Louis Monza was a pacifist who also embraced radical socialist doctrines. His concern for the human condition is evident in his allegorical paintings executed during World War II. Characteristically, the painting’s meaning is cryptic [ORCASTRA AT WAR, SAAM, 1986.65.131], since Monza preferred that viewers freely interpret his works. Monza was equally at ease when painting, drawing, sculpting, or making prints. His youthful apprenticeship to a master furniture carver and his exposure to northern Italy’s painting traditions influenced the decorative detail, dramatic color, and volumetric, exaggerated forms of his later efforts. After emigrating to the United States in 1913, Monza began experimenting with different media. He did not devote himself to making art, however, until an accident in 1938 ended his occupation as a house painter. Three years later, his career as a regularly exhibited artist began in New York.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)
Louis Monza apprenticed to a wood-carver in Italy when he was seven and traveled around the country, creating furniture for churches and homes. In 1913 he visited Geneva, where he heard rumors about the coming world war. He was a fervent pacifist and immigrated to America to escape service, but the United States Army drafted him and stationed him in Panama for two years. After the war, he settled in New York and worked as a housepainter until an accident in 1938 forced him to retire. He started to paint full-time and created many images inspired by the World Wars that emphasized his pacifist beliefs. (Susan C. Larsen, “Louis Monza: Passionate Protest and Hard Love,” Folk Art, Winter 1996⁄97)