Born on different continents, George Raab (b. 1866, Sheboygan) and Francesco Spicuzza (b. 1883, Termini, Sicily) were friends in Milwaukee for many years in the early twentieth century. Both artists were firmly committed to representational subject matter and to presenting it in the most favorable manner. They excelled in portraiture. Their art had appeal for collectors, and both men enjoyed successful careers.
The artists’ careers differed in many respects. Raab had more formal training, studying in Milwaukee, Weimar, and Paris. In addition to making art, he was curator of the Layton Art Gallery in Milwaukee, and taught and served as an administrator in Wisconsin and Illinois. He specialized in painting portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes in styles that ranged from realism to impressionism to art deco. Spicuzza stayed closer to home in Milwaukee, where he developed a reputation for frothy beach scenes and whimsical florals. Stylistically, he remained a life-long impressionist.
Each artist in his own way captured the vitality and simple beauty that is so often associated with life in the early twentieth century.