Eugene Pizzuto, Renegade Artist

You have to wonder about artists who hide or destroy their work. History abounds with tales of writers who burn their only copies of manuscripts, musicians who sing or play only for themselves and painters whose scribbles and daubs of paint are never seen by the public. Is the impulse to create meant to be consumed? This question is, of course, meant to be answered by the individual artist. The answer is often integral to the art itself (e.g. Andy Warhol, etc.). But still, what would lead you hide your proverbial light under a bushel?

One such renegade artist taught and created art in Seattle for nearly 50 years, and is not a buzzed-about hot property in the Northwest art scene. Pacific Galleries now holds may pieces consigned by his family, and which will be auctioned in the coming months [Editors note:, article written in July 2006]. Eugene Pizzuto, a Connecticut native educated at the University of Wisconsin and the prestigious Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, taught painting at the University of Washington in Seattle from 1957 to 1993. Pizzuto did not so much destroy his work as conceal it by refusing to be a part of the gallery scene and to play the necessary political games for self-promotion. (Pizzuto even famously declined to sign the University of Washingtons loyalty oath, stating he was not among the subversive persons lurking about in the 1950s.) It seems Pizzuto preferred to teach and quietly pursue his own happiness with his family and in the stolen moments of painting between classes and on sabbaticals.

And so it went, although to say that Pizzuto just taught painting would be an understatement. He was known to assign chores such as the grinding of pigments according to 15th century recipes in order to drive home the fundamentals of materials to his students. His instruction style sounds as if it were geared to weed out those students not interested in every aspect of art.

Pizzuto painted voluminously, and was revered as much for his spare, lean landscapes as for his teaching, yet he exhibited only 35 times in his 50-year career (a small amount for someone of his talent), and there are no easily accessible auction records for his work. Puzzuto likely sold a lot of paintings however, as we received only a few hundred pieces on consignment. Many of the pieces in this consignment are small oil-on-board paintings that seem to be color or line exercises. A smaller percentage of the consignment are ink-on-paper works, and we have only a handful of very large oil-on-canvas works with are atypical portraits of nudes.