Victor Joseph Gatto, American (1890 - 1965)

Victor Joseph Gatto was born in the slums of New York City's Little Italy. When his mother died, he was sent to a Catholic orphanage and school. There his artistic talent blossomed and was even recognized by Teddy Roosevelt who proclaimed Gatto, then 8 years old, to be "the best drawer in the school." After leaving school, Gatto found employment as a plumber and then a boxer. During World War I he joined the Navy but was dishonorably discharged and sent to prison in upstate New York where he was incarcerated for 10 years. In 1938, Gatto visited an outdoor art show in Greenwich Village. There he was inspired by high prices to return to his childhood hobby. Taking on the airs of an artist, he changed his name from Joe to Victor Joseph. By 1943 he had a one man show at the Charles Barzansky Gallery that received spectacular reviews and resulted in many sales.

Gatto had a personality that was brash and arrogant. As a result painting soon became a cathartic obsession. It no longer mattered if any of his work sold. He simply had to paint. Gatto tended to do series consisting of religious scenes, horse and dog races, landscapes (including some jungle scenes), as well as portraits of his friends and enemies. Mostly working in oils, he did only a few watercolors and drawing. From his use of color to his brush strokes, Gatto’s works are filled with intensity. He worked slowly adding miniscule details, using brushes with all but a few of the hairs removed. Even though Gatto's method was time consuming he managed to complete hundreds of works ranging in size from a few square inches to numerous square feet. In his old age, Gatto continued to work with the aid of a magnifying glass despite his failing eyes and the warnings of doctors. Gatto achieved a high level of artistic success and was welcomed into the "Strauser Circle" which included such artists as Charles Dieter, Justin McCarthy, Old Ironsides Pry, and Jack Savitsky.


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