Joseph P. Aulisio
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  • Joseph P. Aulisio (1910–1974)
  • Old Forge, Pennsylvania
  • 1965
  • Oil on Masonite
  • 27 1/4 x 19 1/2 in. (sight)
  • American Folk Art Museum, gift of Arnold B. Fuchs, 1978.8.1
  • Joseph Aulisio’s portrait of his employee Frank Peters suggests that capturing the subject’s personality was as important as creating a naturalistic likeness. While the portraitist became obsolete as a documentarian with the ascendancy of photography, painters have continued to capture nuances of personality and emotion in their renderings of others and themselves. Peters worked as a tailor at Lease Cleaners, a dry-cleaning establishment that Aulisio owned in Old Forge, Pennsylvania. The artist worked with the subject on a daily basis and knew him well. Peters, an elderly white-haired man sporting dark-rimmed glasses and a yellow measuring tape dangling gently from his neck, is depicted frontally and with unstinting honesty—deep furrows and wrinkles on his brow, cheeks, and hands hint at years of hard work. In this painting, Aulisio celebrates the working man, just as painters of centuries past celebrated ministers, ship captains, doctors, and lawyers.

    Aulisio began to paint in 1952 after his wife bought him a paint-by-numbers set for Christmas. Painting was a welcome diversion from his business, which he did not enjoy. He had hoped to work in forestry, the field for which he was trained, but he could not find employment during the Depression years. Drawing on earlier training as a tailor’s apprentice, he opened the cleaners in 1927. In the 1960s he took first prize in the Lackawanna County Art Show, sponsored by the Everhart Museum in Scranton. A few portraits and outdoor scenes, set in and around Old Forge and an area near the Susquehanna River, where Aulisio built a vacation cottage, still hang in Lease Cleaners.