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Giovanni Martino (1908 – 1997)

At the Crossing, c. 1945, oil on canvas, 20 x 36 inches, signed lower left; exhibited: i) 141st Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 26 through March 3, 1946, no. 306; and ii) 121st Annual Exhibition of the National Academy of Design, New York, New York, January 4 through January 22, 1947, no. 50 (awarded the $300 Carnegie Prize for “the most meritorious oil painting in the exhibition by an American artist, portraits only excepted, the picture to be the property of the artist”) (label verso) (illustrated in the catalog) (see Artist Wins $300, The Philadelphia Enquirer, January 4, 1947 – “Giovanni Martino, of 27 S. 18th st., has been awarded a $300 prize by the National Academy of Design for his landscape painting ‘At the Crossing.’ Martino was voted the Carnegie prize by the National Academy’s board of judges.”)


About the Painting

At the Crossing is an award-winning canvas by Giovanni Martino painted at the height of his career. Martino was named an Associate National Academician in 1943 and the following year, in 1944, he was honored as a full National Academician. After its debut in 1946 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, At the Crossing was selected for the 1947 Annual Exhibition of the National Academy of Design, where it won the prestigious Carnegie Prize. The painting is a delightful scene that likely takes place in Manayunk, an industrial suburb of Philadelphia which was often the subject of Martino’s work. On a snowy day, a father holds his child’s hand as they approach a railroad crossing. Perhaps they are heading to or from school, since the father appears to carry a bundle of books in his other hand. Although At the Crossing is principally a masterful study in somber tones of grey, brown, ochre, and every imaginable shade of white, the child’s warm red overcoat draws our eyes to the figures near the center of the canvas. Amid a bone-chilling day, Martino still manages to warm our hearts and we see clearly why critics characterized his work as deeply poetic. The quiet peacefulness of In the Crossing appealed to audiences just after World War II as the country tried to return to the simple pleasures of family life.

About the Artist

Giovanni Martino was a well-respected Pennsylvania painter from a distinguished artistic family. Martino was born in Philadelphia where he studied at the La France Art Institute, the Graphic Sketch Club, the Spring Garden Institute, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Martino also apprenticed with the lithographer W. F. Schoonmaker before joining Martino Commercial Art Studios, an enterprise founded by his father. Martino was from a large family and all seven of his siblings also became painters, as did two of his daughters, though Giovanni was among the most accomplished of them all. Starting in the early 1930s and continuing for nearly five decades, Martino exhibited widely at most major institutions in the United States, including the Corcoran, Whitney, Art Institute of Chicago, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Golden Gate International Exhibition. He won over one hundred honors and awards for his paintings. In addition to his extensive studio practice, Martino taught art at Lehigh University. Martino continued to paint during most of his life and he was a common feature in and around Manayunk. His works are in a number of important museum and other institutional collections. Martino is listed in Who was Who in American Art and other standard references.


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