Cow Hampshire readers may be surprised to see me writing about someone who was neither born nor lived in the State of New Hampshire. On occasion I happen across a
name or event that ties into a story that I am writing, and believe that if I am curious to learn more, that others also will. Such is the case with the artist sculptor by the name of Joseph Arthur Coletti.
His connection to New Hampshire, is through the statue of Ferdinand Gagnon at Lafayette Park in Manchester, which he created. I will be posting addition links to more of his works later in this story. It is his only work located here (in New Hampshire).
Joseph Arthur Coletti, was born 5 November 1896 at San Donato Val di Comino Italy, son of Domenico & Donata Coletti. He was brought to the United States at the age of 2 years, and raised in Quincy, Massachusetts. As a young man he attended the local Quincy schools, and also worked as a tool sharpener in the granite quarries where his father also worked.
An article in the Boston Herald of 26 May 1968 stated, “He stands as a Janus-figure in the world of sculpture synthesizing the purity of the Greek ideal and the fire of Renaissance realism with an immediacy belonging to the Coletti vision alone.” His creative projects included architectural sculpture, medals, portraits, memorials, statues, nudes and animals.
He began training at an early age at the Evening Art School in Quincy, Massachusetts. He attended the Massachusetts School of Art and apprenticed himself to the sculptor John Evans (1847-1923). He then worked with John Singer Sargent as the famous artist’s only pupil, and assisted him with the sculptured ceiling at the Boston Public Library and the rotunda at the Museum of Fine Arts.
After preparatory work at Northeastern University, he entered Harvard from which he graduated in 1923. He then received two traveling fellowships in fine arts from Harvard., and was a visiting fellow at the American Academy in Rome, Italy from 1924 to 1926. He returned to the United States in 1926 and established his studio in Boston.
Where some of his work can be found : Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore MD; Archibald Cary Coolidge memorial at Harvard’s Widener Library; Lafayette Park state of Ferdinand Gagnon in Manchester NH; Sumner tunnel Memorial Sculpture in Boston, ( a tympanum of St. Theodore for the chapel of Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania; the narthex of the Harvard World War I Memorial Chapel. He executed the sculpture for the north transept portal at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Probably one of the most easily accessible of his projects is his “Farmers and Geese” panel is in the Mansfield Post Office. Well known are his panels “Riveters and Granite,” and the “Cranes” for the pediment at the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy; the thirty-foot high “Mourning Victory” at Salem MA; Lt. General Edward Logan at the Boston Airport; and Sen. David I. Walsh on the Esplanade in Boston. His monument to the Rev. Michael Joseph McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, dedicated in 1956 in Waterbury, Connecticut; His portrait busts include John Nicholas Brown, Ralph Adams Cram, John Deferrari, a benefactor of the Boston Public Library (now located in the Boston Room of the Johnson Building); and the Turak Gallery in Nottingham PA. He also is represented at the Vatican Museum, the Museum of Treasures at Cathedral Wavel Castle, Cracow Poland, and the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris. In addition there is a listing of some works at the Smithsonian.
In 1948 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Harvard Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1959 his statue of St. George was placed on permanent exhibition in the National Gallery of Modern Art in the Pitti Palace at Florence, Italy–the first American so honored. Mr. Coletti served for six years as Chairman of the Massachusetts Art Commission. He was recognized not only for the works of art that he created, but as a master of his art of sculpture. He was also the author of a study of Aristide Maillol, as well as many articles and book reviews.
Joseph Arthur Coletti had married in 1929 to artist Miriam Kerruish Whitney, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Samuel Whitney of Montclair, N.J. (They later divorced). Together they had two daughters Donata Coletti who married the composer Kirke Mechem, and Miriam Coletti who married Peter B. Dow.
Joseph A. Coletti died 5 May 1973 “at his Boston home. He had been ill for two months after a heart attack.” Funeral Services were held in Memorial Chapel at Harvard, and he was buried at Mt. Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts.
FYI: Joseph’s brothers, Carroll Coletti, and Paul A. Coletti, Boston and Quincy architects, designed, among other structures, the Thomas Crane Memorial Library in Quincy, MA.
Photograph: Joseph A. Coletti in his studio, 1944 – Harvard University Library