Anthony "Tony" J. Sisti
(American, 1901-1983) landscape and portrait painter, teacher, muralist, collector and art dealer. Tony Sisti maintained an art gallery on Franklin Street in Buffalo for many years beginning in 1955. As a WPA artist during the Depression, he painted murals in Western New York, some of these including boxing subjects, about which he knew first hand since he was a Golden Gloves Bantam-Weight Champion for the State of New York. From 1932 to 1938, he taught painting and anatomy at the Buffalo Art Institute, and at the School of Applied Design for Women in New York City. He also painted portraits of political and business leaders, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gov. Al Smith, and the Mayor of Buffalo, the Hon. Frank A. Sedita along with a number of Buffalo City officials, and Fiat Motor Company President Giovanni Agnelli. He traveled with Ernest Hemmingway to the Congo. The Burchfield-Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY, named a gallery room in recognition of his donations of WNY artists work. Several of his works are in the BPAC permanent collection.
Sisti was born April 25, 1901 in Greenwich Village, NYC, and studied in Buffalo at the Albright Art School with Urquhart Wilcox (American, 1876-1941). From 1925-1929 Sisti studied in Europe and attended the Royal Academy in Florence, Italy earning a Doctoral Degree in painting with Felice Carena (Italian, 1879-1966). He also studied anatomy at St. Mary's Hospital in Florence, Italy under Chirugi, at the Académie Julian and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, and at the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany.
1901- Born, April 25, Sullivan Street, Greenwich Village, NYC.
1911- Moved with family to Buffalo, NY. His father Nicholas opened a tavern on Genesee Street, and moved the family into a home on Prospect Avenue on the city's West Side. Tony attended School No. 2 on the Terrace, and on a few Saturdays he began to take some early art classes at the Albright Art School on the recommendation of his school principal Mr. Charles Ryan who took notice of Tony's artistic talent, but they were short-lived.
c1916- Began to participate in local amateur boxing matches, Buffalo, NY.
1918- Started his professional boxing career as “Kid Tony” and won the Amateur Golden Gloves Bantam-Weight Championship of New York State, fighting in the Elmwood Music Hall where he later sketched the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921).
From 1918-1930- Fought in over 100 professional boxing bouts, lost 15, and earned enough money to allow him to travel to Europe and study art in 1925, and enough while there to pay for his tuition at the Florence Academy.
circa early-mid 1920’s- Studied at the Albright Art School with Urquhart Wilcox (American, 1876-1941), who stated that Tony was "one of the most promising young men the school had had for years."
, Buffalo, NY.
c1924- Married Carmella Leone, and had a daughter. Sisti continued to box and also support his family with his art career and earn extra income by working as a truck driver, while attending the Albright Art School by night.
1925-29- Studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy. Earned a Doctoral Degree in painting with Felice Carena (Italian, 1879-1966) during that time, and also studied anatomy at St. Mary's Hospital in Florence, Italy under Chirugi, at the Académie Julian and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany. Sisti continued boxing during his time in Europe to supplement his income.
1929- Traveled to Africa, Manchuria, Morocco and the Philippines.
circa 1930- Without money to move back to the United States, Sisti boxed in Rome, winning enough money to return to Buffalo, with the thought of retiring from boxing.
1930- Moved back to Buffalo, NY and soon set up a studio at 1139 Main Street in the city. Exhibited, Alright Art Gallery (now the Albright Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show, Annual of American Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, PA.
1932- Exhibited, Alright Art Gallery, (Prize), Buffalo, NY.
1932-38- Taught painting and anatomy at the Buffalo Art Institute, Buffalo, NY.
1934- Exhibited, group show, Salons of America, for the painting “Circus”, NYC. Exhibited, Buffalo Society of Artists (Fellowship Prize), for the painting “Tuscan Farm” (1927), Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Annual Exhibition, Philadelphia, PA.
1935- Exhibited, Second national Exhibition of American Art, again for the painting “Circus”, held at the Rockefeller Center, NYC.
circa mid 1930’s- Worked on several WPA projects in the Western New York area during the depression years.
1936- Exhibited, Western New York Annual, Patteran Society, for the painting “New England Port” (James Carey Evans Memorial Prize), Albright Art Gallery, who also purchased the painting for their permanent collection, Buffalo, NY.
1937- Spring, solo show, Howard University’s Rankin Gallery, Washington, DC.
1938- Exhibited, group show, Great Lakes Exhibition, for the painting “Sunday Afternoon at the Rapids”, Patteran Society in conjunction with the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, and also traveled to six other venues.
1939- Taught as a life class instructor at the School of Applied Design for Women, NYC, flying from Buffalo to Manhattan each weekend to teach for three days, and while maintaining a small studio in Greenwich Village. Monday, February 20th, Sisti entered the ring one more time to supplement his funds for a solo exhibition of his works at the prominent Argent Gallery in NYC, eight years since his last fight, Sisti climbed into the ring with Fred "Freddy" Sullante (AKA: Sullanti or Sulanto) at St. Nicholas Arena in NYC, and knocked Sullante out with a right-cross, one minute and ten seconds into the first round making Sisti an instant celebrity amongst NYC sports writers and art critics. Exhibited, solo show, of 50 works in oil, watercolor, drawings and prints made over ten years, Argent Gallery, NYC.
c1941-45- During the WWII years, Sisti worked for the Bell Aircraft Corporation in the Visual Training Division and later in the Production Control Department. While there he produced a series of drawings depicting workers in various stages of manufacturing aircraft, and also later exhibited those drawings at the Albright Art Gallery in February, 1945, Buffalo. NY.
1945- Exhibited, February 11-18, “The Workers in the Bell Plant or The Human Side of Plane Manufacture”, which consisted of 70 pencil drawings by Sisti, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
1946- Built and opened an exhibition gallery adjacent to his studio, which spotlighted his own work, Buffalo, NY.
1947- Exhibited, Buffalo Society of Artists (Prize), Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, Western New York Artists (Prize), Buffalo, NY. November, exhibited, group show, “The Ring and the Glove-A Survey of Boxing”, five Sisti boxing-themed paintings were shown, Museum of the City of New York, NYC.
1948- Purchased and remodeled a 125 year old house at 469 Franklin Street, which became his studio and several apartments, Allentown area, Buffalo, NY.
1953- March, solo show, Community Music School, which covered 27 years of painting and included many of his most well known paintings and drawings, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, Buffalo Society of Artists, annual exhibition, (Gold Medal Prize) for the painting “The Boxer”, Buffalo, NY.
1955- Sisti opened his Studio Gallery to the public, which was in the basement at his 469 Franklin Street location, Buffalo, NY.
1958- Served as Chairman of the First Allentown Art Festival Exhibition, in association with the Allentown Village Society, which included paintings, sculptures and crafts, attracting over 25,000 people and which is still a popular annual event to this day.
from 1958 through 1970’s- Sisti maintained his association with the Allentown Art Festival, Buffalo, NY.
1957- Sisti held his First Spring Exhibition at his Gallery, a presentation of rejected works by local artists from the Western New York Art Exhibition at the Albright Art Gallery, which included Charles E. Burchfield (American, 1893-1967), Virginia Cuthbert (American, 1908-2001), Martha Visser’t Hooft (American, 1906-1904), Walter Prochownik (American, 1923-2000) and many others, Buffalo, NY. Became President of The Patteran Society, Buffalo, NY.
1959- Exhibited, held own solo retrospective show of his own works from the 1920’s through the following decades, Sisti Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
1965- October 12-19?, exhibited, solo show, 99 pencil drawings by Sisti shown and he was quoted as stating that the series of drawings, "now comprise the most complete layout of documented history of aircraft building in existence." , held in the lobby of the new engineering building at Bell Aerosystems Co. (Previously Bell Aircraft Corp), and was part of Bell's 30th Anniversary Celebration, Niagara Falls, NY.
1979- Exhibited, solo show, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY. Sisti made a major gift to the Burchfield Art Center (now called the Burchfield-Penney Art Center), including 26 paintings and drawings by Charles E. Burchfield as well as 32 of his own works, Buffalo, NY.
1981- Spring, the City of Buffalo named a park in his honor on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, by James D. Griffin the Mayor of the City of Buffalo and William L. Marcy Jr. Delaware District Councilman, with Tony Sisti Park being located near the intersection of Franklin Street and North Street in the Allentown area, Buffalo, NY.
1983- Died, December 15, at the age of 82, Buffalo, NY.
1984- Four months after Sisti’s death, his wife Carmella died, Buffalo, NY.
2007- Exhibited, March 30-April 28, group show, “A Tradition of Still Lifes: Theresa Hinchy Grau and other selected Western New York artists”, two paintings exhibited “Still Life in Green Vase”, 12 x 16”, oil on canvas, and “Tulips in Blue Vase”, 20 x 16, oil on canvas, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.
2008- November 22, The new Burchfield-Penney Art Center Museum opened and had dedicated one of their galleries to Sisti named the “Anthony J. Sisti Gallery”, which is part of the John R. Oishei Foundation Gallery located on the first floor of the Museum, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.
2009- Exhibited, April 11-August 10th, retro show, “Anthony J. Sisti: A Forgotten Regionalist, Selections From the Collection.”, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.
2018- January 13-February 10, group show, "Original Originals": Vintage Drawings by WNY Artists, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.
Exhibited Also At:
Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), NYC; The Museum of the City of New York, NYC; Riverside Museum, NYC; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA; Howard University, Washington, DC; Syracuse Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; and Grand Central Art Gallery, NYC.
Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Permanent Collection, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Buffalo Museum of Science, portrait painting of a scientist (unknown person), Buffalo, NY.
Buffalo Society of Artists, Buffalo, NY; Guild of Applied Arts, Buffalo, NY; The Patteran Society (President 1957), Buffalo, NY; The Basilica Club.
Mussolini Gallery, Rome, Italy; Buffalo City Hospital and Meyer Memorial Hospital, a circus-themed mural (Unfortunately, the mural no longer exists but sketches and studies in the Burchfield-Penney Art Center), Buffalo, NY; (Mural) University at Buffalo (boxing subjects), Buffalo, NY; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Federation of Italian Societies of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.
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(Rewritten & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, meibohmfinearts.com, 10/2009 [updated 01/2018], Sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)