Coming to America . . . Remembering when !

New York on that January day was cold . . .

     What were we doing in New York?      How did we get here?

“Artist’s Wife Reading”
Oil on canvas

Nicola had been offered a Show, of his paintings, in a small gallery on 78th. Street, by a young Frenchman who had opened his own gallery, The Bianchini Gallery, in Manhattan, some months earlier. It is an Artist’s dream to show his work in such a vibrant city! So here we were!

We had gone to the Spoleto Festival, in the summer, and had met Paul Bianchini, who was very excited over the prospect of having a One-man Show of Nicola’s paintings in the New York ‘Autumn Season’.

America!   New York! . . . Weren’t the streets paved in gold . . . ! ?
BUT . . . how would we get there, with the paintings?

We returned to Rome, in our beaten-up old FIAT, still planning and dreaming. The obstacles seemed small, although the Atlantic was definitely very large, but nothing would hold us back!

The Fates stepped in . . . . as they have so often in my Life . . . On returning to Rome, Nicola received a ‘phone call from “his” Roman gallery, L’Obelisco, asking him to come in because there was “an American Signore”, who couldn’t speak Italian, wanting to buy 15 SIMBARIs. I waited impatiently in the Studio, in Trastevere, while Nicola rushed off to the centre of Rome to meet the mysterious “Signore”!
Finally, two hours later Nicola arrived back . . .

. . . with George Vigouroux, a tall, elegant, gentleman in his early 50s, with a wonderful laugh and sense of humour. We opened a flask of local wine and ‘got down to business’. By the end of the evening, America was in our future. George bought the paintings he most loved and paid CASH, promising to be in touch with us soon, because he was to open a gallery, with friends, in a place called Palm Beach for ‘the Season’. Whenever that was !

“Spiaggia Calabrese”
Oil on canvas

For us, the important thing was to have enough money to buy our passage on a cargo ship and bring with us the paintings for the Bianchini Gallery Show, in October.

We were so excited
we simply couldn’t sleep . . .
we jumped in the car
and drove to Capri!
Well, to Sorrento . . .
and then the ‘vaporetto’ to Capri . .

“Piazza del Mercato”
Oil on canvas

George kept his word and, after a few weeks, he told us that his little summer gallery in Nantucket, had sold all the paintings he had bought that day in Rome . . . WOW! He was now arranging the Winter Season Opening for his gallery in Palm Beach, Florida. Nicola was to have a show in January. He asked us to contact him as soon as we arrived in New York, so that a date for the show could be arranged, in this unique Florida gallery, on Worth Avenue. He made us promise that he would be invited to the ‘vernissage’ at the Bianchini Gallery and that he would bring ‘some’ friends.

How could we begin to imagine that the most incredible adventure was unfolding before us?

Not in our wildest dreams
could we think up
THIS ‘story’ !!

In mid-September
our “New Life”
     BEGAN . . .

“Luna Park in Ostia”
Oil on canvas

We travelled to New Jersey in an American cargo ship, leaving from Genoa. It was a wonderful voyage of about ten days, and by the time we arrived, we had made firm friends among the crew. They were like a ‘family’ and before disembarking they gave a ‘party’ to wish us luck on our adventure.

How well I recall sailing under the Verazano Bridge, passing the famed Statue of Liberty, and looking across to the New York skyline . . . it was October 1st. 1960 . . . Nicola and I had been married 3 years!!

On the harbour side, in New Jersey, we went through Customs with the paintings, which had been stored on the ship. The Customs Officer was Italian-American and chatted to Nicola in sort-of-Neapolitan Italian, whilst he looked at the paintings . . . so many of the paintings were scenes of Naples and Capri, and Southern Italy . . . and he remembered stories his parents had told him! He passed them through Customs, and Paul Bianchini was there to take them to his gallery and us to our hotel. Our new ‘friend’ wished us every success and hoped to come to visit his ‘paesa’ at the gallery!


The weather was hot and sunny . . . New York was ‘our Apple’ . . . and our Hotel on Madison Avenue had air-conditioning . . . thank goodness!

Once we had settled in our room, Nicola asked me to telephone George Vigouroux, at his New York residence on Park Avenue. This I did. George invited us over to meet his wife and take tea, and meet a friend of his.

Before going out, Nicola called a Patron of his who had bought several Early works, while visiting Italy, some years before. Julius Fleischman, was a Patron of the Arts, well-known for his taste and for his support of all the many aspects of the Arts, in various parts of the world; we were later to come to understand his importance in our lives and the lives of other artists. His friends knew him as “Junkie”. He was a great Gentleman, with a cool wit, and it was always a privilege to be in his company.

Once we arrived at George’s apartment, we were welcomed as if we were his children, and Ethel, his wife, seemed to feel the same! Ethel was to become my “aunt” when we stayed in her magnificent Florida home. She showed me great love and affection and I miss her still . . . . how very wise she was!

George gave me a list of people to whom he wanted sent “official” invitations for the Bianchini Gallery exhibition. We had no idea that they were some of the leading members of the ‘Great American Families’ who invested in The Arts and owned famed collections . . . we were soon to find out!

NOW, I know that IF you have a Dream and you follow it with Passion and Honesty, Fate (the Universe) helps you to attain your Dream . . . it is up to you to be true to your Dream. THIS is the hardest test we ever have to take! There can be no ‘cheating’ and no ‘lying’, especially to The Self!

“Pista dei Ciclisti”
Oil on canvas

The Exhibition was successful, and we were happy with the outcome. Nicola was asked to work on several projects with J. Walter Thompson, the advertising agency, which led to other ‘commercial’ jobs, such as illustrative works in major magazines ( Ladies Home Journal and Saturday Evening Post were the most memorable) and finally an offer from J.B. Lippincott, the publishers, to write and illustrate a children’s book. Nicola had illustrated and designed the cover for a novel by Mary Chamberlain called “Dear Friends and Darling Romans”, which had been published by Lippincott a year earlier . . . they were impressed by the quality of his work !

So, to keep the ‘wolf from the door’ while we waited to go to Palm Beach in January, we rented a small studio apartment, on 47th. Street and 3rd. Avenue. Nicola used his knowledge of ‘commercial’ art, and his vast talent, to work on the various projects. Meanwhile, I sat down to make a lay-out for the children’s book and work on the story line. Time flew by!

Nicola and I argued passionately about our children’s book - - - what should be taken out or, left in - - - and he did some amazing illustrations, filled with humour and imagination. “Gennarino” was our “baby”! Eventually on the New York Times list of Best Illustrated Children’s Book ! I recall our Christmas day . . . I sat on the fire escape, in the freezing cold, vowing I would leave Nicola in the morning! 

But I didn’t !!!

How could I . . . ?
was too exciting !

Cover for the Children’s book
Published by
J.B. Lippincott Co.

January . . . George called us to invite us to join him as his guests in his superb mansion, for Nicola’s One-Man Show and the Opening of The Palm Beach Galleries . . . .

I’d leave Nicola some other time !!!!

The paintings for the Show had been sent to George, our tickets had been bought for the flight to the mysterious Palm Beach, we were packed and ready to go.

We left the ice and snow of New York, and arrived in a sub-tropical Paradise.

There was a limousine to pick us up at the tiny airport, and take us to the “Garden of Eden”, that was Palm Beach.

      Who says you shouldn’t believe in Fairy Tales . . . . ours had just begun!

      The Adventure continues . . .

Illustration by
in his children’s book
published by

© Elfrida 2010

Back to the top back

New !






Again ?



Are They?