Salvatore Del Deo 75 Years in Provincetown
Now 95 Exhibition Surveys the Artist's Legacy
By: Charles Giuliano - Oct 07, 2023
Salvatore Del Deo
75 Years in Provincetown
Curated by Christine McCarthy
On view through November 26, 2023
Salvatore (Sal) Del Deo has been involved with an epic legal battle to fight eviction from one of Provincetown's historic dune shacks. That has resulted in an extension for the now 95-year-old artist. The struggle, for which the artist had many protestors and defenders, became national news.
At an advanced age the artist continues to create in a traditional figurative manner. That approach started with Charles Hawthorne who, at the turn of the century, attracted students to the Lower Cape. That created the nucleus of an artists community that sustains to this day. The Hawthorne approach of naturalistic realism was passed to Del Deo through his student Henry Hensche. That deeply rooted approach is vividly evident in the artist's work with includes landscapes and figurative narratives. A recent self portrait conflates his image with colorful sunflowers.
It is significant that he opted not to study with Hans Hoffmann who espoused his theory of "push pull" in a heavy German accent. He taught a generation of artists, many funded by the GI Bill, in the then avant-garde manner of abstract expressionism. When he advised the young Jackson Pollock during a studio visit to stay true to nature the artist famously replied that "I am nature."
Notably, while creating inventive, experimental work Del Deo never strayed far from nature.
During the post war era rent was cheap in the Portuguese fishing community. One could live in a shack and dig for clams or purchase cheap fish on the docks. To supplement income artists did odd jobs or worked in restaurants. With a friend and partner Del Deo formed the famed Ciro and Sal's. They brought their Italian heritage to the fruit of the sea.
Later they parted to create their own eponymous restaurants. Sal's closed long ago but the flavor lingers in Provincetown's rich culinary history.
Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) is pleased to present Salvatore Del Deo: 75 Years in Provincetown, curated by Christine McCarthy and on view September 30 - November 26, 2023.
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Salvatore Del Deo is a contemporary painter whose 75-year career intersected with some of the most defining elements of Provincetown: the art colony, the fishing community, his two restaurants bearing his name, the dunes.
This exhibition will be a celebration of Del Deo’s life and artistic career, featuring portraits, studio work, and the Italian landscapes celebrating his heritage, Provincetown landscapes, and reaffirm his status as a significant contributor to the legacy of the Provincetown Art Colony and to American art history.
PAAM gratefully acknowledges this exhibition’s sponsors, Judyth and Dan Katz.
FROM THE CURATOR
On the occasion of Salvatore Del Deo’s 95th birthday and 75 years of creating art in Provincetown, it is fitting that the Provincetown Art Association and Museum present this exhibition which chronicles Sal’s commitment to this special landscape and its community.
Over the past year and a half, I have had the pleasure of spending afternoons with Sal in his studio looking at art to select for the show, but also to listen to Sal share his personal experiences and stories about building his life, family and career on this spit of land surrounded by water on three sides.
I am amazed by the wonderment that is expressed as Sal speaks of seeing Henry Hensche give a painting demonstration at the Vesper George School when he was 17 years old – putting blobs of color on a canvas that eventually morphed into a portrait of his friend Margery – Sal reveled that Hensche was a real painter. That day in art school propelled Sal and his friend, Charlie Couper, to drive 200 miles to Provincetown in an old Studebaker – it took six hours. After painting a quick watercolor of the dunes, they located Mr. Hensche and spent the next 12 hours in his home as Hensche spoke of Charles Hawthorne and his summer school of painting.
The rest is history, as they say, but there is one part of the story that seems almost unbelievable. Sal’s older brother, Silvestro, had actually been to Provincetown and wrote about it in a letter. After Silvestro’s untimely death, Sal acquired his papers and read that Provincetown was a fishing town and a painter’s town- a place where Sal should be. It was this premonition that was the genesis of Sal’s journey to the end of Cape Cod.
Sal still remains as excited today about being in Provincetown and painting in his studio, inspired by the light, landscape and the people who cycle in and out of town. This exhibition will feature paintings that emit light and hope, portraits, landscapes, the working community and the metaphysical aspects of Provincetown –according to Sal- what you learn after you have been here for a very long time.
It has been a privilege to spend this special time with Sal, and the paintings that I have selected are personal to our shared experiences. I am grateful to Romolo Del Deo for making the access to the artwork seamless and to the Board and staff for their unfailing time and commitment to PAAM and its programs. Sal says that the best things are still in front of him and I can’t wait to see what they are.
Christine M. McCarthy, Curator, September 2023