(Salzbug 1879 – before 1940 ?)
Portrait of a Man
Signed, dated and inscribed upper right LINO/ VESCO/ 1912/ LONDON
Pencil on paper
22.8 x 17.8 cm (9 x 7 inches)
Private collection, Amsterdam.
This intimate and arresting drawing of a man demands eye contact of its viewer. The serene backdrop of rolling hills and a river, likely the Thames, creates a setting of pastoral peace that juxtaposes the man’s modern business uniform of a suit and tie. The immediacy and proximity of the sitter to the picture plane and the careful attention given to even the smallest hair on his head suggests that this work is possibly a self-portrait of the artist, Lino Vesco. Signed, dated, and inscribed in gratifyingly legible handwriting, we know that Vesco made this drawing in London in 1912. However, few facts are known about the Austrian artist himself, though there are records of his teachers as well as his passion for music. In Salzburg at the age of just ten years old, he was a student of the Austrian painter Theodor Ethofer (1849-1915). After the turn of the century he resided for a time in Frankfurt am Main and studied under the painter and illustrator Walther Thor (1870-1929) in Munich, who mainly created posters in the Art Nouveau style, a reflection of his time in Paris. The early years of the 20th century marked groundbreaking changes in art. Lino Vesco clearly aligned himself with the Modernists of his time, experimenting with color, medium and form in search of a new artistic voice that was better suited to reflect the changing world.
In addition to painting, Lino Vesco was also an accomplished musician, specifically a bass vocal soloist. In 1921 he attended and performed in the first annual Salzburg Festival in Vienna. A photograph taken for the Musical Courier: Weekly Review of the World’s Music in their September 1921 issue includes Vesco’s image, accompanied by the caption “Lino Vesco, painter, formerly basso of Covent Garden, London.” The caption confirms that the artist was not merely visiting England when he drew the current portrait, but rather he resided in London and likely even performed with the Royal Opera House. There is also record of Vesco having performed a program with the wind ensemble of the Vienna State Opera during the Salzburg Festival in 1926. Evidently the festival became an important part of the artist’s life.