Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Asked to name a leading Pennsylvania family of artists, many will invariably cite the Calder, the Wyeth, or the Peale dynasties. But there is another family of fine artists, also deeply rooted in Philadelphia and environs, that produced credible and talented artists. They are the two generations of the Martino family — seven brothers, two wives, and two daughters.

The talented brothers were the sons of Carmine Antonio Martino, a stone-cutter and mason, who emigrated from Monacilioni, a small village in the Campobasso Province of the Molise Region of Italy, to America. He arrived in New York aboard the S.S. Burgundia on April 9, 1888, and became a citizen by 1900. Carmine’s future wife, the teenaged Clementina Baranello, left her home in Verazano, another tiny village not far from her husband’s birthplace, and immigrated to the United States,arriving on December 27, 1893, aboard the S.S. Neustria. The couple met in Philadelphia and married on January 20, 1896. Carmine Martino had helped his father, Modestino, build a stone dwelling just before he left Italy, and so he possessed a viable trade.

Carmine and Clementina Martino settled in South Philadelphia, at 11th and Federal Streets. Carmine earned his livelihood as a stonecutter, working on the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, the magnificent Gothic-Romanesque-style edifice at Bryn Athyn in eastern Montgomery County, begun in 1913 for the Church of the New Jerusalem, as well as Glencairn, the nearby sprawling residence of Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn, which residents nicknamed “the castle.” (Heir to the enormous Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company fortune, Raymond Pitcairn was a collector of international import and his collections now comprise the holdings of a museum devoted to the history of world religions, housed in the baronial residence.) Carmine worked also as foreman and artist at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary at Overbrook, Wynnewood. Clementina’s artistry manifested itself in crocheted bedspreads, needlework, and tailored clothes for her seven sons and two daughters. The family later moved to the 100 block of Gross Street in West Philadelphia.

Carmine and Clementina Martino had nine children: sons Modestino Francesco, called Frank (1896–1941); Antonio Pietro, known as Tony (1902–1988); Albert (1904–1980); Ernesto (1906–1981); Giovanni (1908–1998); William (1910–1980); and Edmund (1915–2000); and daughters Filomena (1898–1922) and Antonetta (1900–1902). Antonetta died at two years of age. Filomena took her own life at the age of twenty-four after her parents forbade her to marry a cousin.

Antonio exhibited a keen interest in art, particularly sculpture, at an early age, perhaps from working on stone with his father in the basement of their house in South Philadelphia. Antonio and younger brother Giovanni would emerge as the family’s most renowned fine artists. When just thirteen years old, Tony began taking art classes at the Graphic Sketch Club, now the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, the nation’s oldest tuition-free art school, in South Philadelphia, where his lifelong interest in drawing and two-dimensional art took shape. Ever eager to learn, by 1917, Tony was studying on weekends at the Spring Garden Institute and at the La France Art Institute in the city’s Frankford section and attending evening classes at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art, which has since emerged as the University of the Arts, located at Broad and Pine Streets. He was clearly determined to learn all that he could about the art world. In addition to his studies, he worked as an apprentice in the art department of Associated Artists, a local lithography firm, where he earned three dollars a week.

Tony began exhibiting his work at age seventeen, and by 1925 had won honorable mentions from the Art Club of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Sketch Club. He also exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The following year, at the age of twenty-four, he captured a bronze medal at the 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the nation’s independence. He was the youngest painter in the United States to win such a prize. Renowned Bucks County impressionists Edward Willis Redfield and Daniel Garber were on the nine-member jury that selected Martino to receive the award. Walter A. Newman Jr., of Newman Galleries in Philadelphia, founded in 1865, remembers Antonio Martino well. “We gave Tony his first one-man show in 1925,” says Newman, “beginning a long association with Newman Galleries for Tony. He was a fine painter and a really nice guy.” A fifth-generation family-owned firm and an important landmark in the city’s art scene for nearly 150 years, Newman Galleries, located at 1625 Walnut Street, continues to handle works by Antonio, Edmund, and Giovanni Martino.

Antonio’s early paintings of landscapes around New Hope, Bucks County, and along the Delaware River show a strong impressionist influence. Using a thick impasto, his earliest work, roughly from 1924 through 1929, was similar to that of Redfield and Walter Elmer Schofield. Antonio and Giovanni would spend weekend mornings painting in Bucks County, returning to their studios in the afternoon.

On June 22, 1927, Antonio married Mary J. Hofsteter; their marriage lasted sixty-one years. They had two children, Antonio Charles and Marie Clementina, who married Alexander A. M. Manos, and nine grandchildren. “Dad lived to paint,” emphasizes Marie Martino Manos. “In fact, he considered himself the luckiest man in the world. Often he would say, ‘No one had a better profession.’ Every opportunity he had was spent painting. Even on his honeymoon, he painted my mother in her wedding dress.” The family eventually moved from Philadelphia to Newtown Square, where Tony designed and built a large house.

By the early 1930s, Antonio had begun painting the richly colored, darkly atmospheric landscapes of Manayunk, paintings for which he is best known today. “Dad found many subjects to paint in Manayunk,” recalls Manos. “As a result, many people felt he, along with my Uncle Giovanni, had put Manayunk on the map, as he painted there in all seasons, for many years.” Giovanni Martino painted many scenes in Manayunk, as daughter Babette does today. The former working-class community on the banks of the Schuylkill River in northwestern Philadelphia, with its looming factory buildings, towering church steeples, and hillside houses would remain Tony’s favorite subject for nearly forty years. In a 1968 interview with Nels Nelson for the Philadelphia Daily News, Tony Martino admitted he did not really know why he painted Manayunk, but added, “I like hills and I like houses and Manayunk has a lot of both.” Asked if he had been encouraged to paint as a young man, he replied, “No one could stop me!”

Throughout his life, Antonio Martino was highly respected by his professional peers. During his prolific career, he earned more than eighty awards. He was a member of the Watercolor Society of New York and the National Academy of Design, to which he was elected in 1938. He was a friend of Sellersville, Bucks County, artist Walter Emerson Baum (1884–1956), founder of the Baum School of Art in Allentown, which exists today. During the 1950s, Antonio Martino taught at the Baum School.

Antonio’s paintings have been exhibited at major American art institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Virginia Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. His work is represented in more than twenty-five public collections in the United States, among them the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Woodmere Art Museum, Allentown Art Museum, Reading Public Museum, James A. Michener Art Museum, National Academy of Design, University of Delaware, American Watercolor Society, and the Butler Institute of American Art, in Youngstown, Ohio.

Antonio Martino lived in Newtown Square until 1971, when he and his wife moved to Thousand Oaks, Ventura County, California, where he began painting West Coast landscapes. These scenes, many including sailboats and waterfront views, were much lighter and brighter than his Manayunk work and these, too, garnered awards for the prolific artist. Always a hard worker, he continued painting until a few months before his death, on September 3, 1988, in Thousand Oaks. His wife Clementina died eighteen months later.

Paul Gratz, proprietor and chief conservator of the Gratz Gallery and Conservation Studio in New Hope, which handles works by leading American and European artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, believes Antonio Martino’s work to be of great value. Gratz, who specializes in paintings by the New Hope School of Pennsylvania Impressionists, contends works by Antonio Martino are of “investment quality,” and lauds them for their color and intensity.

In 1941, brothers Frank and Antonio founded Martino Studios at 27 South 18th Street. The seven Martinos worked at the studio among a staff of twenty artists. There was enough work for all. Antonio, who continued working at the studio until the 1960s, and Giovanni sketched figures and created characters. Ernesto supervised layout decoration. William worked as a layout artist. Edmund took charge of lettering and cartoon art. Albert served as business manager.

The studio produced advertising art for a number of national clients, including N.W. Ayer and Son, the country’s first advertising agency, founded in 1869 in Philadelphia and responsible for creating some of the most enduring slogans in the history of advertising: “When it rains it pours” for Morton Salt in 1912; “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1921; and “A diamond is forever” for DeBeers in 1948. Other Martino Studios clients included Scott Paper Company, Philco Corporation, Bell Telephone, and E. I. du Pont de Nemours.

“During the thirties and forties, a watch could be set at nearly the same time as Dad arrived home from work from the studio,” continues Marie Martino Manos. “Mother knew to have dinner ready the moment Dad walked in the door. As soon as he finished his last bite, he would go back to his tiny studio and paint until late at night. He did this every workweek night for many years.”

Frank, who also attended the Pennsylvania Museum School, inspired and taught his brothers early on. He eventually became successful as an illustrator, creating The Buccaneer, an illustration for a story that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, published in Philadelphia.

Giovanni Martino studied at the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the Spring Garden Institute, the La France Art Institute, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He held several teaching positions at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, and taught drawing at the Philadelphia Sketch Club. From 1941 to 1970, he worked and taught at the Martino Studios. He signed his early works M. Giovanni in an attempt to disassociate his paintings and career from those of his famous older brother.

In addition to painting scenes of Manayunk, both Giovanni and Antonio sketched and painted industrial scenes throughout the Philadelphia area as well as pastoral landscapes along the Delaware River, north of the city in Bucks County. Giovanni favored wintry landscapes and applied paint thickly to his canvases to capture fallen snow. Many critics and art historians believe his Manayunk paintings relate in a number of ways to the works of Edward Hopper (1882–1967), best remembered for his eerily realistic depictions of solitude in twentieth-century American life, epitomized by his most famous painting, Nighthawks (1942). Hopper’s Nighthawks depicts customers sitting at the counter of an all-night diner. The diner’s harsh lighting sets it apart from the gentle night outside. Inside, the patrons appear forlornly isolated, even ghoulish. Giovanni’s portrayals of Manayunk are no less dramatic. His moody streetscapes appear motionless, with a solitary figure or two appearing in the compositions, and he masterfully utilizes shadow and light to convey an undeniable richness. In his earlier works, Giovanni had employed an impressionistic style but his later pieces gave way to a starkness that is as engaging as it is haunting. Like Antonio, Giovanni exhibited his paintings in major venues, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Corcoran Gallery, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His work is in the permanent collections of the National Academy of Design, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Allentown Art Museum, Woodmere Art Museum, Reading Public Museum, and New York’s Salmagundi Club, among others.

Giovanni married Eva Marinelli, twenty-one years his junior, who, after studying with her husband, also became an accomplished painter. The couple had two daughters, Nina F.Martino, born in 1952, and Babette Martino, born in 1956, both of whom are accomplished and award-winning artists. Babette has had numerous exhibitions and received two prestigious Pew Fellowships, major cash awards given by the foundation to outstanding artists to help further their careers. “My father would rise at dawn,” Babette remembers. “In the summer he would set up his easel, stool, paint box, and paint his subject on the spot. When the weather turned cooler, he painted in the front seat of his car, using the steering wheel on which to rest his easel.

“Going out painting with my father was quite an experience. He put so much energy and intensity in every brush stroke on his canvas. He also worked very fast in mixing his colors and then calmly placed them on his canvas. As a child, I wondered how it was possible to achieve the colors in his paintings, from small, neatly placed pure colors surrounding the rim of his palette. I wish I could do this, too. When painting in his studio, there was either silence or he would listen to classical music.”

Giovanni Martino died in 1998, ten years after Antonio, and his canvases still command attention from art museums, galleries, collectors, dealers, and admirers. The Martino family home in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, contains the studios of Babette, Eva (still painting at the age of 77), and Giovanni, where his easel still stands, surrounded by works representing various periods. In 2005, his widow and daughters donated his papers to the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.

Edmund (“Eddie”) Martino, who had married Victoria Mustaco, also enjoyed an art career, outside the Martino Studios, and exhibited at the Woodmere Art Museum. An exhibition mounted by the museum in 1955 showcased paintings by various Martino family members, including Edmund’s wife. Edmund, who shared a joint show at the Woodmere with artist Charles Taylor in 1965, won awards for his work from the Philadelphia Sketch Club, DaVinci Art Alliance, and the Wilmington Society of the Arts. He and Victoria made their home in Newtown Square. Before his death in 2000, he had become an artist and an award-winning designer for The Franklin Mint, a leader in collectibles, headquartered in Pennsylvania.

Works by the Martino family are compelling, earning for them — individually and collectively — a niche in the hallowed annals of American art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Not only do their works of art fairly claim standing in the art world — evidenced by the number of public institutions and museums which prize them—but they also capture Philadelphia, its neighborhoods, and the surrounding countryside. These images seem to be frozen in an earlier time for today’s and future generations to enjoy, experience, and examine. Martino may not be as familiar a name as Wyeth, Peale, or Calder, but given time, this family of artists will join the roster of American painters who have made an indelible and undeniable contribution to the world of art.


Travel Tips

For those who wish to see Martino family paintings, several notable museums in Pennsylvania own works by the acclaimed Philadelphia dynasty.

The Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia’s Germantown section holds more than six hundred original paintings and sculptures, including works by Daniel Garber, Thomas Pollock Anshutz, Edward Moran, Violet Oakley, Nelson Shanks, Benjamin West, and N. C. Wyeth. The museum also focuses on Philadelphia’s artistic legacy and includes several Martino family paintings in its collection. An example by Antonio P. Martino is currently on display.

With a collection of nearly eighteen hundred paintings, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts owns some of the most important works of art in the world, including canvases by Antonio P. and Giovanni Martino. Since 1805, the academy has trained some of America’s most famous artists.

The Allentown Art Museum, with more than eleven hundred works of art, is dedicated to showcasing the arts and crafts of southeastern Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. The museum holds paintings and sculptures by Bucks County artists, in addition to Cathedral by Antonio P. Martino. The Reading Public Museum, highlighting American, European, and Berks County artists, possesses an Antonio P. Martino painting. The Palmer Museum of Art on the University Park campus of the Pennsylvania State University boasts a sculpture garden and eleven galleries containing ceramics, photographs, and a wide collection of paintings and prints dating from the eighteenth century through the present.

Now in its fortieth year, “Art of the State,” at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, is one of the Commonwealth’s most prestigious annual showcases. A panel of distinguished Mid-Atlantic region judges will select established and emerging artists from throughout the Keystone State to exhibit their works in this year’s show. “Art of the State” will be on view from Saturday, June 9, through Sunday, September 9 [2007].

The Carnegie Museum of Art at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of art in the world, including an extensive collection of twentieth-century paintings.


For Further Reading

Alterman, James. New Hope for American Art. Lambertville, N. J.: Jim’s of Lambertville and the Alterman Press, 2005.

Goddard, Donald. American Painting. New York: Beaux Arts Editions, 1990.

Hall, Audrey, comp. A Century of Philadelphia Artists. Philadelphia: Frank S. Schwarz & Son, 1988.

Hutson-Saxton, Martha Young. Walter Emerson Baum, 1884–1956: Pennsylvania Artist and Founder of the Baum School of Art and Allentown Art Museum. Souderton, Pa.: Indian Valley Printing Company, 1996.

Nelly, Susan. The Spirit of America: American Art from 1829 to 1970. New York: Spanierman Gallery, 2002.

Peterson, Brian H., ed. Pennsylvania Impressionism. Doylestown and Philadelphia: James A. Michener Art Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Richman, Irwin. Pennsylvania’s Painters. University Park: Pennsylvania Historical Association, 1983.

Spanierman, Deborah. 110 Years of American Art: 1830–1940. New York: Spanierman Gallery, 2001.

Ward, John L. American Realist Painting, 1945–1980. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1989.


The author acknowledges and thanks members of the Martino family, who graciously provided valuable information and family photographs for this article: Antoinette Martino Pioti, Babette Martino, Carmen and Linda Martino, Eva Martino, Marie Martino Manos, and Victoria Martino Gillespie.


James McClelland contributes frequently to Pennsylvania Heritage.