O. Louis Guglielmi

born Cairo, Egypt 1906-died Amagansett, NY 1956
Media - gugliemi_o_louis.jpg - 90015
Courtesy of Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Also known as
  • Osvaldo Luigi Guglielmi
Cairo, Egypt
Amagansett, New York, United States
Active in
  • New York, New York, United States

Born in Egypt, brought to New York City in 1914. Artist who worked as a WPA muralist in the 1930s, compassionately portrayed the poor in his own paintings, but later adopted a much more abstract style.

Charles Sullivan, ed American Beauties: Women in Art and Literature (New York: Henry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with National Museum of American Art, 1993)

Artist Biography

Guglielmi's early childhood was spent in Milan and Geneva. When he was eight his parents (his father was a musician) brought him to the United States. They settled in Harlem. Guglielmi began to attend night classes at the National Academy of Design in 1920, while still attending high school. By 1923 he was a full-time student at the Academy, where he remained until 1926. He met Gregorio Prestopino in a life drawing class and the two first shared an unheated studio, and later moved into better accommodations.

The years after he left school were financially difficult, but the depression proved to be an ideological watershed for him; he found its economic devastation a great stimulus to art. Guglielmi went to New England in 1932, the first of eleven summers he spent at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Because of his new commitment to social causes, he viewed this year as the beginning of his life as an artist. During summers in New Hampshire, he found both the solitude and social interaction that "helps to form and give direction to our rising native culture," a characterization that echoed the MacDowell's stated purpose when establishing their colony in the first decade of the century. They hoped to unite New England's inspirational beauty with an understanding of the region as the foundation of American culture.

William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)> (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)

Luce Artist Biography

O. Louis Guglielmi came to America in 1914 and settled in Harlem. He attended the National Academy of Design, then struggled from one job to another while living with a group of artists in a ramshackle house. He worked for the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s and spent many summers in New Hampshire, where he found the peace and solitude necessary for his painting. Guglielmi’s images of city life expressed the harsh realities of the Depression, showing desolate streets and haggard people. People often viewed his work as unpatriotic, however, and one image caused controversy in 1947 when Look magazine published it with the headline: “Your Money Bought These Paintings.”

Related Books

Scenes of American Life: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Scenes of American Life: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum commemorates Treasures to Go, a series of eight exhibitions from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, touring the nation through 2002. The Principal Financial Group is a proud partner in presenting these treasures to the American people.
1934: A New Deal for Artists
During the Great Depression, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised a “new deal for the American people,” initiating government programs to foster economic recovery. Roosevelt’s pledge to help “the forgotten man” also embraced America’s artists. The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) enlisted artists to capture “the American Scene” in works of art that would embellish public buildings across the country. Although it lasted less than one year, from December 1933 to June 1934, the PWAP provided employment for thousands of artists, giving them an important role in the country’s recovery. Their legacy, captured in more than fifteen thousand artworks, helped “the American Scene” become America seen.