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Detail from Chieffo's Mondo Bambini

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Clifford Chieffo 50 Years: The Founding of Art, Music and Theater at Georgetown

Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery
October 16, 2017
January 26, 2018

To begin, it is a misnomer to call this display a proper exhibition, because for me it is more precisely a narrative of both a tour through my studio and personal library, and my service as a professor and curator over five decades at Georgetown. In concept, it is more in the tradition of the 19th century Gentleman’s Cabinet. Though not exactly a Cabinet of Curiosities (disambiguation) or The Kunstkammer of the 16th–17th century— some may find an artist’s studio just that.

Regarding the social function of a Cabinet, my version here is best described by R.J.W. Evans’s notes on the topic stating, “[it can be] the more modest collection of the humanist scholar or virtuoso [sic], which served more practical [and artistic] and scientific purposes.”1

Over five decades, the temptation is great for revisionist history to be made—hence, the need for a visual narrative rather than a literary creation. For me as an artist, the ideas, research and the stuff of life is found in and is all about the end product—an object or artwork.

The display cases, for the most part, are loosely divided by decade and punctuated/anchored by major Georgetown events and/or by my books, grant reports, research results, etc. which will trigger and define the objects that follow. The labels may be informal, informative, or purely citations, and frequently in the first person singular or plural narrative style.

For example, the first display case begins with a prequel of the people and events that led to my being hired by Rev. Gerald Campbell S.J., then president in 1967. He served as president from December 1964 to January 1969, and interestingly, my arrival was directly in the middle of his term. At the time of my contract signing I was 29 years old and Georgetown, like colleges and universities across the country, was in an expansion and growth period.

In my first two years at Georgetown, the Faculty Senate was established, women were admitted to the College, undergraduate admissions began national recruitment, and construction on Lauinger Library had begun. Last but not least, the Arts bubble in the Georgetown glass of champagne rose to the top of the Dean’s priority list, and I founded/established the new Department of Art, Music & Theater.

Enjoy your visual stroll through my Cabinet!

1Impey, MacGregor, Oliver, Arthur, eds. The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe. Oxford University Press (1985), p. 737.


Foundation of the Department, Teaching and Faculty

Three Main Actors

The Prequel or the fortuitous precedents to Clifford Chieffo 50 years, as Exhibition Designer Dan Treado (C’88) muses, involves three main actors. Influenced by two faculty members introducing studio courses in the old Art Department, Artist Painter, Terry Netter, S.J. (GU Archives) and Artist Sculptor, Joan Caryl (Photo by Chieffo), Dean of the College Royden B. Davis, S.J. University Archives declared in 1967, "The beginning of a vital Fine Arts Department with studio courses in drawing, painting, and sculpture...[is essential].” Fr. Davis S.J. changed the name of the Art Department to The Art, Music & Theater Department, and hired me with the academic charge to “Fix the Arts at Georgetown.”

Early Faculty Grouping

Fr. Davis, S.J. remarked, “I engaged the right side of my brain, and got Art!” Early Faculty Grouping: Donn Murphy with Mask & Bauble Players, Paul Hume with Glee Club (GU Archives). José Bowen at the keyboard (Photo by Chieffo).


Self-Portrait of the Artist and his Muse, Patricia
(Photo by Chieffo)

Free at Last
1968. MLK leading by example, Strike-400 Portfolio published by Washington Print Club.
University Art Collection
Gift of Nina M. Chieffo, L.V.T. (C’89)

Pat’s Dream
University Art Collection
Gift of Toby Chieffo-Reidway, Ph.D. (C’93)

Art Majors

Senior Art Majors 1974
In Riggs studio
(Photo by Chieffo)

Ginsberg Poster
Frank O. Lind, III (C’70), Art Major
GU Archives
Gift of Aloysius Church, (C’68) responsible, with the Yard Cultural Committee, for bringing Ginsberg to Gaston Hall.

Assortment of Art Majors in Various Studios
c. 1967-70s
(Photos by Chieffo)

Misty Dailey in drawing class in Walsh

Walter Egan (C’70), with his album cover for his hit song, Magnet & Steel (1978) GU Archives. Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac sang background vocals and co-produced the song. Walt’s inspiration for the song was Nicks.

Publications and Art Works


Silkscreen as a Fine Art
Van Nostrand Reinhold Company (1967)
The first silkscreen book written by an artist/painter for artists. Contains innovative stencil making techniques and new materials.

Pat’s Pumpkin
University Art Collection
Gift of Toby Chieffo-Reidway, Ph.D. (C’93)

Matrix in watercolor for both the 2D print and the folded 3D Plexiglas-boxed print.

In the Beginning
Both 2D & 3D versions shown here. Both believed to be the first silkscreens created to be viewed in 2D & 3D versions.
University Art Collection
Gift of Toby Chieffo-Reidway, Ph.D. (C’93)

Decalomania Revisited
University Art Collection.
Gift of Nina M. Chieffo, L.V.T. (C’89)
Decal silkscreen print on glass

Interactions with Artists


Chieffo speaks with the Head of Yale School of Design & Bauhaus Faculty Member, artist Josef Albers (1888-1976) at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art (DC) about silkscreen techniques and the making of his book, The Interaction of Color, (1963).

Chieffo and artist Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) with DC Print Gallery owner, Barbara Fendrick discussing the subtleties of silk-screening on canvas.

The Gabo Project

The Gabo Project: A Memoir, a recounting of Chieffo’s years working as studio assistant to Naum Gabo (1890-1977) from 1961-63. The internationally recognized legendary sculptor, Gabo was the founder of the art movement Constructivism.

Film stills from Chieffo’s Gabo Family Movie:
Gabo inspecting the croquet playing field while smoking his favorite cigar—Squillo.
Chieffo & Gabo talking about the game of chess.

Studio International, April 1966. "Naum Gabo and the Constructivist Tradition" with cover photo: Linear Construction #2.

The Exorcist, 1970s

On and Off the Movie Set

The Exorcist at Georgetown (1972)

Lee J. Cobb waiting for cue

William (Billy) Friedkin, Director, with coffee on the crane checking the Exorcist Steps shot

Jason Miller on the scene
(Photos by Chieffo)

Billy Friedkin & Chieffo at the Washington, D.C.premiere (Photos by Patricia Chieffo).

Max von Sydow in photo that became the trademark shot for the movie (Photo by Warner Bros).

Approximately 550 students were extras. At 1-1/2 years old, Toby Chieffo-Reidway (C’93) was the youngest extra and this served as her admissions essay when applying to Georgetown.

Chieffo not making the winning shot in the game between the faculty Demons and the actors/crew Exorcists [Note: Baltimore semi-pro-ringer]. Demons won by one point–Friedkin was not happy. (Photo by Warner Bros.)

Curatorial Work

Office of Curator

Subsequent to establishing the Office of Curator (1970) came the responsibility of oversight for any historic GU physical space on or off campus. Chieffo, an active member of American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, consulted with architects and contractors to evaluate the most historically accurate methods for historic space restoration. Chieffo on lower scaffolding reviewing Conservator Ken Milton’s work on Gaston murals.

Historic Spaces

Curator with Associate Curator, Patricia H. Chieffo protecting the Riggs interior gargoyles during renovation (photo by University Photographer).

Office of Curator involvement included: Healy Hallways, Constitution Room, Hall of Cardinals, Riggs Library, Carroll Parlor, Office of the President (new GU Seal window), Sports Hall (Leavey Center), Hall of Presidents (Riggs), Nestorian Monument replica and Torah Case (both ICC) and the John Carroll Statue (photos by Chieffo).

Patrick Ewing: Student to Author to Coach, 1980s


Patrick A. Ewing (C’85) and Coach John R. Thompson Jr. Victory hug for the 1984 Georgetown National Championship.

Chieffo & Ewing in painting class––only extant photo of Ewing as a student art major, 1982 (photo by University photographer, Bill Auth). From Chieffo collection of annual photo sessions of art majors in the studio.

In The Paint. Patrick Ewing & Linda L. Louis, Abbeville Press (1999).

Objet de Curiosité: Coca-Cola bottle honoring 1984 Championship

Mattel NBA NY Knicks Barbie Doll.

Research on Painting Materials and Technique

American Artist

American Artist, February, 1983. Chieffo became the Technical Page writer/editor, replacing the venerable Ralph Mayer (1895-1979), author of The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques (1940), the indispensable guide for artists, including Chieffo and Gabo.

Oil Painting

The Contemporary Oil Painter’s Handbook. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1976. Complete with oil painting history, pigment origins, techniques, photography and conservation.

Demo #1 (1965) a one-hour acrylic painting done for my Painting I class at the Corcoran School of Art & Design, courtesy of Nina M. Chieffo (C’89).

Note: Writing the book triggered a deeper research interest in early paints. This culminated in a Visiting Scholar grant to Winsor & Newton Colour Works at Wealdstone, UK in 1985, to review their original 19th-century paint manufacturing ledgers and observe the paint making process.

The Artists' Colourmen’s Story: A Guide to the History of Artists' Colourmen of London as Illustrated in the Artists' Colourmen's Room at the Winsor & Newton Colour Works at Wealdstone

Raw Materials

Raw materials for making rose madder; cochineal dried shells to make carmine red; glass muller for grinding pigments; gum arabic, used as a binder in watercolor paints; rabbit skin glue crystals; empty watercolor tubes; jars of powdered pigments.

Research on Portrait Miniatures: Materials and Methods


Research into paint manufacturing coincides with the insurgence of portrait miniature painting in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom beginning in the Elizabethan Era. Publications served to aid and instruct practitioners of the art of watercolor painting on ivory.

Unknown Author. The Art of Drawing and Painting in Water-Colours. (Dublin, 1763).

Mansion, L. Letters Upon Miniature Painting. (London, 1823).

Hoofnail, John. The Painter’s Companion: Treatise on Colours. (London, 1738).

Unknown Author. The Art of Painting in Miniature. (London, 1739).

Enfield, Wm. Young Artist’s Assistant. (London, 1824).

Parsey, A. The Art of Miniature Painting on Ivory. (London, 1831).

Boyle, Robert. The Painter’s Companion or A Treatise on Colours. (London, 1923).

Whitlock, N. The Miniature Painter’s Manual. (London, 1852).

Traveling Artists

Traveling miniaturist’s paint box: James Newman (Art Supplies) Reeves paints. Complete with unfolding easel and locking supply drawer.

Two portrait miniatures of father and son, c. 1805-10, by Irish miniaturist Fredrick Buck (1771-1839). Courtesy of Patricia H. Chieffo.

Grants and Prizes

Research begets research:

National Museum Act Grant, 1976-77. Research on the State and Condition of Portrait Miniatures in the United States and the Conservation and Restoration of Portrait Miniatures.

Alternate Winner of the Rome Prize, Visiting Artist/Scholar American Academy in Rome, 1995-1996 to study Italian portrait miniaturists who worked their art in the United States.

Paintboxes of Watercolors: English and American 18th and 19th century


Boxed watercolor paint sets: Collection of various manufacturers' American and English paint sets,some for children, including R. Ackermann, Cole & Bayham, Winsor & Newton, Rowney, Eyre & Spottiswoode, Reeves, and George C. Osborne. (Note that Osborne of Philadelphia was one of the first and few American makers of "toy" paint sets for children, such as the rare circa-1830 example shown here.) The boxed sets included pigments in cake form with a mold seal which served to identify the manufacturers and the color name. The sets contained various painting tools: pencils (brushes), porcelain palettes & mixing dishes, etc.

A unique Parsons’ Fine Colours: A tin containing watercolor paint sticks expressly for the Architect. The lid label announces: “Parsons’ Free Service To Architects.”

Storm Over Boothbay Harbor, Maine (c. 1980s). Chieffo testing "How to Paint in Watercolor" theories using 19th-century cake pigments.

The Clifford T. Chieffo Leonardo da Vinci Medal

Future Artists at Georgetown

Georgetown University Georgetown College Tropaia Exercises, 2017. The Clifford T. Chieffo Award, "named for the founder of Georgetown's Art Department, is for a Studio Art major who, in the judgment of the faculty, best exemplifies excellence, creativity, and initiative in visual art. The winner receives the Da Vinci Medal, based on a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci in Georgetown's Special Collections."

Fredrick M. Hart III (C’2017) receiving the first annual Chieffo/DaVinci Medal from Dean Chester Giles. Chieffo is seated lower left. (Photo by Al Acres, Chair, Department of Art & Art History.)