Theme/Style – Architectural renderings and “portraits,” fantasy landscapes and cityscapes, signage
Media – Watercolor, ink, graphite
Artistic Focus – Working as an architectural draftsman for nearly 40 years, A.G. Rizzoli’s personal artistic journey was a very private one; and his work was not seen by the general public until after his death. He produced a body of architectural renderings in grand Beaux-Arts style, many of which were intended as symbolic portraits of friends and family, depicting them as buildings.
Career Highlights –
- Achilles (A.G.) Rizzoli was born in Point Reyes, California in 1896. He had little formal education, but from the age of 16 to 19 he attended Oakland’s Polytechnic College of Engineering.
- Rizzoli lost his father to suicide in 1915, and around that time he moved to San Francisco, developing his drafting skills as a member of the San Francisco Architecture Club. In 1923 he began writing short stories and novellas about the “boys” in the club, culminating in his self-published The Colonnade in 1933, for which he used the pen name “Peter Meter-maid.”
- Rizzoli worked as a draftsman at the San Francisco architectural firm O.H. Deichmann, while in his spare time creating a vast body of work comprising numerous meticulously detailed drawings of his secret world, including portraits of his coworkers and neighbors in the form of buildings surrounded by cryptic, whimsical, pun-filled inscriptions.
- In the mid-1930s Rizzoli produced another body of drawings for development of his fantasy “expeau.” Inspired by the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, the “expeau” was called Y.T.T.E. (Yield to Total Elation), and along with plot plans the drawings included signs and emblems for its buildings.
- Never married, Rizzoli shared a home with his mother until her death in 1937. A group of his birthday tributes to her, called The Kathedrals, comprises some of his most elaborate architectural portraits; it was followed by another group of artworks containing Mother’s Day poems to her after her death.
- In 1958 Rizzoli began filling large sheets of architectural vellum with poetry, prose, architectural drawings, and quotations. Sometimes serving as a commemoration of a local or historical event, the 350 sheets make up what Rizzoli called the A.C.E. (Amte’s Celestial Extravaganza). Included in Rizzoli’s drawings were words he created in his own private language, such as “Amte,” standing for “Architecture Made To Entertain.”
- A.G. Rizzoli passed away in 1981, five years after he suffered a stroke while working on a sheet from his A.C.E. series called Rest in Peace Awhile.
- Throughout his life as an artist, Rizzoli worked in near-obscurity, holding small annual exhibitions of his work in his home, attended only by his fellow employees, neighbors and the occasional visitor. Nearly a decade after his death, Rizzoli and his artworks were discovered by Bonnie Grossman, owner of the Ames Gallery in Berkeley, California, when some of Rizzoli’s drawings were found and offered to her for sale. Impressed and intrigued, Grossman located Rizzoli’s great-nephew, who had inherited Rizzoli’s complete and extensive oeuvre, including not only his drawings but also handmade books and poems.
- Ms. Grossman brought Rizzoli and his work into the spotlight, and a solo show called “A.G. Rizzoli: Architect of Magnificent Visions” took place at the San Diego Museum of Art in 1997 and traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of American Folk Art in New York, among other venues.
Selection of Works by this Artist
Bibliographic references are available upon request.