Wilmette Newspaper index
Calapai, Letterio (Died)
appeared in Wilmette Life (Wilmette, Illinois), 8 Apr 1993, p. 203
Full Text

Letterio Calapai, respected artist/printmaker and educator, died on his 91st birthday, March 29, in his home in Wilmette. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Jean Hilliard Calapai, who said he died of liver cancer and complications. Just hours before he died, pianist Vladimir Leyetchkiss performed a concert of Franz Schubert's music for the artist and a group of close friends at his home. "There was not a bit of gloom," recalled the widow. "It was a celebration of a beautiful life. There was very little pain and he was conscious right up to the last, falling asleep just before the end of the concert." Working for the past 28 years out of his storefront workshop in Glencoe, the artist's reputation as a 20th century master printmaker is secure. He received a 50-year retrospective at Chicago's Landfall Press in 1984, another sponsored by the Italian government in Rome in '86, plus major exhibitions in '91 at the Boston Public Library and North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka. He was born in Boston, graduated from Boston Normal Art School (now the Massachusetts College of Art) and was previously married to the late Delia Calapai, pianist. Moving to New York in 1928, he studied fresco mural painting under Ben Shahn at the American Artists School, sculpture at the Beaux Art School of Design and figure drawing at the Art Students League. In 1946, after five one-man shows in New York City, he was invited by S.W. Hayter--considered the father of intaglio (engraving on copper) printmaking--to join his renowned Atelier 17. Several years later, he founded and chaired the graphics department at the University of Buffalo's Albright Art School, where he remained for five years. While at Albright, he created a suite of semi-abstract intaglios called "The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ," which is part of the permanent cocllection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. Calapai's interest in literature resulted in collaborations with a number of authors, including Thomas Wolf and William Carlos Williams. From 1959-62, he served as vice president of the Society of American Graphic Artists. He also taught at the New School for Social Research (1955-62), New York University (1962-65), was a visiting associate professor at Brandeis University as well as at Evanston's Kendall College--the position which brought him to the Midwest. Asked if there would be contributions toward a memorial, Mrs. Calapai replied, "No. Letterio always said, 'My work is my memorial.' "

Media Type
Genealogical Resource
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Date of Publication
8 Apr 1993
Date Of Event
29 Mar 1993
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  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 42.07225 Longitude: -87.72284
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Calapai, Letterio (Died)