"Sassone is a
Florentine by birth, ancestry and temperament. But his training and experience
have combined to give him a view of the world that is truly international -
spiritually as well as geographically. He has remained faithful to his innate
genius and deeply-held convictions as an artist." (Charles Speroni, Dean,
College of Fine Arts, UCLA)
Marco Sassone was
born in Campi Bisenzio, a Tuscan village, in 1942. His family moved to Florence
in 1954, and there he met painters Ottone Rosai and Ugo Maturo, who encouraged
him to follow his interest in art. He enrolled at the Istituto Galileo Galilei,
where he studied architectural drafting for several years. During this period
he supported himself by selling watercolour sketches of Florence to tourists, many
of whom were Americans, which increased his fluency in English.
Later, he studied
with painter Silvio Loffredo, professor of art at the Accademia in Florence, a
pupil himself of the Austrian master Oskar Kokoschka. Loffredo encouraged him
to develop his own style and vision. For inspiration, Sassone studied the works
of the 19th century Italian impressionists, the Macchiaioli -
Giovanni Fattori, Vito D'Ancona and Silvestro Lega. He began exhibiting his
first works at this time. At the age of 25, he was selected to exhibit at Lo
Sprone Cultural Center in Florence.
In November 1967,
soon after the painful experience of the Florentine flood, Sassone traveled to
the United States and settled in California. He later moved to Laguna Beach, a
small seaside community, Mediterranean in geography and climate, with its own
commitment to the arts. He became a regular exhibitor at the annual Festival of
seventies, he participated in a variety of exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad. Of
his work then, the art critic for the Los Angeles Times, William Wilson, wrote:
"Sassone is impressively gifted as a colorist and skilled in rendering
reflections and color in light." (Wilson was reviewing a one-person show of his
work at the Haggenmaker Galleries in Los Angeles, 11/14/75.)
In 1982 Marco
Sassone was knighted by president of Italy, Sandro Pertini, into the "Order to
the Merit of the Italian Republic" and received a gold medal award from the
Italian Academy of Arts, Literature and Science.
In the early
1980's Sassone moved his studio to San Francisco. In March 1988, the Los
Angeles Municipal Art Gallery hosted the American Preview for his one-person
exhibition to be held at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris that April.
Art historian Donelson
Hoopes published "Sassone", a monograph, in concurrence with the artist's
exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum (November - December 1979). With
prescience, Hoopes had observed: "Sassone's art has evolved from within, and
such an organic, psychological and spiritual process may take his work along
new and unforeseen paths." By the late eighties, Sassone had become
increasingly concerned with social themes. He started working with the Inter
Aid organization, donating paintings to raise money for the group's work with
children in crisis. He also donated works to a non-profit group called Another
Planet, based in Los Angeles, supporting that group's work with the homeless.
He began extensive
- and personal - research on the homeless and painted a series of large
canvasses and charcoal drawings portraying the life he observed on the streets.
A number of these works have been exhibited at the Chicago International Art
Exposition, the Basel Art Fair in Switzerland and the Jan Baum Gallery in Los
Angeles, as well as in the exhibition "Body Politic" at the San Francisco Arts
Commission Gallery and "Issue of Choice" at the Los Angeles Contemporary
In March of 1994,
his exhibition "Home on the Streets" opened at the Museo ItaloAmericano in San
Francisco later traveling to Los Angeles and Florence, Italy. Kenneth Baker,
art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about his work: "There is true
technical brilliance here…In the drawings, his technique seems to discover
fresh descriptive possibilities each time out." Home on the Streets traveled to
Los Angeles in 1996 and Florence, Italy in 1997, where the exhibition was
mounted in the Cloisters of the Santa Croce Church. Paola Bortolotti, art
critic for La Nazione, writes: "The persistent theme does not carry a
denunciation of a social problem, but it is rather the pretext to pour forth
onto canvas the urgency of the brush strokes."
In 1997 Marco
Sassone received a commission to create a 200 square foot mural in downtown San
Francisco. The finished work comprised of five canvasses dedicated to the theme
of Il Palio is presently in the collection of Santa Clara University, Santa
In May, 2001, the
Museo ItaloAmericano in San Francisco inaugurated the exhibition, "Master and
Pupil," works by Oskar Kokoschka, Silvio Loffredo, Marco Sassone. Author Peter
Selz, writing in the catalogue about the artist's work, described the link
between the three artists: "A canvas like Chinese Reds (1990) in scarlet
color relates to the chromatic scheme of his teacher's Angel of Death (1998),
while alarming paintings like Marlboro Country (1990) with its human
skulls spread in the foreground, or Coit Tower Night (1988) – a painting
of deep blue water, a brown hill and a violent purple sky – all done with an
agitated brush, elicit a fervent emotion, comparable to the sensations evoked
by the canvases of Kokoschka himself."
The Palazzo Ducale Museum in Massa-Carrara, Italy
presented his retrospective exhibition in March-April, 2002 with the
publication of a catalogue written by Massimo Bertozzi. The exhibition was
reviewed by La Nazione, Florence and La Repubblica, Rome. Ilaria Bonuccelli
writes for La Repubblica, "The man with blue eyes stares out at you. No
concessions made. He offers you – perhaps forces upon you – a magnified view of
trashed humanity. The kind that rummages around along the sidewalks of San
Francisco. His pupils gape at an interior world which he invites you to enter,
without knocking. The brush-strokes are merciless. As a man and as a painter,
Marco Sassone, sucked up onto the world of the homeless from the time he was a
child, at Campi Bisenzio.
The exhibition Master
and Pupil held in San Francisco in 2001 was installed in the Cloister of
Sant' Agostino in Pietrasanta, Italy in 2003. The museum published a catalogue
with an essay by the art writer Domenico Pugliese.
wrote in a review for Il Tirreno: "From Kokoschka to Loffredo and
Sassone: The lessons are passed on from master and pupil. Sassone's expressionism
leads to visionary transformations, in an intense dance of chromatic impastos,
with furious, explosive strokes of pigment."
In 2005 Marco
Sassone relocated his studio to Toronto.
In 2008 his
exhibition titled Marco Sassone: Toronto opened on April 3 at Odon
Wagner Contemporary. Jonathan Goodman, art critic for Art in America,
wrote in the exhibition catalogue, "Sassone's audience approaches his work
knowing that the paintings are in dialogue with a tradition going back to the
early twentieth century. His expressionism escapes the epithet of
anachronistic, however, by being so sharply lived. While his works are not
overly emotional, they gain success because they relate to a complete life of
the imagination in which feelings and intellect combine. " Deirdre Kelly wrote
in the Globe and Mail: "With gestural brush strokes and an
expressionistic use of color, Mr. Sassone romanticizes such banal views as a
Carlaw parking lot and the westbound Gardiner Expressway."
Marco Sassone received a commission to create a mural for the lobby of the Bellagio,
a glass tower in downtown Toronto. The artist prepared drawings and a final
study in pastel, in scale for the space. The completed work, comprised of three
panels and titled Waterfront, was installed in late October.
In the following
year Sassone participated at the International Art Fair, Palm Beach 3 in
Florida and in the Group exhibition Summerset at David Findlay Jr. Fine
Art, New York. The artist lectured at Seaton House, the largest homeless
shelter in Toronto.
In 2010 Marco
Sassone returned to San Francisco to attend the October 1st
inauguration of his one man show installed in the splendid space of the Shrine
of Saint Francis of Assisi. He travelled to Rome for his premiere exhibition Santuario
at the Palazzo dell' Informazione. The exhibition comprised of thirty works
featured urban landscapes from his Toronto series. The Adnkronos news agency
produced a video-interview titled Marco Sassone - Quando l'anima resta
inchiodata alla tela. (Marco Sassone – When the Soul is Nailed to the Canvas.)
In 2012 the
exhibition "Marco Sassone: Watercolours" opened at Berenson
Fine Art, Toronto. Peter Clothier wrote in the Huffington Post: "These
dark paintings are, after all, not primarily about the darkness that pervades
them, but about the light that manages to shine through."
In October he
travelled to the USA to attend the opening of his exhibition Architecture
and Nature installed at the Price Tower Art Center, a museum designed by
Frank Lloyd Wright in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.