San Francisco-born artist Lawrence Calcagno spent the first part of his life on a ranch near Big Sur, California, teaching himself to paint from his own observations of the California landscape. Calcagno remained largely self-taught until after World War II, when he began to study painting under the G.I. Bill with the artist Clyfford Still, whose saturated palette and thick-textured linear style remained influences on Calcagno’s work throughout his career.
Calcagno went on to study at the California School of Fine Art in San Francisco from 1947-1950, as well as at the Academie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris from 1950-1951 and the Instituto d’Arte Statale in Florence from 1951-1952. Calcagno’s work was first shown at the Faccheti Gallery in Paris in 1952. He continued to work and study in Paris until 1955. During this time, Calcagno became acquainted with Martha Jackson, who mounted his first one-man at her New York gallery in 1955. Over the next several years, Calcagno served as artist-in-residence at the University of Alabama, the Albright School of the University of Buffalo, the University of Illinois, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
From 1959-1960, Calcagno taught at New York University and showed his work at exhibitions in places as diverse as Lima, Peru, Mexico City, London, and Copenhagen. In 1965, he was awarded a Ford Foundation grant. He was also named the visiting Andrew Mellon Chair of Painting at Carnegie-Mellon University, and was also awarded fellowships by the Yaddo Foundation of Saratoga Springs, New York, the MacDowell Colony of Peterborough, New Hampshire, and the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico.
Calcagno’s work was also shown in a circulating exhibition by the Smithsonian from 1973-1975, in a touring retrospective by the Mitchell Museum in Mount Vernon, Illinois in 1982, and at solo exhibitions at the Harwood Foundation Museum of Taos and the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York in 1987. In 1989, he was awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is included in the public collections of several museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.