Dante’s Hell with the Purgatory and Heaven omitted."120

The Art Institute of Chicago organized a memorial exhibition which opened in December 1929. This was a fitting tribute to an artist everyone in Chicago declared was great, who was taken much, much too early. Throughout the years, many artists passed away. It was a rare occasion when the museum accorded one of them a retrospective show. Critic Inez Cunningham, who had once been so negative about his work lauded him at his death.
Cunningham spoke of his sensitive use of muted color, his mastery of using few colors while gaining great effect “with no thought of Utrillo or Matisse,” how Angarola painted charging his canvases with emotion. Cunningham also made several moving remarks:

“There can be no tragedy so poignant for an artist as to feel himself slipping out of life with artistic work unfinished. …And I like to think that Angarola was planning his new work; that he felt in him a new certitude… I would like to say that I think Anthony Angarola was one of the most sincere painters who ever came out of our city, and that as such he has done remarkably well, and such pictures as he has finished will never grow cheap or shoddy, because the artist put into them the very best that he possessed.”121

The hastily created flyer for his exhibition at the Art Institute had this to say:

“This group of thirty paintings by Anthony Angarola of Chicago represents the best work of a young, talented artist, whose death at the age of thirty-six removes one of the most serious and interesting experimenters from the field of American art. Unlike some of his contemporaries he did not depend in the least upon the stimulus of European modernism; his point of view, which he developed very early and from which he never departed, was his own.”122

Another memorial exhibition was organized in New York at the Fifty-sixth Street Galleries which opened January 27, 1930.123 A short biography included his awards and exhibitions and finished by saying: “In all his work the problem has been the same: to look deeper into the unseen qualities and possibilities of our native landscape. In the field of American art his achievement is remarkable considering the length of his years.”124 An article in Art News, commenting on the show said “All of Angarola’s work reveals a serious and sincere personality... His paintings as a group show a careful regard for pattern and structure, evolved by interweavings of color and line, by rhythms and counter rhythms.”125 A sad footnote was added indicating all the paintings were for sale and were the “sole inheritance” left by the artist to his widow and children.126 The next year, Increase Robinson, noted supporter of modernist themes in Chicago, held a memorial exhibition in her Studio Gallery. Only seventeen works were shown, of the over one hundred which were in storage at the Art institute. But many of the works had never been before exhibited.127

Another farewell to Angarola came from Eleanor Jewett in a review of the 1937 retrospective exhibition at the Katharine Kuh Gallery:

“...He was one of Chicago’s first and most gifted moderns… But beyond the question of light comes form and this was one of Angarola’s passions... just as it was a passion of Cézanne, who …easily could have claimed the young Chicagoan for a disciple, so clearly can a relationship be felt between the Frenchman’s and the American’s work. Cézanne wanted form and pattern. The same goal was Angarola’s. He succeeded in gaining his objective. These paintings are beautifully planned, they are definitely designed, they are solid. Angarola painted Paris streets, a bridge in Florence, a crowd in a park, loafers in a café, a lonely street climbing sharply to heaven knows what end and in each of these pictures he put himself. You feel his strength and his courage in every canvas.”128

C. J. Bulliet’s review of the Angarola retrospective at Katharine Kuh gallery in 1937, further extolled the departed artist:

“But it must be remembered that anything that departed, in those days, from the ‘norm’ of the ‘Columbian exposition school’ - artists who had grown out of the 1893 world’s fair - was looked upon as heretical. Chicago’s ‘official’ shows didn’t begin taking on new life until about 1927, two years before Angarola died. An Angarola picture, consequently, that ‘made’ an ‘official’ show looked out of place… Go see his pictures in retrospect. They may please you, whatever might once have been your prejudices.”129

Charismatic, both as person and teacher, Angarola inspired student allegiances, as evident in the letters of gratitude for his teaching methods.130 Students of Angarola’s who had gone to other Art Schools took his teachings with them, gaining accolades for their acquired techniques.131 Pulitzer Prize winning author, George Seldes, (You Can't Print That, 1928) who accompanied Angarola as he painted in the hills above Cagnes sur Mer, remembered that after painting a landscape with liberal alterations to reality, Angarola said:

“...A work of art is a creation. An artist is a creator. I will not use the word inspiration, I will say merely that an artist sees a new world, a different world. He creates that world. Another artist standing to his right or left looks at the same scene and creates a different world. The point is that he creates his world.”132

Like the other Chicago modernists, Angarola left no legacy of a “school” in his style. Anthony Angarola’s “school,” if such it could be called, was literally a legacy left to schoolchildren through his intended wife, Belle (Goldschlager) Baranceanu.133 Baranceanu worked with Angarola, both in Chicago and at the Minneapolis School of Art, where she studied from 1921 to 1925. She later called Angarola the greatest influence on her work.134 Belle moved to San Diego in the early 1930s. Like her mentor, “Miss B” was a teacher. She taught for many years at the Parker school in San Diego, passing on what she had learned.135 Angarola’s influence and depth of training in her resulted in paintings by her students that were virtually Angarola’s,136 reflecting the best characteristics of design and color composition for which Angarola had been praised since his early years at the Art Institute and which he always taught his own students. Anthony Angarola, artist and teacher, left his endowment to the art world, not only through his own artwork, but also through that of his students. His legacies were in their comprehension and use of composition, design and color.

More than two decades past before his works were on public view again. In 1953, Riccardo’s Studio Restaurant Gallery, where William Schwartz and Ivan Albright were regular diners, exhibited Angarola’s work in a one man show.137 His work lay dormant again, this time for almost thirty-five years, before the Frick Fine Arts Gallery of the University of Pittsburgh exhibited his works followed by the 1988 one man show for commercial purposes at ACA Gallery in New York.


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