Edward Boccia, professor emeritus of art, 91

Painter and poet Edward Boccia, professor emeritus of art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, died Monday, Sept. 3, in his home in Webster Groves from pneumonia. He was 91.

Born in Newark, N.J., in 1921, Boccia initially studied art at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League of New York but left school in 1942 to enlist in the U.S. Army, serving in the 103rd Engineer Combat Battalion. After the war, Boccia returned to New York, earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1948 and 1952, respectively.

Edward Boccia, Eugene, 1985. Hand-colored lithograph, 1/35, 22 3/8 x 27″. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. Gift of Island Press (formerly the Washington University School of Art Collaborative Print Workshop), 1986.

While earning his master’s, Boccia served as dean and taught painting and drawing at the Columbus Art School in Ohio. He came to WUSTL in 1951 as assistant dean of fine arts and taught painting for more than 30 years. He was named professor emeritus in 1986.

Though Boccia’s early works were in the Abstract Expressionist mode, his mature style might be described as “figurative expressionism” and often depicted mythical and Christian imagery. He was deeply influenced by the work of Max Beckmann, to which he was introduced by Morton (Buster) D. May, head of the May Department Stores Company and major art collector. Over the years, May amassed extensive collections of works by both Beckmann and Boccia.

Today, Boccia’s work may be found in numerous collections in the United States and abroad, including the collections of the Denver Art Museum, St. Louis University, University of Missouri St. Louis, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City and WUSTL’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

In addition, Boccia created the mural Path of Redemption (1964) for WUSTL’s Catholic Student Center as well as 14 drawings of the Stations of the Cross and, in 2009, a painting of the Virgin Mary.

Edward Boccia, Self-Portrait, 1982. Oil and canvas. Courtesy of Alice Boccia.

In the 1980s Boccia began writing poetry and since then has published several books of poetry, for which he received numerous national and international prizes.

A Catalogue Raisonné of Boccia’s works is in development. Scholarly contributions to the catalogue and information regarding the location of Boccia artwork for inclusion are requested. Entries may be submitted directly from the website edwardboccia.com.

Boccia is survived by his wife, Madeleine Boccia; his daughter, Alice Boccia; and granddaughter, Jennifer Pateraki.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9, in the Catholic Student Center Chapel, 6352 Forsyth Blvd. A reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the memory of Edward Boccia may be sent to the Catholic Student Center at Washington University, 6352 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, MO 63105; or to Petruta Lipan, director, Saint Louis University Museums and Galleries, Saint Louis University, 221 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63103, for the development of St. Louis University Museum of Art’s art collection.

For more information, contact Alice Boccia at (310) 903-3884 or aliceboccia@ymail.com.