Beniamino BUFANO (1898-1970)

Hagemeyer, Johan. Beniamino Bufano (1938). BANC PIC 1964.063--PIC Bufano, Beniamino -- 014. Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Hagemeyer, Johan. Beniamino Bufano (1938). BANC PIC 1964.063–PIC Bufano, Beniamino — 014. Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

“If controversy is the life blood of art, as has been said, the very pulse beat of California sculpture is located in Beniamino Bufano, who has been the storm center of innumerable artistic issues since his arrival in San Francisco. (…) As an exceptionally vigorous artist, his works and behavior are more easily dramatized than evaluated. Consequently, there has resulted much biased reporting, sentimentalized opinion, pious indignation, and pointless eulogy, but very little accurate appraisal of the man’s work or reliable biographical data on his life.

His study of the great periods of sculpture proceeded through an analysis of the media associated with each period. He noted that characteristic Greek and Renaissance sculptural forms were derived from marble or other relatively soft stones; Egyptian from granite, basalt, diorite; Chinese from highly developed types of bronze and terra cotta casting. On the other hand he found that decadent periods were characterized by soft, easily formed arterials which lent themselves to facility of representation and easy imitation. He discovered by working in wood, granite and metal,  that each medium has a character of its own and that only by studying and working in these different media could the artist achieve forms suited to their various characters.

If his work seems severe, sometimes even impersonal, the reason will be found in the medium he has chosen. In writing of Bufano’s work one critic recently saids “There are two ways to produce a piece of sculpture. (…) As you look at Bufano’s sculpture, it becomes evident that working direct in the ultimate medium has been a powerful factor in his development, and his insistence upon this one point has caused or contributed to most of the controversy surrounding hin. But he is creating works in imperishable materials, naterials that time and erosion cannot destroy, vitreous porcelains, granite and stainless steel; and whether he makes a saint or a frog, his subject merges with great dignity into whichever medium he choosed.”

Read Beniamino Bufano‘s biography in California Art Project, volume 14. CARA_V14_BUFANO

At a glance

Birth : October 14, 1898 in San Fele, Italy
Death : August 18, 1970 in Colma, California (United States)
Arrival in San Francisco Bay area : 1915
Married to : Virginia Howard (1925-1932)
Skills : Sculptor and teacher at the San Francisco Institute of Art (1921-1923), at the University of California in Berkeley, at the Da Vinci school of Allied Arts he found in 1923


Art education, teachers : James E. Fraser, Herbert Adams, and Paul Manship (Art Students League of New York); Dirk Van Erp (San Francisco)
Relations : Spencer Macky, Lee Randolph, Paul Verdier, Matthew Barnes, Joseph Danysh, Ray Boynton, Father Meehan
Patrons : Albert M. Bender, Charles Erskine Scott Wood, Mrs. Sigmund Stern
Institutions, clubs, venues : Cercle Ecarre (Paris), “Cut Direct” Group of Seven (Paris), Galerie Beaux Arts (co-founder, National Sculpture Society (New York), Progressive Group (San Francisco), San Francisco Art Association, Society of Constructionistes (Paris, founder 1928-1929)
WPA Projects : Saint Francis of Assisi

Main exhibitions

1913-1914 Art Students League (New York)
1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE)
1922 Palace of Fine Art
1925 Arden Galleries (New York), City of Paris Galleries (San Francisco)
1925-1927 exhibitions in Chicago, New York, Saint Louis, Paris, London
1927 Paris  Autumn Salon
1929 Palace of Fine Art of the legion of honor, Mills College Oakland
1930-1932 Brooklyn Museum
1934 Adams-Danysh Gallery of San Francisco
1935-1937 San Francisco museum of Art

Resources in the Bancroft Library


Beniamino Bufano autobiographical notebooks : ms., [ca.1958-1965] BANC MSS 2001/146 cz. Catalog Record


Bufano.  [San Francisco, Calif. : Press Club of San Francisco, 1941]. Exhibition presented by Patrons of Beniamino Bufano Art Exhibit, St. Mary’s Square, San Francisco, California, September 29-October 5, 1941, sponsored by the Press Club of San Francisco. Catalog Record
Bufano, Beniamino (1956). Bufano. [Firenze : s.n.]. Catalog Record
Bufano, Beniamino (1956). The story of the mosaics : Moars Cafeteria, 33 Powell Street, San Francisco, “home of the Bufano mosaics”. San Francisco, Calif. : Moars Cafeteria. Catalog Record
Falk, Randolph (1975). Bufano. Millbrae, Calif. : Celestial Arts. Catalog Record
Lewin, Virginia B. (1980). One of Benny’s faces : a study of Beniamino Bufano (1886-1970), the man behind the artist. Published Hicksville, N.Y. : Exposition Press, c1980. Catalog Record
Rather, Lois. Bufano and the U.S.A. Oakland, CA : Rather Press, 1975. Catalog Record
Wilkening, Howard E. (1972). Bufano: an intimate biography. Berkeley, Calif., Howell-North Books Catalog Record

Data visualization : Mapping of Bufano’s biography

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s