James J. Vullo

Featured Artist:

Edward G. Bisone

More Artists:
(click to open/close)

James "Jimmy" James Vullo (American, 1914-1999) noted artist and teacher, known for his cubist and expressionist style of regional landscape paintings and drawings. Vullo was a lifelong resident of Buffalo New York’s West Side, and was born on May 29, 1914 to parents who were both immigrants from Italy. His given name was James James Vullo, "Jimmy" to his friends and family, and was one of eleven children who began drawing around the age of eight years old. His first name was his mother's idea and the second 'James' for his middle name was for his godfather sponsor which he revealed in a 1960 article in the Buffalo Courier-Express after winning a trip to Paris for a slogan contest. 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 was a member of the Patteran Society of Buffalo and exhibited widely during his lifetime nationally as well as 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 art. Vullo taught at the Insitute from circa 1946 through their closing in 1955, 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). From 1955 through circa the late 1960’s he was the instructor of art and watercolor painting at the Williamsville Central High School Adult Education Program, Williamsville, NY as well as taught figure drawing at the Amherst Central High School in Amherst, NY. Circa 1960-1980 he was the Professor of Fine Arts at Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.

From a 1953 article in the well-known French magazine, La Revue Moderne, who reproduced one of Vullo's paintings in their foreign art section from a show at the Art Institute, they stated about Vullo's work, "Vullo seeks above all to translate the movement of nature in his works. Axious for the truth he paints then almost entirely on nature, seeking his subjects in daily life, not interesting himself except in things that he sees and understands, influenced above all by what concerns the people. It is humanity that he paints, and not a man or a landscape, accepting sometimes certain distortions that he judges necessary to accentuate the expression."

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, James James Vullo 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- February 9th, 1942, Jimmy enlisted in the Army at Fort Niagara, Youngstown, Erie County, NY and served during World War II in the 149th Combat Infantry division in the South Pacific and was wounded in combat in the 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 there on the side during that time, Buffalo, NY.

1946- October 14-November 11, exhibited, solo show, Olean Public Library, WWII overseas drawings shown, Olean, NY.

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

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

Circa 1946-1955- Was an instructor of art, painting & life drawing, at the Art Institute of Buffalo until they closed in 1955, Buffalo, NY.

1950- Exhibited, ACA Gallery, NYC. Exhibited, group show, "10th Annual Jury Exhibition of the Alabama Watercolor Society", two watercolors shown "Buffalo Sky Line" & "Show Shop", Birmingham, AL. Exhibited, at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA.

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. September, exhibited, group show (Prize in Watercolor), Syracuse State Fair, Syracuse, NY.

1952- October 19-?, exhibited, group show, "50th Annual Water Color, Print and Drawing Exhibition", Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA. 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.

From 1955-late 1960's- Taught watercolor painting at Williamsville High School Adult Education Program, Williamsville, NY as well as taught figure drawing at Amherst Central High School, Amherst, NY.

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. December, exhibited, solo show, more than 200 WWII drawings shown, Upton Hall, Buffalo State Teachers College at 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.

1991- Exhibited, group show, Barbara Schuller Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1992- Exhibited, solo show, "A Time Remembered 1940's/50's/60's, Nature/Man/Industry", watercolors shown of rural & urban imagery, 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. A Mass of Christian Burial was held at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Buffalo and 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.

Memberships/Associations: The Patteran Society, Buffalo, NY; Alabama Watercolor Society, Birmingham, AL.

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; Two paintings in Foyer of the 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; Harold LeRoy Olmsted, Springville, NY; Albert L. Michaels, Buffalo, NY; Mr. & Mrs. George D. Smith, Buffalo, NY; Peter Voght, Buffalo, NY; Bruce Weber, NYC; Max Liebman, NYC; Mr. Max Clarkson, Buffalo, NY; Mr. & Mrs. Charles H. Larkin III, Eden, NY; Mrs. Mitchell Owen, East Aurora, NY; and Keven and Molly Bohanan, Rochester, NY.

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; First Prize for "Buffalo Sky Line", "Western New York Show", Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY, 1949; Patteran Prize, "Western New York Show", an early cubist piece “The Bird Stone” (1951), Buffalo, NY; Watercolor Prize, Syracuse State Fair, Syracuse, NY, September, 1951; $60 James Carey Evans Memorial Prize for Best Watercolor, "Western New York Show", Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY, 1952; 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.

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, meibohmfinearts.com, sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)

PLEASE CLICK FOR MORE INFO