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James J. Vullo
James "Jimmy" J. Vullo (American, 1914-1999) noted artist and teacher, known for his cubist and expressionist style of regional landscape paintings and drawings. He was a lifelong resident of Buffalo New York’s West Side, and was born to parents who were both immigrants from Italy. James was one of eleven children, and he began drawing around the age of eight years old. James loved the city, especially the waterfront and his artwork almost exclusively reflects the regional area in which he lived. Though his work may have been under appreciated during his lifetime, his cubist watercolors from the 1950’s are thought to be his best works and he is now gaining respect for his unique renderings of Buffalo environs. He exhibited widely during his lifetime nationally and internationally, including shows at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Butler Institute (now the Butler Institute of American Art), OH. He won numerous national, international and regional prizes and awards and worked in a variety of different mediums such as watercolor, oils, acrylic, gouache, casein, pen & ink, pencil, chalk, wax crayon and graphite. He never drove an automobile and was seen riding his bicycle everywhere. He continued to live on the West Side of the city at 306 Trenton Avenue and painted until his death in 1999.

In February of 1942, James enlisted and served in the Army in the 149th Infantry division as a combat infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II. After being severely wounded in combat in the Philippines, he recovered but had lost two of his fingers. After discharge from the war he studied at the Honolulu Academy of Art in Honolulu, HI. Circa 1946, James moved back to Buffalo and with the help of the G.I. bill, was able to enroll as a student at the Art Institute of Buffalo. He studied there for about four years and taught classes on the side during that time. Impressed by Vullo’s work, Robert Noel Blair (American, 1912-2003) director at the institute from 1946-49, asked him to stay on as an instructor of life-drawing. James taught there through the early-mid part of the 1950’s alongside such distinguished faculty as Charles E. Burchfield (American, 1893-1967), Edwin Dickinson (American, 1891-1978), Isaac Soyer (Russian-American, 1902-1981) and David Foster Pratt (American, 1918-2010). Circa the late 1960’s he was the instructor of art at the Williamsville Central High School and also at Amherst Central High School. Circa 1960-1980 he was the Professor of Fine Arts at Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.

Vullo’s family, friends and colleagues affectionately referred to him as “Jimmy”. He was shy but had a very entertaining sense of humor as he loved puns and was considered a wordsmith. Some of his well known phrases came from his “daffynitions” as they were called, usually around the holidays or historic occasions. One Christmas season, he called children on Santa's lap “Claus encounters of the best kind” and labeled Scrooge a “rebel without a Claus.” Spring magic became “crocus pocus” and a comic Valentine a “comedy of eros.” He even made a little money with his usage of words. The Buffalo Museum of Science ran a contest to name its van-style museum on wheels. There were 1,056 names submitted by 4,076 contestants. His entry, “Haul of Science” won the $25 prize. A nationwide contest to name an elephant being used to promote products of the Planters Peanuts Company was won with the name "Cinderellaphant."

During the 1970’s and 80’s he was also an avid kite builder and flyer, and was affectionately known as the “Kite Doctor”. He would often be found flying his hand made kites in Lasalle Park in Buffalo on Sunday afternoons and happily giving out advice and first-aid tips to other kite enthusiasts. Vullo said kite flying “…makes you aware of the big sky and you become an extension of it, just as in painting there is an extension from the image into another world, the imagination; that's what it's all about.”[1]

Chronology:

1914- Born, May 29th, to Phillip and Salvatrice Vullo, immigrants from Italy, and was one of eleven children, Buffalo, NY.

1938-39- Exhibited, 4th & 5th Annual Western New York Exhibition, at the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY.

1941- Exhibited, 7th Annual Western New York Exhibition, at the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY.

1942-1945- Enlisted (February 9th, 1942) and served in the Army during World War II in the 149th Combat Infantry division in the South Pacific (enlisted at Fort Niagara, Youngstown, Erie County, NY). He was wounded in combat, Philippines, Southeast Asia.

1943- Exhibited, while still a soldier, 9th Annual Western New York Exhibition (Patteran Purchase Prize), for the painting “Mac’s Clam Stand”, undated, oil on canvas, 18.5 x 22”, in the permanent collection of the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY.

1944- Exhibited, Honolulu Academy of Art, Honolulu, HI.

1945- Exhibited, Philippines Museum, Philippines, Southeast Asia. Was discharged from the Army and studied at the Honolulu Academy of Art, and also exhibited there with a series of sketches done while he was serving in the South Pacific, Honolulu, HI.

circa 1946- Moved back to Buffalo and with the help of the G.I. bill, enrolled as a student at the Art Institute of Buffalo for about 4 years and also taught classes on the side during that time, Buffalo, NY.

1946-48- Exhibited, Art Institute of Buffalo shows, Buffalo, NY.

1946-55- Exhibited, 12th-21st Annual Western New York shows, at the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY.

1950- Exhibited, ACA Gallery, NYC. Exhibited, at the Alabama Watercolor Society, AL. Exhibited, at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA.

circa early-mid 1950’s- Was an instructor of art, life drawing, at the Art Institute of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

1951- Exhibited, Butler Art Institute (now the Butler Institute of American Art), Youngstown, OH. Exhibited, Munson-Williams-Proctor-Institute, invitational group show (64 artists) entitled “Artists of Upstate New York”, February 4th-25th, Utica, NY. Exhibited, March, annual Western New York exhibition, an early cubist piece “The Bird Stone” (won Patteran Prize), Buffalo, NY.

1952- November 30th, Had his first solo show of his watercolors, Monroe Gallery, Rochester, NY.

1953- Exhibited, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. Exhibited, Butler Art Institute (now the Butler Institute of American Art), Youngstown, OH. Exhibited, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA. Exhibited, Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR. Exhibited, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.

1957- Exhibited, group show (25 artists), painting “City”, Utica Public Library Art Gallery, Utica, NY.

1957-58- Exhibited, 23rd and 24th Western New York Exhibition, at the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY.

1960- Exhibited, with the Patteran Society, at the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY.

circa 1960-1980- Professor of Fine Arts at Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.

1962- Exhibited, with the Buffalo Society of Artists and the Patteran Society, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1964- Exhibited, “Three Centuries of Niagara Falls”, at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1965-67- Exhibited, 32nd and 33rd Western New York Exhibition, at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

circa late 1960’s- Was the instructor of art at Williamsville Central High School (unknown dates), Williamsville, NY, and also at Amherst Central High School (unknown dates), Amherst, NY.

circa 1980- Retired from teaching at Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.

1992- Exhibited, solo show, Barbara Schuller Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1999- Died, Tuesday May 18th, at the age of 84, at Autumn View Health Care Facility after a long illness, Hamburg, NY. Service was held at Friday May 21st at the Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Buffalo, NY. He is buried in Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, Cheektowaga, NY.

2008- Exhibited (group retrospective), “In Plain Site: Landscapes from the Gerald Mead Collection”, Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center, West Seneca, NY.

2012- February 25-March 24, exhibited, two man show, "Special Winter Feature: Dennis Barraclough Recent Works & James Vullo (1914-1999) Works in Black & White", 10 large works on paper shown to include ink, acrylic & liquitex from the period of 1966-1976, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY. July 7 - 8, 2012, exhibited with three other artists at the echo Art Fair, Larkin Center of Commerce, along with Doreen Cutting, Jonathan Daly, and Jane Foley Ferraro, 701 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY.

Exhibited Also At: The Museum of Modern Art, NY, NY; Munson-Williams-Proctor-Institute, Museum of Art, Utica, NY; The Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, CA.

Museum Collections: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY; Mobile Library Art Gallery, Mobile, AL; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; Municipal Art Gallery, Jackson MS; and Munson-Williams-Proctor-Institute, Museum of Art, Utica, NY; Works in the collection of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center (12 works; 5 paintings on paper and 7 drawings on paper): “Buffalo Skyline”, 1948, watercolor on paper, 25.25” x 19-3/8”, The Charles Rand Penney Collection of Western New York Art at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College 1991:045.129, “Carnival Mosaic”, 1951, gouache on paper, 18.75 x 23.75”, The Charles Rand Penney Collection of Western New York Art at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College 1991:045.130, “Four Trees”, undated, ink on paper, 36.25 x 25”, gift of the artist, 1985:003.002, “The Last of The Library”, 1963, watercolor, gouache, colored pencil and pastel on paper, 23-5/8 x 18-3/8”, The Charles Rand Penney Collection of Western New York Art at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College 1992:006.017, “Letchworth Gorge”, circa 1969, acrylic on paper, 23.75 x 30-5/8”, Purchased with funds from Saperston Financial Group, Inc., 1991:068.001, “Old Grain Mills”, 1981, acrylic and graphite on paper, 19 x 23-7/8”, gift of the artist, 1985:003.001, Six drawing of “Dominic Cocco-The Organ Grinder”, 1947, #1 ink on paper, 23.25 x 17.25”, #2 ink and graphite on paper, 23.25 x 17.25”, #3 ink on paper, 23.25 x 17.25”, #4 ink and conté crayon on paper, 17-1/8 x 23.25”, #5 ink on paper, 23.25 x 17.25”, and #6 ink on paper, 23.25 x 17.25”, The Charles Rand Penney Collection of Western New York Art at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College 1991:045.131-136.

Public Collections: Alabama Watercolor Society, AL; Cortland County Agricultural Society, Cortland, NY; Caitlin Crowell; Graphics Control, Buffalo, NY; Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company (now Manufacturers and Trust Company/M&T Bank), Buffalo, NY; Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY; Veterans Hospital, Buffalo, NY; Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library, A folder in the Folders section in the holding library, Victor Building, N.W. Washington, DC.

Prizes: Patteran Purchase Prize, 9th Annual Western New York Exhibition (1943), for the painting “Mac’s Clam Stand”, undated, oil on canvas, 18.5 x 22”, in the permanent collection of the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY; Patteran Prize, Western New York exhibition, an early cubist piece “The Bird Stone” (1951), Buffalo, NY; Sixth Annual Exhibition of New York Artists (4th prize) for cubist piece “Pet Shop”, Cortland County Fair, and also won prizes there three years in a row, Cortland, NY; First prize (Purchase Award) in watercolor division, Syracuse, NY; 16 national, international or regional exhibition prizes.

Publications: “An Alternative Course”, The Art Institute of Buffalo, by the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, 2006, 18 pages, color, Buffalo, NY; Western New York Heritage magazine, “James J. Vullo: Buffalo Modernist”, article by Albert L. Michaels, Volume 8 Number 4, Winter 2006, Pgs. 24-30 & 32-37.

James J. Vullo’s niece, artist Josie Ann Vullo-Hyde maintains a wonderful website named Vullo Hyde Studios at vullo-hyde-studios.blogspot.com. The site features her artwork as well as her uncle’s, along with biographical information for both. Her website can be accessed at the following link.

For additional information and images from this artist, please visit the AskArt link

(Rewritten & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, 01/2008. Sources: A special thank you to artist & friend David Foster Pratt, for supplying information on the artist; A special thank you to David Fedak, collector, for supplying biographical information on the artist; AskArt.com with permission, prior submission and also permission from Dean Brownrout of 20th Century Finest, fine art and gallery space located at Michael Donnelly Interior Design, Buffalo, NY, also for the obituary information from the Buffalo News, Obituaries, “James J. Vullo, Artist and Professor”, by Lonnie Hudkins, News Staff Reporter, City Edition, Local Section, Page C9, May 20th, 1999, and for the Artvoice article, artvoice.com, Framed: “William West”, by Dean Brownrout of 20th Century Finest, Buffalo, NY, v7n38, 2008; Syracuse Herald Journal newspaper, August 20th, 1953; The Smithsonian Institute Library online, Art & Artist files in the Smithsonian Libraries Collections; Albright-Knox Art Gallery online records, alrightknox.org, collection records search for James J. Vullo in the permanent collection; the U.S. Social Security Death Index, through rootsweb.ancestry.com; Utica NY Daily Press, newspaper article, “On Display: Utica Library Features Paintings”, 2A-Daily Press Utica, Monday September 2nd, 1957, Utica NY Daily Press 1957 - 5117.pdf, fultonhistory.com online; Utica NY Observer, newspaper article, “64 Artists Represented in Institute Show Today”, Utica Observer Dispatch, Page Six B, Sunday, February 4th 1951, Utica NY Observer 1951 - 1179.PDF, fultonhistory.com online; The National Archives online database, Access to Archival Databases section, aad.archives.gov, Vullo serial number 32233379; militaryindexes.com, “Online World War II Indexes & Records (USA): A Geneology Guide”links section; legacy.com, buffalo.com, death notices published in The Buffalo News, from 5/19/1999 - 5/20/1999; Western New York Heritage magazine, “James J. Vullo: Buffalo Modernist”, article by Albert L. Michaels, author and joint professor of history and informatics at the University of Buffalo, Volume 8 Number 4, Winter 2006, Pgs. 24-30 & 32-37; vullo-hyde-studios.com.)

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