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Children and adults gather to watch a Punchinello (Punch and Judy) puppet show in a sun-drenched plaza in turn-of-the-century Naples, Italy. Among the group of barefoot boys, a young brush seller wearing a cap has stopped to look, his wares slung over his shoulders. In 1906 Peixotto published an illustrated book called By Italian Seas; this drawing was perhaps made for the book. Peixotto was also closely associated with the American Composer Timothy Mather Spelman (1891-1970) and his wife, poet Leolyn Louise Everett Spellman (1888-1971), whose Villa Razzolini was a gathering place for artists and intellectuals visiting Italy.
Ernest Clifford Peixotto was a muralist, painter and illustrator. Born in San Francisco, he studied at the San Francisco School of Design and continued his studies for seven years in Paris at the Académie Julian. From 1897 the peripatetic Peixotto divided his time between New York City and a villa at Fontainebleau, France, while continuing to maintain ties to California. His multi-faceted career not only included many locales but varied media and genres; he worked in oils, watercolor, and pen-and-ink, executed mural commissions in public buildings in New York, and was a prolific and highly paid magazine and book illustrator for such publications as Harper’s and Scribner’s and books by Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge. He also authored and illustrated several books including Our Hispanic Southwest (1916) and Romantic California (1927).
Peixotto’s subjects included genre, history and landscapes. During World War I, General John Pershing appointed him an official artist for the American Expeditionary forces. After the war he directed the Department of Mural Painting at the Beaux Art Institute of New York for seven years. He later served as Chairman of the American Committee for the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in France. Peixotto exhibited widely during his lifetime in New York, the Paris Salon (he won a prize in 1921) and California and joined a number of prestigious artist’s societies, including the Salmagundi Club and the Society of Illustrators. He became a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 1921 and an officer in 1924. Today his works are in the collection of the National Museum of American Art and the National Gallery of Art among others.
Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1985. p. 477.
“Views from a Villa: The Spelman Legacy.” The Sheridan Library of the Johns Hopkins University. 9 November 2000. http://www.library.jhu.edu/librarydean/exrel/whatsnew/press/archives/pressrel00/nov9-00.html (27 July 2004).