Close this search box.

well established and here for you

independently owned and operated since 1977

Looking Back With Love

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

There’s something breathtaking about a retrospective, about seeing in one space the movement an artist makes throughout their career; and that’s nowhere as stirring as it is with the 60-year Sideo Fromboluti retrospective currently on display at the Cherrystone Gallery in Wellfleet and curated by gallery executive director Brenda Correia. It is the first-ever retrospective of his work, including three works never before displayed, and fitting that it should be in a gallery space that the artist himself loved.

Fromboluti—along with his wife, artist Nora Speyer—was a revered member of the Outer Cape art colony, starting in the 1960s when the couple commissioned a Zehnder house and studio on Higgins Pond. Not an outdoorsman, Fromboluti did what Correia calls “plein-air sketching,” leaving the real work to take place in his studio, where he had the tools that would enable him to create a markedly distinctive style and depth over the next decades. The breadth of this 60-year retrospective shows not just an evolution of understanding and technique, but a deepening of his risk-taking and sensory approach to his art

Lillies and Candles, 30 x 30,1999

From the earliest piece, an abstract expressionist depiction of trees and sky, it’s a clear exploration of techniques that begin to lift the surface of the painting—dripping, clumping—and that he’s starting to become aware of the tremendous effect they can provide. By 1962, he begins to be representationally based (we’re clearly looking at chairs, for example), but he’s still lifting, the drips are getting bolder, he’s still layering. “That’s how you get resonance with color,” observes Correia. “He’s letting it remain in the conversation.”

A 1970 painting of lily pads in his beloved Higgins Pond almost sings with texture; it’s close to a bas-relief effect. “He’s presenting an aged skin to define his image,” says Correia. “The earth is old. This is his interpretation of time, and history, and what it takes to produce this perception. This is an ancient kettle pond, and you feel it in this work.”

Correia tells the story best: Three-year-old Fromboluti emigrated from Tuscany with his family and was having troubles learning English in the Philadelphia ESL program. He was referred to an art teacher—with the thought that it would give him confidence in the language—and the experiment succeeded: Fromboluti became both a great raconteur and a great artist, receiving a full scholarship to the Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

Nora Speyer and Sideo late 60s on Martha’s Vineyard

There he met the love of his life, a Jewish girl whose parents pulled her out of school in horrified reaction to her new boyfriend. As the war began, Fromboluti was posted to Fort Riley, Kansas, and when asked to do a painting of Custer’s last stand for the officers’ mess, he experienced his first real crisis of conscience. Troubled by the war and by his role as a painter in the army, Fromboluti spent some time throwing paint and slashing canvases  before arriving at his ultimate revelation: that art is not about the image.

Speyer had by then run away from her parents to live with Fromboluti in Kansas, and after the war the couple married, moved to New York, and became part of the iconic 10th Street art scene. This was the background that they brought to Wellfleet and Higgins Pond; and the city was always part of Fromboluti. While his wife went swimming in the pond every day, he preferred to gaze into the depths of the water and invoke its mysteries, its unknowns.

He never forgot that art isn’t about the image.

Studio Still Life W/Turpentine Can, 30×30, 2004

And the images he painted aren’t extraordinary in themselves: a still life, a pond, pickerel weeds, a candle. But what Fromboluti does with them is extraordinary. A 1989 painting of Higgins Pond looks to be shimmering in the heat of the day—until the lighting on it is changed and it transforms to twilight, the hitherto unnoticed blues and purples coming to the fore. “It’s that layering for resonance again,” says Correia, nodding. His technique is most pronounced and most apparent in the 1999 Lilies and Candles, where the dripping deliberately draws the viewer’s eye where Fromboluti wants it. And a 2005 painting shows Higgins Pond in the rain—whoever paints rain?—with mystery lurking in the depths below the surface.

The retrospective includes some of Fromboluti’s drawings (“he was so gifted in the use of dry pigment, in bringing the environment of a flat surface alive,” marvels Correia) as well as a separate room extending the retrospective to his family: his wife Nora Speyer, his son and architect Christopher Fromboluti, his daughter Iona Fromboluti’s mixed media, and her husband Douglas Wirls’ drawings. It’s a family of extreme talent—and a fitting way to remember a great artist.

Sideo Fromboluti: A 60-Year Restrospective continues at Cherrystone Gallery, 70 E. Commercial St., Wellfleet, through September 30. There will be a Labor Day Weekend Party this Saturday, Septmeber 2, 5 – 8 p.m. For more information call 508.246.5486 or visit


Recent Posts

Sign up for our Newsletter

Scroll to Top

Sign up for our Newsletter

Graphic Artist

Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

Keep in touch

Fill in your details and I will get back to you in no time.

Phone: + 1 508-487-1000 ext 6
[email protected] 14 Center St. Provincetown MA, 02657