One man with two huge talents

"Old Chicago" by Anthony Benedetto, watercolor, 13.5 x 16.5 in

      Tony Bennett is a Grammy award-winning performer whose memorable songs include “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” He is also a highly respected professional artist who signs his art works “Anthony Benedetto.”

     Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in 1926 in Long Island City. His family was fond of music and Tony could sing almost as soon as he could speak, imitating Bing Crosby and Al Jolson with amazing accuracy.

     When Tony was 10, his father died. Tony began drawing pictures to occupy himself while his mother and siblings were at work. Unlike the other children in the neighborhood who enjoyed just “doodling,” Tony always tried to draw as well as he possibly could.

     One day he was sitting on the sidewalk, drawing a Thanksgiving mural with a box of colored chalk his mother had given him, when the shadow of a tall man fell across his artwork. It was an art teacher, James McWhinney, who lived in the same building. McWhinney recognized the boy’s talent and took Tony under his wing, teaching him everything he knew about watercolor and oil painting.

     Excited by McWhinney’s teaching, Tony became passionate about art. His ambition was to become a commercial artist, and during his teens he began training at the High School of Industrial Arts in New York. However, at age 18 he was drafted and sent to Germany. He rose to the rank of corporal, but was stripped of his rank by a racist officer who was furious because Tony had invited a black friend to join him for dinner at the Officer’s Club. As punishment for “consorting with blacks,” Tony was told to report to “Graves Registration,” one of the worst jobs a soldier could be assigned to. Fortunately, a less bigoted major intervened and offered him the post of singer and librarian with the Armed Forces Network Orchestra. Tony never forgot this incident and years later joined Dr. Martin Luther King on the historic march for racial equality in Selma, Alabama.

     In 1946 Tony was discharged from the Army and returned to New York, where he began his career as a singer. His singing career has lasted well over 40 years, and he has recorded more than 90 highly successful albums. But, although he is famous as a popular singer, Tony Bennett has always regarded himself as a painter. His New York apartment is filled with paints and easels. He carries a sketch pad and pencil with him at all times, sketching in lanes, hotel rooms, airports, limos, and throughout the day – anytime, anywhere. These sketches are the basis for his paintings.

     Painting, always his first love, has become his second profession. His artwork sells for thousands of dollars and is exhibited in galleries around the world. For 45 years his sketches and paintings have been a visual record of all the places he has visited and the people he has met during his singing career.

     He often dreamed of compiling his artwork into a book to share with his friends and fans, but never thought this would happen. However, one day his 8-year-old granddaughter Remy and her friend Elizabeth were talking about what their mothers did. When Elizabeth said that her mother worked at a publishing company specializing in art books, Remy exclaimed, “Art books! My grandfather is an artist!” A short time later Tony’s son, who is also his manager, was approached about the publication of a book of Tony’s artwork. The book, “What My Heart Has Seen” is a beautiful testimony to Tony Bennett’s dedication to art and his tremendous talent.

      For more on artist Benedetto, visit www.benedettoarts.com.

SOURCE: Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Vol 20, No 2, 2007-08 Fall-Winter print edition download below

Anthony Benedetto Vol 20-No. 2 2007-08AAPJ




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