Letterio Calapai Biography

Letterio Calapai




Letterio Calapai, painter and printmaker, was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 29, 1901. Following his graduation from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1925, he was awarded a two-year scholarship to the School of Fine Arts and Crafts in Boston where he worked under Charles Hopkinson and Howard Giles. In 1928, Calapai moved to New York continuing his studies at the Beaux Art Institute of Design, the Art Students’ League and the American Artists School. His first solo exhibition was in 1933.

Calapai worked at Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 in New York between 1946 and 1949, eventually becoming Hayter's assistant. Following this, with Hayter’s recommendation and at the behest of Philip Clarkson Elliott, he was hired to establish the printmaking department at the Albright Art School. He was chairman for six years, during which time the school transitioned to become the University of Buffalo. He returned to New York City in 1955, and in 1959 he received a Tiffany Foundation Grant, allowing him to establish the Intaglio Workshop for Advanced Printmaking in Greenwich Village. Calapai also taught at the New School For Social Research, New York University, and Brandeis University. He moved to Chicago in 1965 and continued teaching at the University of Illinois.

In addition to painting and printmaking Calapai illustrated a variety of literary works centering on sociopolitical and religious themes. Among them were Lorenz Graham's How God Fix Jonah, 1946, with a foreward by W.E.B. DuBois; a portfolio of woodcuts based on Thomas Wolfe's play Look Homeward Angel, 1948; and The Negro Bible Series, 1946, republished by Cornel West in 1992. An influential teacher and printmaker, Calapai received a host of awards and honors. His work is included in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Art Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, the David Owsley Museum of Art, the Kemper Art Museum, the McNay Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, la Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Sydney Art Museum, the National Bezalel Museum, and the Kyobashi Museum of Modern Art.

Letterio Calapai died in Glencoe, Illinois on his 92nd birthday, March 29, 1993.

Selected exhibitions and awards:
1943: Artists for Victory, Museum of Modern Art, NY
1944: American Institute of Graphic Arts, NY, Fifty Prints of the Year, 1944
1947: Smithsonian Institute, solo exhibition
1954: John taylor Arms Prize, Society of American Artists annual
1959: Tiffany Foundation Grant