Lawrence Ferlinghetti

artist artwork
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919- )

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in New York of an Italian-French-Sephardic immigrant family in 1919. He graduated in 1941 from the School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (where he worked on the literary magazine founded by Thomas Wolfe).

During the Second World War he spent four years on U.S. Navy ships and commanded a U.S. Navy sub chaser at the Normandy invasion, saw Nagasaki six weeks after the A-bomb, and after the War earned an M.A. at Columbia University and a doctorate in literature at the University of Paris. He began drawing from the model at the Academie Julien in Paris in 1948 and continued in the open studios of the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1950’s, 70’s and 80’s.

In 1953 he rented a large loft at 9 Mission Street, San Francisco, just vacated by Hassel Smith. Originally identifying with the New York painters of his generation, namely Franz Kline and Willem DeKooning, he pursued what he now considers a “farcical attempt” to paint in an Abstract Expressionist style… Having reached an impasse, he stopped painting and did not pick up a brush again until the mid-1970’s when he returned to figurative painting, sometimes very close to abstraction, and often combining the lyrical and the political.

Since then Ferlinghetti has had many one-man exhibitions in this country and abroad. His most important solo show in Europe was at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni (Palace of Exhibitions) in Rome (1996). In the catalogue for that show, the famous Italian art critic, Achille Bonito Oliva, characterized Ferlinghetti as “godfather of the [Italian] trans-avant-garde.” He has also had one-man shows at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Antwerp and recently at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Le Spezia, Italy.

Lately he has been associated with European Fluxus art, with shows in Verona and Florence curated by Francesco Conz.Solo exhibitions in the United States include shows at the Whitney Museum in New York, the Butler Institute of American Art, the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York, the Molly Barnes Gallery in Santa Monica, Dominican University in San Rafael, William Turner Gallery in Venice California, Kleinert James Gallery in Woodstock New York, the San Jose Museum of Art, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, and the George Krevsky Gallery in San Francisco. The Smithsonian Museum of American Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco both recently acquired Ferlinghetti works for their permanent collection. Recent international exhibitions include a major solo exhibition at the Gallery of Art Karlovy Vary in Prague in the Spring of 2007, and a 2010 traveling retrospective, titled 60 Years of Painting, at Foyer del Teatro Francesco Cilea in Reggio Calabria, Italy, and at Museo di Roma in Trastevere, Rome, Italy.

Lawrence is a subjective painter and whether the piece is a social statement or a lyric work, you can feel passion in it.He makes paintings of great power and beauty, evoking profound sadness.I am haunted by his art.Many of his paintings have in them images of birds.I think of him as one of those winged beings, soaring above and over all those boundaries and artificial barriers including "writers over here" and "painters over there." He just sails on over.
-Rita Bottoms,
Director of Special Collections
University Library, University of California at Santa Cruz