After the attack at Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into the war, the use of civilian labor in war zones became impractical. The Navy therefore created Construction Battalions (from which the abbreviation C.B. became Seabees). John Wayne memorialized the Seabees in the movie The Fighting Seabees, in 1944. An excellent history of the Seabees contribution to the War effort can be seen here.

Michael DiCanzio (1911 - 1990) was a Seabee who served in the South Pacific. As an artist he was able to earn some extra money by drawing postcards for his buddies. He also drew postcards for his loving wife “Pat” that he sent home whenever possible. The post cards bear dates from May through August 1944

When Mike returned to the States he worked various jobs before he became a commercial artist, outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His education came at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia College of Art and Fleisher Art Memorial.

Even as a child, Mike was intrigued by the vast potential of the visual arts. At the age of eight he drew cowboy figures on his parents’ discarded piano rolls, the handiest available paper, that acted like comic strips when put into motion. He would stand behind the door of his bedroom in Brooklyn, New York and roll the pictures down the opposite side, charging his friends a penny in admission to their so-called first feature film. These early artistic beginnings emerged from a man who would later turn down a position with Walt Disney Studios as an artist/designer.

By the time he was fifteen, he was sent by his parents to study with Philadelphia artist, Anthony Cucchi. He, later, recommended that the boy apply for further studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Following his graduation from the Academy, Mike longed for more knowledge of the world of advertising and sought out the Museum School, now the Philadelphia College of Art.

He eventually became an artist/designer for Mel Richman Advertising (Bala-Cynwyd, Pennsylvania), where he remained until he retired from commercial art. However, he continued with his fine art activity right up to his death in 1990.

Mike’s first love was always the fine arts. He received numerous awards and prizes for his paintings and had 15 one-man shows in museums, in National as well as invited exhibitions.

He presented his paintings in one-man and group shows at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and National Academy of Design, New York, Allied Artists of America, New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Trenton State Museum, Newark Museum, Chicago Art Institute, University Art Gallery, Ruckers-New Brunswick, Newman Art Gallery, Philadelphia; Shelton Ham Art Center, Philadelphia; Woodmere Art Gallery, Philadelphia; Wallingford Art Center, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia Sketch Club; Di Vinci Art Alliance, Philadelphia; Wayne Art Center, Pennsylvania and the regional Council of Community Art Centers in Philadelphia.

Mike was a versatile artist and received numerous awards and prizes for his paintings. He did oil on canvas, oil on board, as well as oil on block. He did water colors, charcoal. The subject of his art included animals, landscapes, seascapes and portraits of common still life.

His work has been preserved by the family and is only now being released by way of giclee reproductions in collector limited edition printings.


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