The Photographic Artistry of Alessandro Baccari Sr. His Son


August 24, 2017 through January 7, 2018


The upcoming exhibit features works by two generations of San Francisco photographers: Alessandro Baccari Sr. (1888 – 1966) and his son Alessandro Baccari Jr. (1928 – ). The exhibit has been designed to explore the development of the creative process and how drama and excitement comes into focus through planned use of light. Each of the photographic images is dramatically unique and reflects the photographers’ insights into composition and design. For Baccari Sr. and his son, creativity is a survival skill and the cutting edge is within one’s mind. As photographers they made up their own laws of composition and in so doing brought originality to their work.

Nude Study, Alessandro Baccari Sr., c. 1938

Nude Study, Alessandro Baccari Sr., c. 1938

Alessandro Baccari Sr. was born in Casacalenda, Molise, Italy on November 20, 1888 and grew up in Naples. He immigrated to the United States with his family, later attending Harvard University. While at Harvard, he began writing plays and musicals. He also worked as a musical composer and conductor and made paintings and ecclesiastical decorations in a number of churches throughout New England. Encouraged by his friends Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, two major contributors in establishing photography as art, Baccari Sr. focused on his photographic talents as well. It was not long before his images attracted the attention of the Eastman Kodak Company. Each year for 30 years they would select a collection of his portraits for a traveling exhibit to promote the company and their products. Among those he photographed in the early days were President Theodore Roosevelt, playwright Eugene O’Neill, actor Will Rogers, Florenz Ziegfeld, and the Barrymores.

In 1925, Baccari Sr. settled in San Francisco when he married Edith Fantozzi, and focused on portrait painting and photography. Among his clientele were such notables as A.P. Giannini, Gaetano Merola, William Randolph Hearst, and inventor Guglielmo Marconi. He went on to become the official photographer of the San Francisco Opera Company, Ballet, and Symphony. He also composed and organized many A Night in Italy musical events held at the Fairmont Hotel to raise money for worthy causes in the Italian American community.

In 1941, he opened the Baccari Mona Lisa Art Gallery at 525 Sutter Street in San Francisco, showcasing for sale art objects, paintings, tapestries, furniture pieces, statues, and vases. The gallery also exhibited the art of up-and-coming young artists. In 1945, he published the Eyes of the Woman magazine, which appeared three times a year with a circulation of 30,000.

Alessandro Baccari Jr. has also enjoyed a versatile career. Over the years he has been described as an educator, businessman, museum curator, musician, broadcaster, author, journalist, poet, artist, and photographer.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Baccari Jr is a graduate of the University of Santa Clara and UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Political Science. In 1958, he became an executive with Westinghouse Broadcasting Company, producing award-winning programs, such as PM East/PM West with Mike Wallace. In 1965, he established Alessandro Baccari and Associates, specializing in public affairs research, advertising, public relations, and graphic design. In 1984, along with his company activities, he served as Associate Dean of the College of Business and Director of the Center for the Study of Enterprise at San Francisco State University.

Serafina, Alessandro Baccari Jr., c.1989

Serafina, Alessandro Baccari Jr., c.1989

His love of California history compelled him to serve as curator and director of the Eureka Foundation where he built 18 museums dedicated to preserving regional history. In 1985 he was knighted by the Italian Government for his book The Chronicles of The Italian Cathedral of The West, a four hundred page illustrated volume on the history of Italian immigrants. Two awards that he is very proud to have received are: the Benemerenti Medal in recognition for his charitable endeavors in 1997 from Pope John Paul II, and the prestigious Silver Cable Car Award in 2001 presented by the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau for his significant contributions to the San Francisco visitors industry.

Photography has long been his passion, and his photographic images have been published in numerous publications and have been exhibited around the world. He is the recipient of many awards as well as of two Fulbright Grants and the Distinguished American Scholars Grant. He was the 2002 recipient of the American Society of Photographers International Award. Over the years, he has served as the executive director of the Professional Photographers of California Association, a trustee of the Brooks Institute of Professional Photography in Santa Barbara, and as a director of the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in Oklahoma.

For Baccari Jr. the greatest gift the camera can offer the serious photographer is “that of seeing, and through seeing, understanding a little bit more about humanity, the significant details of life and the world around us. In the hands of this perceptive person, photographic images become art”.


IMAGES ON HOMEPAGE SLIDESHOW: Ballet Dancer, Alessandro Baccari Sr., c. 1932; Lend A Helping Hand, Alessandro Baccari Jr., 1997; Woman with Sheet Music, Alessandro Baccari Sr., c. 1941; Māori King, Alessandro Baccari Jr., 1997