Daniel R. Celentano (1902-1980)
Reading the News
Oil on canvas laid down on board, 23 3/4 x 21 1/4 inches. Signed lower right: "Daniel R Celentano"
“Paintings by Daniel Celentano,” Walker Galleries, New York, NY, October 2-21, 1939, no. 5; Enduring America: Selections from the Collection of Art and Peggy Hittner, Northern Arizona University Art Museum, April 7 - May 29, 2015.
"Daniel Celentano Paintings At Arlene Berman Fine Arts," Antiques and The Arts Weekly, November 21, 2003, p. 94; Enduring America (catalogue).
Hills, Patricia, Social Concern and Urban Realism: American Painting of the 1930s (Boston University Art Gallery, 1983), p. 37; Marqusee, Janet, Daniel Celentano (Janet Marqusee Fine Art, 1992); Berardi, Marianne, Under the Influence: The Students of Thomas Hart Benton (The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, 1993), pp. 63-66.
Acquired (probably directly from the artist) in the 1930s by Alfred Albelli (1901-1983), longtime courthouse reporter for the New York Daily News; given by him to his long-time friend and companion, Elva Bunting (1912-1999) and inherited by her nephew, Gary E. Johnson of North Plainfield, NJ; acquired in 2003 by Arlene Berman Fine Arts, New York City; acquired from the foregoing, April 24, 2004. See "A Further Note Regarding Provenance," below, for additional background.
Period (but not original) frame.
Fig. 1 - Daniel R. Celentano, Idle Hours, 1936. Private collection.
Reading the News is one of a related group of works set in the cramped tenement interiors typical of the ethnic Italian neighborhood in which the artist lived. The painting portrays an extended family huddled around the eldest male as he reads to them from a newspaper following the evening meal. Reading the newspaper aloud was one way for immigrant families to facilitate assimilation into their adopted culture. The composition is perfectly balanced and carefully articulated. "In spite of the large number of participants his canvases are never cluttered," noted a critic for The Art News in reviewing Celentano's first one-man exhibition which took place at New York's Walker Galleries in 1939 and included this painting. "They are woven into a pattern in which one feels the artist's complete control."* The New York Times' critic was equally effusive: "He paints the humble domestic life that he knows with a frankness as to its happenings, a sympathy and a timeless eye for detail that command respect." He went on to reassure his readers that "[t]he curious may learn all about that life from his paintings without going to the trouble of doing settlement work or running the slightest risk of getting out of their class."** Supper Hour, a closely related interior scene featuring an extended family enjoying their evening meal, was exhibited by Celentano at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Annual Exhibition in 1936 and at the Dayton Art Institute in 1939. Three other paintings included in the Walker Galleries exhibition, Study Hour, Quiet Evening and The Idle Hour,*** present similar vignettes of extended family domestic tranquility.
A study for the figures of the mother and infant on the left side of the composition is also included in the collection (see Fig. 3, below). A more extensive study is reproduced as Fig. 4. For additional biographical information on Celentano, see Celentano: Houseboat.
* The Art News, October 14, 1939, quoted in Marianne Berardi, Under the Influence: The Students of Thomas Hart Benton (The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, 1993), p. 65.
** Quoted in Janet Marqusee, Daniel Celentano (New York, 1992), p. 6.
***Idle Hours (presumably the same work), executed in 1936 (see Fig. 1), was exhibited at the Carnegie Institute in 1937 and at the Art Institute of Chicago the following year.
Fig. 2 - Alfred Albelli with The Houseboat and Reading the News.
Fig. 3 - Figure Study for Reading the News (detail), graphite on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches. Hittner collection.
Fig. 4 - Study for Reading the News, ink and graphite on paper, 11 x 9 inches. Doyle Auction House, November 20, 2018, lot 77.
A Further Note Regarding Provenance of The Houseboat and Reading the News:
The following additional background was related by Gary Johnson, previous owner of The Houseboat and Reading the News, in an email dated August 12, 2004:
I can't verify this, but my wife remembers Al[fred Albelli] saying that he was a friend of Daniel Celentano and that he won the paintings in a card game. Again, I do not know if that is true or not. The reason I think it may be true is that both Al and my Aunt [Elva Bunting] never really had any other art objects or "original paintings" from any other artist in their apartments. They were not really patrons of the arts. If they had lots of paintings from other artists, then I would think they may have purchased the Celentano paintings in their travels, etc. But, since those were the only three, I kind of think that he may have acquired them that way.
See Fig. 2 (above), which is a photograph of New York Daily News courthouse reporter Alfred Albelli sitting in front of three Celentano oil paintings including The Houseboat (far left, distorted by the photograph) and Reading the News (center). On the right is a third painting, The Card Players and the Kibitzers, which was acquired with the first two works but sold separately by dealer Arlene Berman of New York City.