Nicolino Calyo

(American born Italy, 1799 - 1884)

The portrait, landscape, and panorama painter Nicolino Calyo, a descendant of the Viscontes di Calyo of Calabria in southern Italy, was born in Naples, where he studied at the Royal Academy. He traveled through Europe, and lived briefly in Malta and Spain. He immigrated to the United States in 1834 and set up a studio in Baltimore. On June 16, 1835, the Baltimore Republican reported that Calyo was on his way north to paint views of Philadelphia and New York. He arrived in the latter city in time to record the damage of the Great Fire of December 1835, and two of these paintings were reproduced in aquatint by William James Bennett (1789-1844). From 1838 to 1855 Calyo is listed in the New York City directories as a “portrait and landscape painter” or “professor of painting.” In the late 1840s he was working with his Italian-born son John A. Calyo (1818-1893) as “N. Calyo & Son,” historical painters and teachers. During this period, his home in New York became a gathering place for exiled Europeans, including the future Napoleon III (1808-1873). Calyo revisited Spain briefly and worked as Court painter to Queen Maria Cristina (1806-1878), but in 1874 returned to New York, where he remained for the rest of his life. He showed paintings in the exhibitions of the American Society of Painters in Watercolor in New York from 1867 to 1869. Calyo painted scenes of the Mexican War of 1846-48 and a forty-foot panorama of the Connecticut River, but he is better known for his watercolor and gouache views of Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and the areas surrounding these cities. His Italian training “dominates his method . . . conditioning his liberal use of gouache, which imparts an opaque, slightly chalky surface to his work, setting it apart from the ‘English’ style of transparent watercolor more familiar to American artists of that period.”1 Notes 1. Kathleen Foster in Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1976), p. 300.