Florence, Italy: Interview With a Renaissance Man
Anthony Visco drawing at the Museo del Opera del Duomo, Firenze
What is a Renaissance Man?
Anthony Visco is currently the founder and director of The Atelier for the Sacred Arts in Philadelphia where he does commission works and offers professional services as devotional art consultant. A graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art, he was granted a Fullbright–Hayes Grant to travel and study in Italy, where he attended studios at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence. In 1975, he was awarded the Elizabeth T. Greensheilds Grant for figurative sculpture and has received the coveted Arthur Ross Award twice for sculpture in an architectural setting.
His commissions include bronze Stations of the Cross, a series of porcelain murals for the Rosary Walk, the Four Pendentives murals depicting The Doctors of the Church, the Baldicchino Angels, and the Narthex ceiling mural of “The Visions of Guadalupe.”
He taught anatomy, relief and symbolism at the Sacred Art School of Florence.
"Peace Mural" by Anthony Visco at the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia, Philadelphia
Holy Trinity: Anatomy, Chiaroscuro, Perspective
Surprisingly, Anthony did poorly in art school in the US prior to going to Italy. At the time, he was a modernist studying contemporary theories. The artistic trend during the hippie era was to push boundaries--sometimes to the point of absurdity, much like today. I'm referring, of course, to a banana stuck to a wall with duct tape.
Classical art was seen as old fashioned and too conformist. He traveled to Florence with an open mind, however, and his experience in Italy proved life-changing. Seeing masterpieces in real life vs. books opened up a whole new world of possibilities, namely the classical art that was being avoided in art schools. He began studying visual perception theory, light on form, linear perspective--all of which came together to form the holy trinity of art: anatomy, chiaroscuro, perspective.
The Renaissance masters weren't the only ones who studied these theories. The triad of techniques was used centuries prior by Franciscans to discuss the realities and ideas of incarnation of Christ. Once Anthony arrived at this realization, he became part of the parochial of the Franciscan basilica of Santa Croce. To this day, he is still a member of this historical church.
“Saint Rita in Ecstasy,” in bronze, by Anthony Visco at the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia, Philadelphia
What is a Parapetic School?
Anthony ascertained that many students in the US were learning technique rather than perception. Back in the 1970's, one could do into the Medici tombs or any of the various churches and draw what the masters had created centuries ago. These "independent studies" proved fruitful since it taught him how to perceive the world around him the way the former masters did.
At the time, there was an artist by the name of Pietro Anegoni who took people to various sites. There, he offered private lessons. This concept of the master artist being the school (rather than a physical structure) is known as parapetic school. Thanks to Pietro, Anthony was inspired to offer private art lessons to students. For the last fifty years, he has been coming to Florence on a regular basis and taking people into the museums and churches. Today, he rightfully refers to himself as a parapetic school.
"The Feast of Herod" pencil drawing by Anthony Visco
Advice for art students today
So, you want to be an artist. According to Anthony, today's teachers focus solely on technique. Students are drawing the same things on the same scale, and basically "copying" oftentimes from photographs.
"Better for a young artist to draw from a mediocre sculpture than from a flat masterpiece." In other words, it's best to draw from the real thing so that you can discern perspective and chiaroscuro. Learning how to see the world is crucial.
Keep in mind that skill and talent are not the same things. Genius is finding the balance between the two, which is exactly what da Vinci and all the Renaissance masters did. Skill cannot make up for lack of talent.
Articles on Sacred Art
Anthony's main focus is on sacred art, and he not only depicts them beautifully through paintings and sculptures, he also writes about them.
Look for the following two article titles in your browser (since I cannot add links):
1. In the Image and Likeness: The Inadequacy of Photorealism
2. The Anatomy of Sacred Art: Presence, Witness, and Transcendence
For more information, or to schedule a private art class in Philadelphia or Florence, please visit Anthony Visco's website: http://www.anthonyvisco.com/
Thank you for reading!
C. De Melo