Boccia’s Studio Captured by Chris Scavatto: “The Painter’s Language” is a portrait of an artist by a student he inspired

Edward-Boccia, Chris-Scavotto, WUSTL, Art

The new exhibition from photographer Chris Scavotto opens at the Sheldon October 7.


SEPTEMBER 23, 2022

2:22 PM

Boccia’s Legacy as a Teacher Lives on in University Exhibit at Missouri S&T

Edward Boccia was an American painter + professor of fine art at Washington University for over 30 years. his teaching legacy lives on symbolically in work on view at universities across the country.

On the landing between the first and second floors of the Humanities-Social Sciences Building sits The Sacrosanct, 1978, a triptych by Edward Boccia, an American poet and painter known for his large-scale paintings in Neo-Expressionist style. It was donated by Morton D. May.

Learning to see -Renaissance and Baroque Masterworks from the Phoebe Dent Weil + Mark S. Weil Collection at the St Louis Art Museum March 3-July 30 2017

Edward-Boccia, American-Art, American-Painting, Painting, American-Painters, Modern-Art, Contemporary Art, Ed-Boccia, St-Louis-Artist, WUSTL


An exhibition not to be missed –Learning to See: Renaissance and Baroque Masterworks from the Phoebe Dent Weil and Mark S. Weil Collection, St Louis Art Museum, March 3—July 30, 2017

From Rembrandt’s masterful Hundred Guilder Print to a colossal marble portrait of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, Learning to See brings together prints, drawings, and sculptures that explore intellectual and spiritual currents of European culture in the 15th-17th centuries. Subjects included in the exhibition range from mythology and mythical beings to traditional Christian themes. Prints and sculptures are presented together, uniting seemingly dissimilar works across time and techniques while exploring a variety of themes. Devotional works of art demonstrate the vital role that prints and sculpture played in the early modern church. Other sections feature objects representing the body, both nude and clothed, and works that reveal the technical aspects involved in the sculpting of terracotta and bronze.

Dent Weil.jpg


Bust of Marcus Aurelius, late 18th–early 19th century; Italian; marble; with socle: 31 3/4 × 15 3/4 × 14 15/16 inches; Mark S. Weil Artwork 2011 Irrevocable Trust, Promised gift of Phoebe Dent Weil and Mark S. Weil


Read More @ SLAM 

Washington U. professor Edward Boccia left legacy of images -St Louis Post Dispatch


By Calvin Wilson, Post Dispatch February 16, 2013

Edward Boccia described his art as dealing with “love, lust and life,” and anyone who has stepped back and taken in his creations would be hard put to disagree. With a vividness that reflects the influence of artists from Max Beckmann to Paul Cézanne while adhering to a unique sensibility, Boccia’s paintings and drawings just about reach out and pull the viewer inside them.

For many years a professor at Washington University’s School of Fine Arts, Boccia died last September at his home in Webster Groves. Boccia was 91, and he had seen a lot, including action as a soldier in World War II. And he transformed quite a bit of what he saw into a legacy of countless images.

Boccia’s work, which attracted the backing of nationally renowned art collector Morton D. “Buster” May, is the subject of two exhibitions: “Edward Boccia: Figurative Expressionist,” through March 3 at the St. Louis University Museum of Art, and “Edward Boccia: Early Work,” opening Friday at the Sheldon Art Galleries.

edward-boccia-the-encounter-1979 Edward E. Boccia The Encounter, 1979

“He created his own world through his art,” said Petruta Lipan, director of SLUMA. “And his world is very complicated and multilayered.

“You look at his artworks, and you think you know what you’re looking at. But the more you look at it, the deeper and deeper it gets, because he mixes mythology and religion and literary themes within one work. And that’s what makes his work so interesting.”

Philanthropist May (of the May Department Stores, which owned the Famous-Barr chain) was an important figure in getting out the word about Boccia, said the artist’s daughter, Alice Boccia, who is an archeological conservationist.

“He was a huge art collector here in St. Louis, and every year he would come over to the house and look at all the work Dad had done for the past 12 months,” said Boccia, who now lives in Los Angeles. “From, say, 1952 until he passed away in 1983.”

May purchased hundreds of Boccia’s works, keeping them for his collection or giving them to museums, universities and acquaintances.

The exhibition at SLUMA focuses on Boccia’s large-scale paintings, including triptychs (three-panel paintings). The works are displayed with just enough room for spectators to stand back and ponder their meanings. Particularly striking are “Low Tide” (1983), which depicts a bearded man reading a book while impaled on what appear to be sticks rising out of the water, and “The Absolved” (1984), a portrait of a male and a female who have fish heads but human genitalia.

In contrast, “Edward Boccia: Early Work” is more intimate in scope. Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, director of the Sheldon Art Galleries, said the exhibition — which focuses on drawings and paintings made between 1941 and 1969 — sheds light on a different side of Boccia’s artistry.

“It gives people another view of what he was like as an artist, and his interests,” she said. Among the pieces are “drawings that he made during World War II, or right at the end of World War II, of fellow soldiers and people that he met in France and other places.

“You can see the influence of the Old Masters in his work,” Lahs-Gonzales said. “Also, people like Van Gogh.”

Boccia was born in Newark and studied art at Pratt Institute in New York (where he met his future wife, Madeleine Wysong). He is estimated to have created 4,000 paintings, and his work is included in more than 600 private collections, as well as being part of the permanent collections of SLUMA, the St. Louis Art Museum, Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the Denver Art Museum and the National Pinakothek in Athens.

It was through May that Boccia became familiar with the work of Beckmann, a German expressionist painter who taught at Washington University in the 1940s, and who had his first U.S. retrospective in St. Louis in 1948.But whereas Beckmann merely passed through St. Louis, Boccia – who came to Washington University in 1951 as an assistant dean – spent most of his life here.

“I can look at his work for years, and I still find something new,” Lipan said.

‘Edward Boccia: Early Work’

When • Friday through May 18. Opening reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday; galleries open until 8 p.m. Regular hours are noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and beginning an hour before performances and during intermission.

Where • Sheldon Art Galleries, Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Gallery, 3648 Washington Boulevard

How much • Free

More info • 314-533-9900;

‘Edward Boccia: Figurative Expressionist’

When • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday; through March 3

Where • St. Louis University Museum of Art, Aronson Gallery, 3663 Lindell Boulevard

How much • Free

More info • 314-977-2666;

All Rights Reserved, The Edward E. Boccia and Madeleine J. Boccia Art Trust.

Rosalind Early’s 2011 Interview with the Late American Artist Edward E Boccia

Edward-Boccia, American-Art, American-Painting, Painting, American-Painters, Modern-Art, Contemporary Art, Ed-Boccia, St-Louis-Artist, WUSTL

Edward Boccia Remembered


In the magazine world, there are a lot of aborted articles. In 2011, on a rainy September afternoon, I went to artist and poet Edward Boccia’s house to interview him for an article that would never make it into St. Louis Magazine. Not sure what to do with the interview, I transcribed it and waited, since he’d told me SLU planned to do a retrospective in 2013. Unfortunately, Boccia died in September 2012. He was 91.

January 18, 2013


Eye of the Painter – A Retrospective Exhibition of a Noted St Louis Artist and Poet, Edward Boccia, MOCRA

When appraising the long career of an artist, we tend to focus on the mature style, or the works best known by the public. The exhibition, Edward Boccia: Eye of the Painter, seeks to render another view of the artist’s career, by presenting not only the large-scale allegorical works for which Boccia is known, but also the aberrations, anomalies and hidden passion for the figure that fed the larger body of allegorical paintings.


Edward Boccia-Eye of the Painter – The Allegories. Installed at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA).

Edward Boccia’s career as a painter may be poetically referred to as a grand house with many rooms. Some rooms, although elegant, are lived in briefly. Other rooms, made more comfortable by the artist’s personal associations, are occupied for years. No room is permanently closed. The artist moves freely from room to room, constantly borrowing ideas from where he has stayed before. The paintings and drawings in this exhibition are grouped by thematic concerns beginning with character sketches done in France during World War II and ending with a nine-panel painting, Eugene’s Journey (1996), that draws upon all of the artist’s skills as a painter and poet.

It is with the open eye of the painter surveying the pivotal movements in 20th-century art that we will see the work by Boccia that touches on Cubism and Surrealism, American Regionalism of the 1930s, German Expressionism of the 1920s, and neo-Expressionism of the 1970s. For Boccia all rooms are open today, and it is for us to decide where we should linger.

About the Artist
Mr. Boccia’s career literally spans a lifetime. His paintings and drawings have appeared in over 40 solo shows and 121 group shows, including The Smithsonian, Harvard University, Pratt Institute, the Dada Gallery, Athens Greece, and many public and private galleries. His art is owned by over 600 private collections nationwide including the Morton D. May Collection, MO, Lucia May Collection, MN, and the St. Louis University Museum of Fine Arts, St. Louis MO. In 1958 he received the “Borsa di Studio” — offered by the Italian Government for study in Italy.

His poetry has appeared in numerous respected literary journals such as Negative CapabilityRhino, and Pudding Magazine: The International Journal of Applied Poetry (featured).



All Rights Reserved, The Edward E. Boccia and Madeleine J. Boccia Art Trust.

St Louis Modern -Murals via SLAM


From the St. Louis Modern catalogue- St. Louis’s Modern Murals

October 1, 2015

St. Louis Modern is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring a comprehensive essays on architecture and design in St. Louis that expand on themes explored in the exhibition, including in-depth examinations of the city’s embrace of modern aesthetics in sculpture, silver, stained glass, murals, and textiles.

In the excerpt below, exhibition co-curator Genevieve Cortinovis explores the history of modern mural painting in St. Louis.

In a 1932 exhibition featuring the work of forty-nine American muralists exploring “post-war subjects,” The Museum of Modern Art asked an essential question: “Who is to do the murals of the nation’s great buildings?”(1) In the years that followed, modern artists answered the call, actively utilizing a medium that had been previously dominated by academic painters. Whether in cafés and corporate lobbies or post offices and medical clinics, murals imbued modern, often austere architectural settings with color, dynamism, and a sense of historic and aesthetic continuity, while exposing the larger public to a variety of contemporary styles and ideas. Spurred by the fervent support of the medium by the Depression-era Federal Arts Project as well as at the World’s Fairs in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York in the 1930s, the vogue for mural painting reached its peak in St. Louis in the decades surrounding World War II. The founding myths, idyllic local landscapes, and heroic figures that dominated murals at the turn of the century—such as Frederick Lincoln Stoddard’s panels celebrating the Louisiana Purchase for the mayor’s office (1898), Frederick Oakes Sylvester’s idealized vista of the Mississippi River and bluffs for the Noonday Club (1911), and Edmund Wuerpel’s summer landscape for the Missouri Athletic Club (1916)—were largely supplanted by themes of industry, modernity, play, and progress.

In a 1977 oral history, Charles Eames lauded the design of the coffee shop and restaurant at the Park Plaza Hotel (1929), calling one of its designers, St. Louis–born Victor Proetz, “a bona fide genius.”(2) Proetz’s distinctive modern classicism was particularly evident in a series of murals depicting the “glorious history of beer as it was made in Nuremberg” that he and his partner, Ralph Cole Hall, executed for the space.(3) The murals reference specific iconographic sources, including woodcuts from the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel, as well as nineteenth-century classicism, particularly the line-drawn figure of the angel Gabriel breathing life into the hop vine.(4) Among the medieval German architecture with geometrically patterned roofs, Proetz inserted contemporary St. Louis monuments: the Budweiser Brewery, Shell Building, and the Park Plaza itself appear alongside bird’s-eye views of walled and moated cities in an image characteristic of Proetz’s hybrid aesthetic.

May Photo Stair Case Mural No 1.jpg

In 1939, under the Works Progress Administration, Chicagoans Edward Millman and Mitchell Siporin won a commission to execute a series of frescoes for St. Louis’s main post office downtown.(5) The project called for work that would depict the history of the region from its colonial origins to Civil War reconstruction, and it boasted the largest prize of any of the mural commissions overseen by the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture. The nine panels Millman and Siporin produced are dominated by large, robustly modeled figures in abstracted landscapes, the river winding through each scene’s background acting “like a ribbon binding them together.”(6) Both artists had spent time in Mexico studying the work of muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco in the 1930s, and were unique for their unusual approach to historic narrative, which often investigated controversial subject matter such as social conflict and the treatment of minorities.(7) In the St. Louis Post Office murals, for example, they included scenes depicting the Missouri Compromise and the infamous Dred Scott case.

Around the same time, St. Louis–based medical supplies purveyor A. S. Aloe, under the leadership of Howard Baer, sheathed its company’s nineteenth-century headquarters on Olive Street in downtown St. Louis with a streamlined modern facade, adding ten thousand square feet of space and creating a new entrance and identity for the evolving company.(8) Visitors entering the large oval lobby were greeted by a dramatic curved staircase lined with murals depicting the early history of medicine. The unknown artist presents Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing, surrounded by signs of the zodiac. As the murals wound further up the wall, the evolution of surgery from the medieval period to present day was contrasted in two very different surgical theaters surmounted by monochromatic portraits of historic leaders in the medical field. With their rigidly modeled figures and references to Greek mythology, the murals call to mind the classicizing preference of many designers and architects active in St. Louis in the late 1930, such as Proetz and Frederick Dunn.(9)

Not long after they were unveiled, the murals were photographed by Morton D. May, celebrated patron of the arts and president of the Famous-Barr department stores. May was an active amateur photographer throughout his life whose ample resources allowed him to elevate his work to a professional level, as these remarkable photographs attest.(10) May employed carbro printing, a time-consuming and expensive color-printing technique that required the use of a specialized studio, to produce many of his color photographs of the period, including his prints of the A. S. Aloe murals. The technique, which results in a permanent color image, was favored by magazines and elite photographers, and May’s choice of it proved prescient, providing an enduring record of these murals that were themselves demolished in 1996.(11)

Prominent footwear maker Brown Shoe Company hired local artist Fred Conway to paint a floor-to-ceiling mural for the lobby of its new suburban headquarters in 1952. The seventy-five- foot-long mural on canvas depicts the history of shoemaking and the use of leather from Ancient Egypt to the industrial period.(14) As the mural extends up the wall, the figures, heavily modeled at the base, become progressively softer and more abstract, and the colors more muted and pastel. The unusual palette—ranging from bright red and cornflower yellow to turquoise, periwinkle, and subtle shades of white—and inventive use of pattern to link subjects give the figurative mural a distinctly fresh and modern character. Conway was a faculty member at Washington University’s school of art from 1929 to 1970, and a close friend and early supporter of German Expressionist painter Max Beckmann. Throughout his long career, he experimented with a range of styles, from realism to pure abstraction. A nationally recognized muralist, Conway is responsible for the murals in the former headquarters of Peabody Energy in St. Louis, which depict the history of the coal industry in the region, as well as those of the Federal Building in Kansas City, the First National Bank of Tulsa, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and the U.S Post Office in Purcell, Oklahoma.(15)In the years after World War II, several St. Louis companies would follow the lead of Baer and A. S. Aloe by expanding or rebuilding their offices and storefronts, and many would choose murals to illustrate the history of their particular industry in order to enliven the spaces and establish their unique position at the forefront of innovation in their respective fields. When May commissioned Samuel Marx to design the Clayton branch of Famous-Barr in 1948, the architect engaged fellow Chicagoan Edgar Miller to paint a series of whimsical murals in the interior. Improvising on the theme of each department, the artist illustrated the various historical influences on men’s fashion from early European to frontier culture in the men’s department, for example, and he irreverently sprinkled the walls of the maternity department with birds and bees. One reviewer called the murals “captivating,” praising the “noted” artist’s creativity and sense of humor.(12) Miller was a prominent Chicago designer, painter, and sculptor known for his quirky, handcrafted interiors.(13) He frequently collaborated with Marx, creating murals for many of his public commissions (Miller probably painted similarly themed murals in Famous-Barr’s Northland store) and contributing artwork for a series of plaster lamps that Marx used in many of his private commissions.

  1. “American Mural Exhibition to Open New Home of Museum of Modern Art,” MoMA press release, April 23, 1932, archives/1930s/1932.
  2. Charles Eames, interview with Virginia Stith, October 13, 1977, Charles Eames Oral History Project, pp. 27–28, Eames Office LLC archive, Venice, California.
  3. “The Story on the Wall,” promotional pamphlet (St. Louis: Park Plaza Hotel, c. 1930).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Active throughout the 1930s, Millman and Siporin had previously been awarded several prestigious mural commissions, including a series for Chicago’s “Century of Progress” World’s Fair in 1933 and the post offices in the Illinois towns of Moline and Decatur in 1935.
  6. Paintings, cartoons, photographs of the St. Louis Post Office murals by Mitchell Siporin and Edward Millman. (New York: Downtown Gallery, 1942), n.p.
  7. Marlene Park and Gerald E. Markowitz, Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984), 39-40. Other WPA murals exploring local historic themes in St. Louis include Louisiana Purchase Exposition by Trew Hocker in the post office in University City and the Old Levee and Market at St. Louis by Lumen Martin Winter at the Wellston Station Post Office.
  8. An active art patron, Baer was keenly aware of the potential of modernism in design and marketing. To commemorate the somewhat precariously timed construction, Baer buried a time capsule under the cornerstone of his company’s new modern headquarters, in which he enclosed a letter where he confessed that despite the period of uncertainty, “the mere fact that we build here and now a new building when aerial bombs are laying waste London and Berlin . . . indicates that the human spirit is incurably optimistic.” Baer, “Letter for a Cornerstone,” September 1940, A. S. Aloe Time Capsule, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.
  9. One year prior, the history of medicine was depicted in a series of both abstract and figurative murals for the Hall of Medicine and Public Health at the New York World’s Fair, which Baer very well could have seen.
  10. May became interested in photography during the mid- 1930s as he traveled across Europe and Asia with noted photographer Julian Bryan while still a student at Dartmouth. In the 1940s, he began experimenting with color photography and shifted his focus from travel to still life, portraiture, and architecture. “Man of the Year,” Globe-Democrat Sunday Magazine, December 27, 1959: 12.
  11. For more information on the history and process of carbro printing, see John Rohrbach, Color: American Photography Transformed (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013).
  12. “Noted Muralist’s Store Decorating Is Captivating,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 14, 1949.
  13. For more on Edgar Miller, see Richard Cahan, Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home: Chicago’s Forgotten Renaissance Man (Chicago: City Files Press, 2009).
  14. “The Romance of Shoemaking,” promotional pamphlet (St. Louis: Brown Shoe Company, c. 1955).
  15. The former Peabody headquarters was acquired by engineering firm ICC in 2013. As the Post-Dispatch noted, “ICC also will preserve a colorful mural by St. Louis artist Fred Conway. The large mural inside the first-floor lobby depicts coal mining, shipping and conversion to electricity.” Tim Bryant, “Former Peabody Building Gets New Owner, Life,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 1, 2013.


Original Post Courtesy of SLAM

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