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Santos Zingale Painting

Santos Zingale was an American artist born in Wisconsin in 1908 into a Sicilian family. He worked for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) in 1933–1934. The PWAP was a program to employ artists, as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression and was commissioned to paint large-scale murals in public buildings for the Works Progress Administration. The Art Project encouraged experimentation in painting, especially in the graphic arts. He painted the post office mural of commercial fishermen and their boats in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  He also did a three-section, 40-foot mural, of the founding of Racine, Wisconsin in the city’s Mitchell High School. Zingale gained acclaim as a regionalist artist for his drawings of social and urban realism and was labeled as a “radical artist” by the press. As a result, in 1935 he wrote: “Art must help the development of human consciousness and improve the social order.”

In 1943, he was awarded a Master’s degree for his mural, Democracy in Education, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Education. When WWII came about, he served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946, all the while making sketches from life upon the USS Bremerton. After his discharge, he was given the status of Emeritus Professor at UW-Madison where he taught until his retirement in 1978. While teaching, Zingale continued to create public works including a mural for Marquette University in Milwaukee. Santos Zingale passed away in 1999 in Madison, Wisconsin.

The large work donated to the Center of Montezuma Castle, painted in 1978, is 54” x 46.” It is typical of Zingale’s style which is representational but not realist. His early scenes of urban realism used strong contrast of light and dark. Later, like the Montezuma Castle work, he produced colorful paintings that were part fact and part fantasy. Color, design and painted surfaces were major concerns in his works of art. The painting of Montezuma Castle may be an example of his more whimsical works if one were to reference the soft colors, as well as the desert flora presented in the foreground. Visiting Italy three times as an artist, Zingale had particular interest in painting remains of Roman civilization and it is evident that this interest held for ancient Southwest culture. The work appears to be part of a collection of paintings Zingale did featuring the American Southwest such as Bryce Canyon, and Canyon Ruins 1.