When Gloucester native Charles Movalli finished his doctorate in English, he found little work.
Instead, he chose another field known to be a challenging career path — painting.
“When I got out of grad school, I became a painter because there wasn’t any work for Ph.Ds. I went from trying to write stuff to trying to paint things,” he says now with a chuckle.
As it turned out, he would succeed in both endeavors.
Today, Movalli is both a distinguished painter and accomplished writer, having contributed more than 80 articles published in the American Artist magazine, many of which were reprinted in subsequent art books. He also edited nine art books for Watson-Guptill Publications, working with Emile Gruppe, Paul Strisik, Betty Lou Schlemm, Roger Curtis, and Claude Croney. Two of his books appeared in Japanese and Chinese editions.
Over time, Movalli would gain a reputation as a teacher and lecturer, always filling venues to standing room only. He has lectured and conducted art demonstrations at more than 100 different art organizations. He has conducted painting workshops in 24 states, Bermuda, Mexico, Canada, England, France, and Switzerland.
“My mother was a painter and my father was interested in painting, though he was a businessman. They were both very aesthetic and me wanting to be a painter didn’t strike them as being peculiar,” said Movalli, a graduate of Gloucester High School’s Class of 1963.
He is opening a solo show on Sunday at the Rockport Art Association, highlighting his signature work featuring his colorful palette and brushwork. The images include the Gloucester waterfront, as well as one painting he did in homage to Aldro Hibbard, the noted American artist and a founder of the Rockport Art Association. The painting is titled “Hibbard Mountain” because it contains purple mountains in the background — subjects Hibbard often painted.
“I call the mountain color Hibbard purple,” he said.
An award-winning artist, he has received Life Achievement Awards from the Oil Painters of America (1991), Rockport Art Association (1999), and Hudson Valley Art Association (2002). He has won gold medals for his work at the Salmagundi Club, the Rockport Art Association, and the Oil Painters of America.
“He has the greatest talent. I know it because I know painting. People paint but Charles is a composer of painting,” said Betty Lou Schlemm, an artist and teacher.
Movalli learned much about painting from the Cape Ann School of artists. He edited four books about Emile Gruppe (1896-1978), and was inspired by this esteemed artist of international repute.
Schlemm described Movalli as one-of-a-kind — a Renaissance man and student of philosophy.
She recalled his early years when he wrote so many articles about so many artists for the American Artist magazine.
“He helped to keep Cape Ann artists on the map,” she said. “Everyone wanted an article written by Charlie. Then he started working on art books for other people. Everyone wanted his help so he became the editor of many books.”
One time when Schlemm was talking to him about his endless generosity to others, she recalled that he said to her: “I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth and it was meant to feed everyone.”
She also noted his popularity as a speaker.
“In the 70s, he would do lectures once a month and they were packed. You couldn’t get all the people in,” said Schlemm. “When he lectured, the talks were so animated and so alive. You felt like it’s a family member or best friend telling the story. He also loves music, and he did lectures on all the great composers and also Frank Lloyd Wright. Charles Movalli became known to us all and he belonged to everyone. There is no one like him.”
Movalli will hold a gallery talk tonight at the Rockport Art Association on Aldro T. Hibbard (1886-1972).
Carol Linsky, director of the Rockport Art Association, said it has been a while since he has done a solo show.
“It’s going to be classic Charles Movalli, which means everything is going to be fabulous,” Linsky said. “His work is just beautiful and we’re thrilled that he will do his show in conjunction with the Hibbard show.”
Movalli’s other memberships include the North Shore Arts Association, The Guild of Boston Artists, Academic Artists and the New England Watercolor Society. His artwork has appeared in the books “Dynamic Composition” by Frank Webb, “Artist’s Guide to Using Color” by Wendon Blake, “Handbook to Landscape Painting” by Stephen Doherty, and “A Guide to Drawing” by Mendelowitz and Wakeham.
His painting methods are showcased in John Stobart’s “Worldscape II” video, and in a recent OPA blog, which includes two YouTube discussions of “Simplicity” and “Brushstrokes.”
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Movalli Goes Solo What: A Solo Show of Works By Charles Movalli Where: The Rockport Art Association at 12 Main St. in downtown Rockport When: Free public opening reception on Sunday, Nov. 4 from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 978-546-6604 or visit www.rockportartassn.org. The show runs through Nov. 22.