Art

The years pass, but the passion remains young

... portrait of a retired pharmacist -- and a new artist

by Brigid Alverson of the Melrose Free Press


Brigid Alverson's article on Tony Accettullo was written for the Melrose Free Press, and first appeared in the issue of January 11, 2001. While the exhibition of Tony's work is now over, we are happy to report that he sold 15 pieces -- his paintings and his work with stained glass.


The snowy weather didn't keep the crowds away from the opening night of Anthony Accettullo's exhibit of paintings and stained glass at the Beebe Estate last Friday. All three rooms were packed with artists and art-lovers, and the "sold" stickers were going up at a brisk rate.

Not bad for a former pharmacist who always wanted to paint but only took the dream seriously when he retired ten years ago.

The exhibit was held through Jan. 21, at the Beebe Estate, 235 West Foster Street.

Although his style appears to be tightly realistic, closer inspection reveals a complex mix of styles. Accettullo contrasts colors, mixes realism with Impressionism and often seeks compositional balance in his work.

Accettullo's brush strokes and color choices recall the work of the Impressionists, especially when he uses swirls of thick oil paint to suggest a drift of flowers or scatters deep blue or violet shadows in a snowy landscape. Many of his most interesting paintings use a combination of techniques, as in "Floral Fantasy," in which carefully outlined flowers float over a background of subtle pastel washes.

Most of the painting on display at the Beebe are landscapes, streetscapes, and seascapes, and the variety of subjects reflect Accettullo's love of travel: the Rialto Bridge in Venice, a rugged mountain in Connemara, Ireland, the door of artist Paul Cezanne's studio in Provence, France. Closer to home, Accettullo finds interesting compositions and color contrasts in the rocky beaches of Gloucester and the lighthouses of Rockport and Cape Cod.

"I love color," said Accettullo. "I love earth tones and purples and greens." He often uses complementary color schemes, pairing a color with its opposite on the color wheel: violet shadows in yellow sunlight, red flowers dancing in a green landscape. "Green is the hardest color to paint," he said. "I have to put blues and reds in the green to tone it down."

In his watercolor of a statue on the Isle of Capri, Accettullo sprinkles both colors throughout the green: blue for the shadows deep within the trees and red for the flowers that seem to float above their foliage.

Accettullo contains the colors in his painting of the Nauset Lighthouse, with the red lighthouse and the roof of the slate-blue house providing patches of contrast to the greens of grass and trees. When he painted Connemara National {ark, Accettullo simply let the countryside be green, tempered by the earth tones of a mountain rising above it and a streak of fence running across the foreground.

The artist also likes to play with pattern and balance, often setting the main element of a composition slightly off-center. "I love motion in a picture," he said. "I want to have rhythm to them."

In "The Shops at Sneem, Ireland," he sketches people walking down a typical Irish street, leaning against the wind. The arrangement of the shoppers and their slightly off-balance poses help convey the sense of movement. Behind them, the gables and windowpanes of the houses have a rhythm of their own.

Accettullo seldom paints on location -- "too difficult," he said. He prefers to take photographs and do the actual painting in the studio, freely exercising his artistic license to change things around. On the other hand, "Water Lilies" one of his favorite paintings, was done on location, with a few finishing touches put on later in the studio.

While he has no formal training in art, Accettullo did have one important early influence: His father was a professional artist who painted hands and faces on stained glass windows, and Accettullo grew up in a house full of art. As a child, he liked to draw, but his father never tried to teach him directly. "It was just osmosis," said Accettullo. "Just watching, absorbing. I'm an observant person."

In fact, Accettullo didn't really appreciate his father's work until years later. "He was very quiet," he said. "He never thought he was great, but he did some beautiful things. We saw one of his windows in the American Church in Paris."

Accettullo's father worked for Connick Studios, whose windows also grace St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and the Heinz Chapel in Pennsylvania.

Accettullo was born in Revere, and graduated from Revere High School and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. After college he worked for a few years as a pharmacist, then went into the army in 1950, during the Korean War. While serving  at Madigan Army Hospital in Seattle, Wash., he went home on furlough and returned to find that the rest of his outfit had been sent to Korea. The army sent Accettullo to Germany instead. "I fell in love with Europe," he said. "I couldn't get enough of Europe. On the weekends, I would be off from Pharmacy and I would get on the train and go traveling, to Switzerland especially. I love the Alps, Zurich, Interlaken."

After leaving the army in 1952, Accettullo went back to work as pharmacist and in 1954 married his wife, Eleanor. One of his early painting was done to fill a blank wall in the living room of their first house. "I had just got out of  the service and we didn't have much money," he said. "We looked for paintings and saw some that cost thousands of dollars, and I said, 'I'm going to do my own painting.' I did a forest scene with a little lake going through it. That's how it all began."

Still the demands of marriage, job, and later, four children, kept Accettullo away from the studio until he retired in 1991. "That's when I started painting in earnest," he said. "I'm really going to do this, because I like it and I want to have fun."

Accettullo works in a number of different media. He and Eleanor both do stained glass, and he taught classes in it at McLean Hospital and the Melrose adult education program. He also took classes in silversmithing and photography, but painting is his first love.

Despite his late start, Accettullo has grown and matured as an artist, and his most recent works show increased sophistication and confidence. In his watercolor "Sailing at Marblehead," for instance, each branch of the sharply outlined tree in the foreground is a single brush stroke, put down once, with grace, and then left alone.

Accettullo credited his teacher, Bill Kadlec, with helping him develop as a painter. "Bill is a very good teacher," he said. "He tells us to be very loose about paintings. Don't paint exactly like the photographs. He builds our confidence." Kadlec teaches a weekly painting class at the Milano Senior Center, which Accettullo has attended for years.

Accettullo has won two ribbons from the Lynnfield Art Association and in addition to the show at the Beebe he has paintings hanging in the lobby of the Sovereign Bank in Melrose. He is currently president of the Reading Art Association, and Eleanor is president of the Melrose Arts and Crafts Society.

"It's rewarding to have people say, 'Oh, I like that!'" he said. "Even if they don't buy it, to say 'Oh, I love this painting' is good for the ego. We need to supply food for the ego." Accettullo's only definite plan is that he is going to keep on painting. "I'm just going to keep trying to get better," he said. "Experience is the best teacher."


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