From Brooklyn to the Bargello: A Retrospective of the Work of Salvatore Catalano at Nevelson Chapel Gallery




On a recent visit to Saint Peter’s Church to visit the Nevelson Chapel, we were more than delighted to come across an eye-catching new exhibition by artist/illustrator Salvatore Catalano. Lining the walls on two-floors are hundreds of portraits ~ beautifully sketched, of people we all know and love.

Scanning the rows of framed images, viewers will delight at the sight of Nurse Ratched, Golda Meir, Jack Nicholson, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass, the Dalai Lama, Steve van Zandt, Gene Wilder, Anthony Fauci, RBG and on & on & on.

According to the Saint Peter’s Church press release ~

Salvatore John Catalano grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the oldest son of poor Sicilian immigrants. At eleven years old, his father’s death made it necessary for him to work delivering groceries and helping the janitor at the neighborhood church.

An old Italian building superintendent gave young Sal a small book of Raphael’s paintings, sparking his imagination about new worlds beyond his upbringing. He made frequent visits to The Brooklyn Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art, finding it hard to believe that mortals created the masterpieces he discovered there.

Sal created a series of portraits after a career as one of America’s premier commercial illustrators, decades of teaching, and years of studying the masters in Florence, Italy, explaining, “I look for the truth in a face and find it in the eyes.”

Salvatore Catalano, the son of Sicilian immigrant parents, was born in 1941, and grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s. He did his first commercial artwork at age 17 when he was attending the High School of Industrial Art. This was the beginning of his career as an artist/illustrator.

His most recent work-in-progress is a series of portrait drawings. The theme, ‘Saints & Sinners’ came naturally to him. The two outstanding influences in his life were the church and the streets. In church, he learned about heaven and hell and the lives of the saints. In the streets, he heard stories of gangsters and organized crime. The portraits are of people, good and evil and in-between. A three-week show of his portraits in 2017 at The National Arts Club in NYC drew overflow crowds.

As an Associate Professor in the School of Art & Design at FIT in NYC, Mr. Catalano taught a course in Florence, Italy called “The Italian Way: Lessons from the Masters” for fifteen summers. He has been an educator at the college level for more than forty years — at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and at FIT.

Over the course of his career as a professional illustrator, Sal’s commissions include all forms of visual communication from postage stamps, paper-back book covers, magazine ads, direct-mail brochures, posters, billboards, educational material, games and more than thirty books for children. A partial client list includes: The United Nations, U.S. Government Department of the Interior, National Audubon Society, American Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, N.Y. Zoological Society, Children’s Television Workshop, State of New Jersey, Ciba-Geigy, Lederle, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Bayer, Roche, Glaxo/Smith/Kline, Wyeth, Alcon, Baxter, Coca – Cola, Pepsi -Cola, Seagrams, Burger King, General Foods, Sony, Panasonic, Citibank, United Artists, Exxon, DuPont, Scholastic, Harper-Collins, Bantam-Doubleday-Dell, MacMillan, McGraw-Hill. His work has been featured in a wide-range of publications, including Audubon Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Natural History Magazine, The New York Times, The New Yorker, National Wildlife, Ranger Rick, Field & Stream, Redbook and

From Brooklyn to the Bargello: A Retrospective of the Work of Salvatore Catalano spans both the Narthex Gallery and the Living Room at Saint Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, NYC.

The exhibition, curated by Clayton Calvert, will be on view to October 4, 2023

Follow the artist, Salvatore Catalano on Facebook,  Instagram. Twitter, and on Threads at @catalano7127.

While you’re there, be sure to step inside the newly renovated Louise Nevelson Chapel. This is the only remaining, permanent, fully intact sculptural environment by Louise Nevelson.

Although Nevelson was Jewish, she accepted this commission to create in a Christian sanctuary saying that the abstract quality of her work “transcended” traditional denominational barriers.

Nevelson Chapel, August 2023. The chapel was originally completed by Louise Nevelson in 1977

If people can have a moment of peace and carry it with them in their memory banks, then that will be a great success for me.”… Louise Nevelson

Much of the material used in the work to create the sanctuary consisted of found objects and wood pieces from New York City streets.

Nevelson Chapel

Louise Nevelson, born Leah Berliawsky in 1899 in the Poltava Governorate of the Russian Empire (today, Ukraine), passed away in 1988 in New York City.


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