Biographies from Ric Riccardo's Restaurant

A series of seven murals were created during the New Deal featuring the faces of seven prominent Chicago WPA artists. For years, these murals hung at Ric Riccardo's Restaurant located at 437 Rush Street, Chicago, IL. These murals will be relocated when restored to the Union League Club of Chicago.

August 14, 2005 - "Local Art Collector Saves Paintings from Legendary Restaurant" by Ben Steverman, Medill News Service - pdf 46.7 kb

June 6, 2002 Kup's column, Chicago Sun Times

SEYMOUR PERSKY, an art philanthropist/preservationist and former chairman of the Union League Club's Art Committee, has done it again. Persky has managed to track down and purchase the Seven Lively Arts murals that made up the magnificent scenery in the bar area of the old, and now defunct, Riccardo's restaurant, which is now the site for Phil Stefani's 437 Rush eatery.

The seven creations by famous artists are presently being restored for exhibition at the Union League Club at a later date. Persky recovered one painting in New York, another in Connecticut and five that were housed in Chicago, and paid a hefty six-figure sum to possess the unique works of art.


February 28, 2003 Sun Times

Art Squawk: memo to former habitues of the old Riccardo's restaurant, now known as Phil Stefani's 437 Rush: In case you once again want to see the famous series of seven paintings--including artist Ivan Albright's "Drama (Mephistopheles)"--head over to the Union League Club of Chicago, where they are on view thanks to art patron Seymour Persky ... who rounded them up. Hey ... you can see them outside the martini haze this time!

Aaron Bohrod (1907-1992)
A painter of cityscapes, landscapes and trompe l'oeil paintings, Aaron Bohrod lived in Chicago from birth until 1948, when he moved to Madison, Wisconsin. There he was a member of the University of Wisconsin's art faculty. Bohrod was a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and he also attended the Arts Students League in New York.

During World War II, Life magazine sent Bohrod to the South Pacific and to Europe as a war artist/correspondant. The landscapes visible in Architecture are related to the destruction that Bohrod had witnessed during this assignment, a fact that the artist revealed in a letter about the painting. In the upper left, a tumbling figure holds a landscape painting that depicts the ruins of a European village, while a town burns behind the Ionic column. Bohrod included a human skeleton to represent the architecture of the human body. The falling figures and cards, instability of the column, and flattened rose also reflect the artist's despair over what he had seen in Europe.

Ric Riccardo (1903-1954)
Riccardo, who was born in Italy, did work for the WPA during the 1930s, but his primary career was that of restaurateur. He opened Riccardo's Restaurant and Gallery in 1935. In addition to this restaurant, which was modeled after a Parisian left-bank café, Riccardo owned Pizzeria Uno, where, with co-owner Ike Sewell, he invented deep-dish pizza in 1943. Endowed with a magnetic presence and generous to artists, Riccardo was a famous Chicago personage until his untimely death at the age of 51.

Riccardo's depiction of Dance includes references to the ballet dancers of Degas. The swirling composition has a sense of energy that mirrors the art form Riccardo represented. The artist's use of strong colors also creates a feeling of movement.

Ivan Albright (1897-1983)
Drama (Mephistopheles)
Ivan Albright, probably Chicago's most important artist of the time, used the character of Mephistopheles to represent drama. His compelling depiction of the devil is a superb example of the artist's technical mastery and original, brilliant imagination. Riccardo was the model for the figure, a joke that the restaurant owner undoubtedly enjoyed sharing with Albright. The remarkable detail with which Albright painted the detritus of the ruined lives over whom Mephistopheles rules is characteristic of the artist's style. The dramatic use of light and shadow and strong colors complement the subject of the painting.

Ivan Albright was one of three sons born to Adam Emory Albright, a Chicago painter who specialized in depictions of barefoot children (two works by A.E. Albright are in the Club's collection). A realist, Ivan's images typically featured exaggerated forms and minute detail. In 1946, Albright married Josephine Medill Patterson Reeve, the daughter of Captain Joseph Medill, the founder, editor, and publisher of the New York Times and major stockholder of the Chicago Tribune. They lived in Chicago until 1963, when they moved to Woodstock, Vermont. In 1959, 1961, and 1963, Albright was a juror for the Club's biennial art exhibitions. The Club's collection includes a small landscape by Albright, Knees of Cypress, which is on view in the Main Lounge. Drama was one of the paintings sold by Riccardo's son in the 1970s.

Rudolph Weisenborn (1881-1974)
Rudolph Weisenborn, orphaned at the age of nine, had a peripatetic childhood until he settled in Colorado, where he studied at the Students' School of Art. He moved to Chicago in 1913, the year of the Armory Show, the first major American exhibition to feature work by Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Duchamp, and others.

Inspired by what he had seen when the Armory Show came to Chicago, Weisenborn abandoned his traditional style for a modern, Cubist-influenced one, as seen in Literature. In the 1920s, Weisenborn was also the leader of two important Chicago art organizations: the No-Jury Society of Artists, whose exhibitions were open to artists of all styles and abilities; and Neo-Arlimusc, a smaller group dedicated to fostering interactions between artists, musicians and writers.

William Schwartz (1896-1977)
William Schwartz, another of Chicago's important artists of the mid-twentieth century, was born in Russia. He immigrated to America in 1913 and enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1916, where he graduated with honors. His work was modernist, frequently showing the influence of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Cézanne.

During the Depression, Schwartz depended on government commissions as an important source of income. He participated in The Chicago Artists' Committee for WPA Jobs and, between 1935 and 1940, made paintings and lithographs under the WPA's Federal Art Project. In keeping with the intangible nature of music, Schwartz's painting of a solitary figure is set within a somewhat abstract landscape. The Club's collection includes a 1935 painting by Schwartz entitled Earn Your Bread by the Sweat of Your Brow, on view in the Main Lounge.

Vincent D'Agostino (b. 1898)
A native of Chicago, D'Agostino studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and also with George Bellows and Charles Hawthorne. He was a member of the Chicago Society of Artists and the National Society of Mural Painters. During the Depression, D'Agostino did work for the WPA. In the 1940s, he moved to California, where he taught at Woodbury College from 1949 to 1954.

Painting includes several references to the work of Paul Cézanne. The landscape visible in the lower background, as well as the still life in the foreground, are done in the style of the French Post-Impressionist. At the lower right is an image of Cézanne's Self-Portrait with Rose Background (ca. 1875); above it is an artist's palette. The central figures are modeled after Cézanne's paintings of bathers. Although little is known about D'Agostino, it is possible that his homage to Cézanne reflected his belief in that artist's central role as the father of modern painting.

Malvin Marr Albright (1897-1983; pseud.: Zsissly)
Albright, the brother of Ivan Albright, never achieved the critical recognition of his famous identical twin. Seeking to distinguish himself from both his father and his brother, Malvin focused on sculpture and adopted a pseudonym. He and his brother shared a studio in Warrenville, Illinois, working next to their father's studio. Although he specialized in sculpture, Albright continued to paint on occasion. After his 1954 marriage to Cornelia Fairbanks Poole Ericourt, he divided his time between their homes in Chicago, Florida and Maine.

In Sculpture, Albright depicted the creation of Adam. The pointing hand of God alludes to Michelangelo's depiction of the Creator in the Sistine Chapel's Creation of Adam fresco. In comparing the birth of the human race to making a work of art, Albright thus suggested that creativity is a divine gift.

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