From Rubens to Ringling

By Janis Londraville & Richard Londraville
Foreword by Karal Ann Marling

Subjects: Art, Biography, Italian American Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Hardcover : 9781438435718, 243 pages, March 2011

Table of contents

List of Illustrations and Color Plates
Foreword by Karal Ann Marling

Part I. The Family

1. Blood

2. Immigrant

Part II. The Artist

3. Apprentice

4. The Rubens of New England

5. Disaster

6. An American Art

7. In Love and Death

Part III. The Transformation

8. Toil and Trouble

9. A Fistful of Snakes

10. Flying Free

11. Crucified

Part IV. The Unraveling

12. Last Love

13. Cracks

14. The American Dream

15. Shocks and Sunshine

Part V. Finale

16. At the Same Time

17. Death of the Dream

Epilogue for an Artist

A biography of one of America’s neglected grand masters.


A Sicilian immigrant who trained at the Art Students League in New York, Jon Corbino (1905–1964) was one of the most influential members of the "Sarasota School" of art, a group of painters and artists, many of them expatriate New Yorkers, who came to the west coast of Florida for its natural beauty, the quality of its light, and the open-aired freedom to explore their art. He began his career by chronicling the lives and struggles of his fellow immigrants, and by the 1930s he was being hailed in newspapers as "the founder of the school of Baroque-Romanticism in America. " In 1938, Life Magazine called him "the Rubens of New England," and his work sold to the most prestigious museums, including the Metropolitan, the Whitney, and the Carnegie. In 1956, he shared the stage with Edward Hopper in a two-man exhibition sponsored by the Rehn Gallery of New York.

Strong-willed and temperamental, Corbino was also beset by personal demons, and today his paintings, once so much a part of American culture, are remembered primarily by students of American art and a select group of collectors who are moved by the power of his work. Drawing on unprecedented access to the artist's archives, letters, and family records, as well as interviews with some of his contemporaries, Janis and Richard Londraville tell the story of a gifted and talented Italian American artist who, despite a career filled with awards and acclaim, nevertheless struggled against personal demons and ethnic prejudice, and who, as a realist/romantic painter, felt pushed aside by the march of Abstract Expressionism and the many other "isms" of twentieth-century American art. As Karal Ann Marling argues in her introduction, "the trajectory of the process whereby Giovanni Corbino became Jon Corbino, then CORBINO, and finally Jon Corbino again, illuminates a whole, neglected chapter in the twentieth-century struggle to define what American art ought to be. "

Janis Londraville is a Fellow at the Independent Scholars Center of the Associated Colleges of the Saint Lawrence Valley and is on the English faculty of the State University of New York at Potsdam. Richard Londraville is Professor Emeritus of Literature at the State University of New York at Potsdam. Together, they are the authors of The Most Beautiful Man in the World: Paul Swan, from Wilde to Warhol; John Quinn: Selected Irish Writers from His Library; and Dear Yeats, Dear Ford, Dear Pound: Jeanne Robert Foster and Her Circle of Friends.


"[Janis and Richard Londraville have] done us all a favor by recalling and chronicling Corbino's worthy career … the Londravilles' book laudably begins to fill a gap in our record of a twentieth-century American artist who painted well, even gloriously so. " — Italian American Review

"Corbino … successfully puts Corbino on the map as an important twentieth-century American artist. The Londravilles are excellent storytellers … [they] do a fine job contextualizing Corbino the artist and teacher and his work in the mid-twentieth century New York art scene. Their scholarship is top-notch … Those interested in the twentieth-century New York art scene, regionalist or immigrant artists will want to read this book. " — Art Libraries Society of North America

"A worthy effort to bring a forgotten artist to life. " — San Francisco Book Review

"…an intriguing biographical tale … Meticulous researchers and entertaining writers with an evident appreciation for the artist as a character in this story, the authors give us, through Corbino, a richly detailed view of a time and place, the New York–centric American art scene in the years before and just after the Second World War. " — Museum

"…Janis and Richard Londraville have told a vivid story about a talented but difficult individual … The Londravilles' tale spans the years between two world wars, a period of great change and ambition in American art. The story of Corbino's life and work, made more dramatic by his restless spirit and unusual talent, is an absorbing one that makes for good reading. " — Betsy Fahlman, Arizona State University

"Jon Corbino was a heroic figure who always fought for his convictions, standing against changes he considered detrimental to twentieth-century American painting. His efforts as artist and teacher focused on sustaining the highest quality in art, and he never faltered. The Londravilles are perceptive storytellers who examine in meticulous detail the life and career of Jon Corbino. Readers will not forget him. " ― Will Barnet

"Corbino's work is as vital today as ever. The power and personality of the artist holds up timelessly as revealed in this lively biography. " ― LeRoy Neiman

"Janis and Richard Londraville have painted a deft, elegant portrait of a fascinating American artist who should be better known. I hope this biography will put Jon Corbino on the map of twentieth-century art. " ― Tracy Chevalier