In both his public and in his private life, Bob Guccione (1930-2010) found his essential passion and lifelong artistic expression in painting, drawing and photography. His remarkable artistic talent and vision has oddly been obscured by fame and controversy, rather than illuminated by them. Here, we have an opportunity to experience what Guccione saw and created by his own hand: the rich colors, soft lines, and deep feeling he captures in his paintings of everyday scenes of life. In stark contrast to his business and public life, Bob Guccione’s art is full of sensitivity yet without any sensationalism.
Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Bergenfield NJ, the son of an accountant and a housewife. He married early and had the first of his five children, moving to Italy with his young family to become a painter. Unable to make a living as painter, his family returned to the States first and then he eventually followed, having stayed in Europe to continue painting. He would marry four times, but the course of his first marriage would prove fateful, for it motivated him to return to Europe again. It was there, lacking opportunity as a painter and faced with the need to provide for his family, that he created the first of his highly successful publications, including Penthouse and Omni magazines, among others. The rest, as they say, is history.
Like many struggling artists, he had a day job in those early days in London – running a chain of laundrettes – until he became a cartoonist for the London American and later, an illustrator for Box Cards, the greeting card company known for its humor. His talent as a painter – and his completely self-taught approach to photography – resulted in the signature style of his “pictorials, ” including some of the many published photographs that he personally took in the early years of his publishing career. Over the course of his life, Guccione would take more than a quarter-million photos, the vast majority in his characteristic “soft focus” style which he adapted from his approach to painting.
Guccione’s infamous and battle-scarred life as a publishing giant is the subject of endless books, articles and lawsuits. Here, we focus solely and directly on his own works as a painter and feature some of the paintings he created over the span of his lifetime. As a young artist, Guccione believed in the promise of his creativity and talent, but financial realities of a young painter’s life forced him to set aside his early hope to make a career as an artist. While he openly expressed his love of painting by becoming a renowned collector, he never privately gave up the passion or the drive to paint throughout his life. His body of work speaks for itself. In later life, his works have been featured with the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, a testament to the talent and love of art he never abandoned.
Despite a controversial life of highs and lows that took him from running a media empire ranked among the Forbes 400 and owning the largest-ever mansion in New York City to near-bankruptcy at the end of his life, Guccione had a private life that was quiet, warm, imaginative, and visionary – all elements one sees so transparently in the works shown on POBA.