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Bridgehampton, N.Y.
October 2004

Debbie Tuma


 review: antonio ciccone

      In mid-September, artist Antonio Ciccone and Lydia Forbes were the featured attraction at the opening of Ciccone's work at the Forbes Gallery in Manhattan.  This series, called "The Lydia series," consists of 26 portraits of Lydia Forbes, including some with her husband, Robert Forbes, and their son Miguel.

     Ciccone, who grew up in Southern Italy and studied art with the masters in Florence, lived in Southampton for years with his wife and seven young children, and has been a friend of the Forbes family since he was first discovered by Malcolm Forbes over 40 years ago.  In 1960, at the age of 21, Ciccone had his first show in America, in Palm Beach, which came to the attention of the late Malcolm Forbes.  In 1965, when Forbes became president of Forbes, Inc., he commissioned Ciccone to paint his portrait.  Through the years, additional examples of Ciccone's work were added to the collection, and in 1997, Malcolm Forbes commissioned Ciccone to create a portrait series of his daughter, Moira.  This series was also exhibited at the Forbes Gallery.

     Following in the footsteps of his late father, Robert Forbes, who is now President of Forbes FYI and Forbes Global divisions, continued collecting fine art.  When he decided, about 10 years ago, to have a portrait done of his wife, Lydia, he immediately thought of Ciccone to do this work of art. 

     Although he was only commissioned to create one portrait based upon sittings with Lydia in both New York and Florence, Italy, Ciccone continued to work on other portraits.  At his opening night reception on September 14, Lydia Forbes noted that after this one protrait, "Antonio just took flight, and kept creating."  She said she was happy with the finished products, including the entire series of two finished portraits, 22 finished charcoal drawings and four triptychs of the Forbes family members.

     Robert Forbes, at the opening, said, "Our family has had a long and rewarding friendship with Antonio Ciccone, and we just naturally thought of him when we decided to have a portrait of my wife.  First, he came to New York to sketch her, and then we flew to his studio in Florence for the next sitting."  He said he was "very pleased" with the portrait series, which will remain on exhibit at the Forbes Gallery, on Fifth Avenue and 12th Street, through October 16.  "I didn't expect Antonio to include me or my son - he worked from photographs he had taken.  It is such a thrill to see the finished product," said Forbes.  Miguel Forbes also works in his father's company, in the television division and on other projects.

     Ciccone said he was "inspired" by Lydia Forbes' intelligence and depth, in deciding to continue painting her in different moods and poses.  "Sometimes a person will inspire me to do more, because there is so much more to capture," he explained.  All the work was done between 1993 and 2003, and Ciccone even created a hard-cover book of the Lydia Series.  This is his eighth book of his drawings and paintings.

     Also attending Ciccone's reception on September 14 was actress and close friend Dixie Carter, and her husband, actor Hal Holbrook.  "Antonio also painted my portrait, about 30 years ago, and I still have a few of his works on my walls, which I love," said Carter.  Holbrook noted how Ciccone "really captured the essence of Dixie, and I love his work.  We have all become close friends over the years."

     Ciccone held the first opening reception of the Lydia Series in Florence last January, at the Palace of the Region of Tuscany.

     "I've been working on this series for the past ten years, as well as other subjects which I'm creating," he said.  Some of his other projects included portraits of his own family, which include his wife Linda and seven children, a book on his mentor, Padre Pio, and a book on cats.  Ciccone also paints landscapes, for which he is known throughout Europe.  He has had over 150 exhibitions throughout Europe, including many in his native country of Italy.

     From 1968 to 1980, Ciccone and his family lived in Southampton, where they became close friends with fellow artists Larry Rivers and Fairfield Porter, who are both now deceased.  A few summers, Ciccone even rented River's Southampton house.  Ciccone exhibited at many of the local museums and galleries, including the Parrish Art Museum, the Elaine Benson Gallery, Gallery East, and Southampton College.  His children attended Southampton schools.

     "We loved living out on the East end, and raising our children here, "said Ciccone.  "But after awhile, Florence kept calling me back, and I eventually moved my family back there so they could also experience this culture."

     He said he looks forward to returning to the Hamptons more often in the future.  "I love coming back to the East End, where I still feel at home, and where I have made so many friends," said Ciccone.  His Lydia Series show will end at the Forbes gallery on October 16, and then it will travel to Washington D.C., Florida, and possibly Los Angeles.



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