Xavier de Callatay Biography

Xavier de Callatay




Xavier de Callataÿ, a baron in his native country, was born on February 11, 1932 in Brussel, Belgium. de Callataÿ earned a degree with honors in metallurgical engineering at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He also studied at the Academy of Fine Arts there and earned a master's degree at the University of Utah after moving to the United States. With his metalworking skills, he got a job in Utah in the early 1950s with a team building rocket nose cones, but he didn't like the destruction involved in the project. To raise money to leave, he did portraits of his friends and sold them.

Xavier de Callataÿ lived in New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 1950s and early 1970s, said Alexandra Monett, his former wife. Among his first works to attract attention was a series of pictures of Preservation Hall musicians, said Dotty Coleman, owner of the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, where Mr. de Callataÿ taught..His works were shown in galleries in New Orleans, New York City and Florida. Besides private collections, his paintings are found in the collections of Tulane University, the Union League Club of New York City, the Chester Dale Collection in Washington, D.C., and the Palais de la Nation in Brussels.

In addition to jazz musicians, his local subjects included a series of huge murals for the walls of the Greater New Orleans Tourist and Convention Commission when its office was at Royal and Conti streets. Those works became a cause celebre in the mid-1980s when it was announced that they were to be replaced when the Police Department took over the building. "Everybody got up in a lather over it," Fagaly said. "Somebody contacted him, and he said he didn't consider them original drawings. It was kind of a nonissue." "Xavier was a great draftsman, and his works were truly beautiful," said William Fagaly, an assistant director of the New Orleans Museum of Art. His last New Orleans show, in January 1994, was at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Called "Symphony for Christine," it consisted of four mural-size paintings honoring a New Orleans friend who worked with Mother Teresa's religious order and committed suicide. "It was a very personal thing for him," Fagaly said.

de Callataÿ moved to New York in the mid 1970s. In 1998 he was en route to Venice to do a series of paintings to illustrate a friend's book when he became ill. Doctors found a brain tumor that turned out to be malignant. He died in his native Belgium in the city of La Hulpe on December 27, 1998.