Ettore DeGrazia : biography
Ettore "Ted" DeGrazia (June 14, 1909 – September 17, 1982) was an American impressionist, painter, sculptor, composer, actor, director, designer, architect, jeweler, and lithographer. Described as "the world’s most reproduced artist", DeGrazia is known for his colorful images of Native American children of the American Southwest and other Western scenes. DeGrazia also painted several series of exhibitions like the Papago Legends, Padre Kino, Cabeza de Vaca.
Art Career: Later Years
Once DeGrazia had his home and his Little Gallery he was then free to start work on his dream gallery, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. DeGrazia built the Mission in the Sun, his home, and his original ‘Little Gallery’ (was original gallery on property) near the corner of Swan and Skyline roads.
During this time, DeGrazia never stopped painting. In the early 50’s he seriously started working on ceramics. This is when he perfected his copper-based glaze. NBC studios recorded a newsreel, called ‘Watch the World,’ where they filmed DeGrazia and Marion making these ceramics.
DeGrazia’s wife, Marion, recalled this time as "all work and no play."DeGrazia, Marion. "Son of Lightning." DeGrazia Foundation. 1992. "The only time for relaxation away from the studio was on the trail in the Superstition Mountains, while prospecting for gold, or with the Indians in Arizona and Mexico. When invited to have a show in Cannes France, he refused to go. The only place he wanted to be was in Indian country." DeGrazia explains himself, "because I was born in the southwest, and live there, I live it with a passion. The state has a harsh temperament as though it were alive. It is rough, colorless, and silent. And yet, you feel a gentleness, see beauty, and color in a storm, the skies roar, the cactus of the desert in its prickly silence bursts forth for a moment of exquisite beauty."
Some of his more famous friends included Lee Marvin, Thomas Hart Benton, Olaf Wieghorst, Jack Van Ryder, Pete Martinez, Ross Santee, and Broderick Crawford of the t.v. series Highway Patrol.
In 1960, DeGrazia got his big break. UNICEF requested permission to use his image of Los Ninos, an oil painting, to produce greeting cards. Many millions were sold world-wide, giving DeGrazia the title as most reproduced artist in the world. During this time, DeGrazia’s popularity and success exploded.
In 1976, DeGrazia engaged in a protest against the Federal Inheritance Tax. The artist claimed the U.S. Internal Revenue Service rulings made him "a millionaire on paper, but my heirs will have to pay taxes for which there is no money." In his well-publicized protest, DeGrazia rode horseback into the Superstition Mountains and burned about 100 of his paintings, an estimated worth of 1.5 million dollars at the time. Ted, protesting the inheritance tax, burned several hundred originals and prints in the Superstition Mountains circa. 1976. The only way for DeGrazia to avoid this huge government taxation was for him to make his Gallery In the Sun a non-profit foundation. In this way he was able to keep his collection intact and also his fortune.
In 1982, DeGrazia died of cancer on September 17, at the age of 73. His beloved Gallery In the Sun has been listed on the National Historic Registry as a historic district, in 2006. For further information log onto the website: www.degrazia.org or follow the Gallery In the Sun on Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, Instagram, tumblr, and flickr.
Born to Italian immigrants, DeGrazia’s family immigrated from San Pietro, Amantea, Calabria (Southern Italy). His parents, Dominic and Lucia DeGrazia, were strong people who worked very hard for their family of seven children. His father and uncles were copper miners in Morenci, Arizona Territory, where DeGrazia was born in 1909. Arizona achieved statehood in 1912.
DeGrazia’s graduation from Morenci High School was delayed until the age of 23. The family moved back to Italy in 1920. The move was a result of the Morenci mines closing that same year. DeGrazia’s father took his family to the only home they had- Italy. While there, DeGrazia became fascinated with cathedral art and with the surrounding monasteries. He also, as usual, got himself into trouble: "One time in the cathedral. I was pumping the organ it was high mass and, somehow or other, in the middle of the mass I quit pumping. There was no music. There were all those quivering, out-of-tune, voices. Two monks came, picked me up by the ears (and) led me down some spiral stairs- and out I went."