Ettore DeGrazia

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Ettore DeGrazia : biography

June 14, 1909 – September 17, 1982

In 1936, DeGrazia met Alexandra Diamos while attending classes at the University of Arizona, and that same year, they married. Her father was a business man who owned many of the largest movie theaters in Southern Arizona. One of his businesses was the Lyric theater, located in Bisbee, Arizona. Alexandra and DeGrazia moved to Bisbee where he managed his father-in-law’s theater. The couple had three children Lucia Anite, Nicholas Domenic, and Kathleen Louise.

Although DeGrazia was making a living, he was not happy with this work. Any money he could save went towards art supplies. Any extra time he had went to his art. He was searching, trying to find his own style. In 1941, Arizona Highways Magazine began to publish DeGrazia’s images. He met many other famous, and soon-to-be famous, artists. In 1942, DeGrazia traveled to Mexico City where he met Diego Rivera, Mexico’s master muralist. Rivera was taken with DeGrazia’s artistic talent and agreed to take him on as an apprentice. DeGrazia assisted Rivera with murals at the Palacio Nacional and the Hospital de Jesus. DeGrazia also worked with José Clemente Orozco during this apprenticeship. The two Mexican masters sponsored an exhibition of DeGrazia’s paintings at the Palace of Fine Art in Mexico City during 1942. During this period, America was enforcing the draft for WWII. Rivera wrote a letter to the United States government attempting to buy time for DeGrazia in order for him to complete his apprenticeship and keep him out of the military.

The two artists sponsored an exhibit of his paintings at Palacio de Bellas Artes in 1942, and DeGrazia was also featured in Mexico City’s Hoy Magazine. This was to be DeGrazia’s first big exhibition.

DeGrazia returned to the University of Arizona, studying under Katherine Kitt. In 1944, DeGrazia was hired by Lou Witzeman, editor and chief at the University of Arizona, for a mural project in exchange for the cost of art supplies for the project. Witzeman gave him the freedom to paint whatever subject he wanted in a portion of the Old Main building located in the center of campus. Since this mural painting took place two years after his apprenticeship under Diego Rivera, DeGrazia chose to paint a politically based mural. The mural was titled, "Power of the Press." A writer for the Arizona Wildcat newspaper wrote an article in regards to this mural. "Bottles of paint, turpentine and tequila surround an artist lying on his back atop scaffolding. It is the spring of 1944 and American GIs are overseas fighting the axis powers. The artist strokes his brush on the wall about two stories tall and 15 feet wide until a mural begins to emerge. Night after night, the painter pieces together his puzzle. The colors are dark, as are the images. Skeletons, mortarboards, books and the apocalypse fill the cinder block canvas."Lobez, Jesus Jr. "100 Years of the UA Student Press." Arizona Wildcat Press 1985. His mural depicted "skulls topped with mortarboards peer(ing) at an open hand holding the flame of knowledge reaching out of a pile of books. The skulls represent people searching for knowledge. A figure, half machine- half skeleton, resides atop the four horses of the apocalypse, trampling over the mask of happiness. The mask of tragedy remains untouched. The figure holds the World in its right hand; from its shoulder hangs a long sheet simple titled "News." In the far-left corner stand six skeletons donning graduating robes…starving professors hang by their necks from the fingertips of a skeletal hand as the four horseman gallop over snakes slithering through books."Lobez, Jesus Jr. "100 Years of the UA Student Press." Arizona Wildcat Press 1985. DeGrazia was rebelling against commercialism in education. He felt that universities were growing too political, greedy, and corporate minded. DeGrazia’s mural was depicting the lives lost in World War II and how the interests of businesses were what really controlled the educational system- not the educators.DeGrazia, Marion. ‘Power of the Press.’ Tucson, AZ. 2002.