The Pianist


Letterio Calapai (1902-1993) woodcut, signed and dated ’44 lower right, titled and numbered (4/25) lower left [also with the monogram in the block lower right]. On a thin Japan paper. In very good condition apart from repaired tear upper right margin corner (not affecting image), 7 1/2 x 5 3/4, the sheet 8 3/4 x 7 1/2 inches. Archival mounting.

A fine impression of this modernist American icon, among the most aesthetically compelling of Calapai’s compositions.

Calapai’s mother was a pianist, as was his cousin, Vincint Aita, who encouraged him to move from Boston to New York to pursue his artistic career (but if the model for this print were either pianist, it would be his mother!).

As American art of the ’30s and ’40s has become increasingly sought after, Calapai’s woodcuts have been rediscovered, and there is a growing realization that he was among the more distinguished artists working in this idiom during this period. In The Pianist, he capitalizes on the wood engraving technique to develop a striking composition, mostly black, modernist in outline and spirit, and yet grounded in tradition, recalling Durer’s St. Jerome in his Study, with the wood ceiling panels used for perspective, and the window bringing in the light.

Born in Boston, Calapai studied at the Mass. School of Art, the Art Student’s League, and the American Artists School. He was a student of Robert Laurent, Ben Shahn, and Stanley Hayter. From 1949 – 55 he was chairman of the Graphics Arts Department at Albright Art School at Buffalo, taught at the New School in NY from 1955-62.  He was the Founder and Director of the Intaglio Workshop for Advance Printmaking in New York from 1960-65 and then became a professor of art at the University of Illinois.