Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Costantino Proietto - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


A 1951 photographic portrait of the artist Costantino Proietto at age forty-one - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Costantino Proietto - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

In July 2011, I published my first article regarding the Italian artist Costantino Proietto (1910-1979). Other than the signature “C.Proietto” on our own original oil painting, I then knew nothing about this modern Italian impressionist. At that time, I published pictures of our Amalfi Coast painting, asking other owners of C.Proietto paintings to share them with our world and me. Soon, several individuals in the U.S. came forward with photographs of their own treasured C.Proietto masterpieces. U.S. soldiers stationed near Stuttgart, Germany purchased each of those initial paintings there.

Some people would write and promise to send pictures, but never deliver. One man sent stories about his family’s close relationship to Costantino Proietto, who they called “Uncle Tino”. There was a story about a dark painting designed not to hurt the eyes of a young measles patient. At the Sistine Chapel in Rome, using real gold leaf, Tino had painted an image of the Madonna. I had only one unconfirmed photographic image of a balding man in his mid to late sixties. If that picture was of Costantino Proietto, I could not prove it.

Romantic Italian coastal scene, an oil painting by the artist Costantino Proietto - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In March 2012, I received letters from two relatives of Costantino Proietto, each of whom knew the artist in life. Larry LoCastro, second cousin, and Nunzio LoCastro, first cousin of Costantino Proietto brought life to the artist and the man. Within the LoCastro family in New Jersey, there are almost a dozen signed original oil paintings attributed to the artist. Although there are too many new paintings to show them all here, I will post the remaining works in later articles.

Nunzio LoCastro is now eighty-five years old. In 1951, U.S. Army service took him to Germany for two years. Before shipping out, a relative told him to look up a cousin who lived in Germany. That cousin, an Italian emigrant to Stuttgart, Germany was the forty-one year old Costantino Proietto. Having settled in Stuttgart near the beginning of World War II, C.Proietto quickly established himself there. By the early 1950s, he began painting at his own atelier/studio, located at the fashionable address, Stuttgart-S. Danneckerstraße 34.

The artist Costantino Proietto (right), with his brother, ca. 1951 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Through the wonders of Google Street View, we can see that building as it looks like today. According to one person who photographed it, in 1899 architect Gottlob Schäufelin finished the mehrfamilienhaus (Multi-family property), which later housed C.Proietto’s studio. In describing the studio, Nunzio LoCastro told me that it was had one large room with many windows. Either the center or left side of the second story might qualify for that description.

According to Nunzio LoCastro, Tino lived with his common law wife Gisela at Stuttgart-S. Hohenheimer Straße 62. There we see a four-story apartment building, which dates to the prewar era. Again, with the aid of Google Maps, we can see that his home and studio were only two hundred thirty meters apart. Every day, Tino would rise early, have a cup of black coffee and then walk to his studio. There, he would paint until noon and then return home for lunch with Gisela. After a leisurely lunch, Tino would don a freshly ironed shirt and return to his studio.

The artist Costantino Proietto, in Sanremo, Italy, his Leica camera around his neck, 1969 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Painting there until the sunlight failed, Tino would then go out on the town, enjoying whatever nightlife postwar Stuttgart had to offer. During his evening activities, Gisela was at home. By then, Tino had come to expect two freshly washed and ironed shirts each day. Since he often worked seven days a week, I imagine Gisela at their apartment boiling, washing and ironing shirts well into the night. Although many artists wear a smock, Costantino created his masterpieces while wearing a dress shirt. After work he was still impeccably dressed for a night on the town. With his signature palette knife work, C.Proietto brought elegance, skill and exactitude to his work. For him, creating modern impressionist masterworks in a dirty shirt was unacceptable.

The business card of Costantino Proietto, as displayed on this page, tells us how the man saw himself. On the card, “Costantino Proietto” appears in bold script. The top two entries on his list are in English. First is “Oil Paintings”, followed by “Specialist in spaddle work”. Next, in his native Italian, is “Artista pittore”, meaning “painter of pictures”. In a nod to the French, he follows with “Artist peintre”. Finally, for his host country, Germany he lists “Kunstmaler”, meaning artist, painter or “production painter”.

Business card of the artist Costantino Proietto, including his address in Stuttgart, Germany - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In less than one year, Costantino Proietto and his works have gone from obscurity to fame. Soon, I expect him to be among the most collectable of twentieth century painters. We can now confirm Randazzo, Sicily 1910 as his place and year of birth. We know that at age fourteen he began an eighteen year unpaid apprenticeship to a master Italian artist and art restorer. In his early thirties, C.Proietto immigrated to France, and then to Switzerland. By 1942, he had settled for good in Stuttgart, Germany. By 1951, he had a studio and a nearby apartment home. According to his cousin Nunzio LoCastro, every day, Tino Proietto lived the good life, traveling, photographing and painting exquisite pictures of scenes that people loved. Any observer of an original painting by C.Proietto can see and feel his joy in life shine through.