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January 19, 2006

Taking a tour of Pitt art

The University is a repository for numerous art treasures from throughout the ages. Some are tucked away in obscure corners of libraries and galleries to be viewed only by researchers and scholars; others, such as those in the University Art Gallery, the Nationality Rooms or Heinz Chapel, are world-renowned. Still others are scattered across Pitt campuses in unexpected places indoors and out.

These paintings and sculptures are available for all to see without setting foot in a formal gallery, if one simply knows where to look.

What follows is a sampling of some of Pitt’s artistic delights.


The work of emeritus professor of studio arts Virgil Cantini is well represented on campus.

Familiar to the thousands of drivers and pedestrians who travel on Fifth Avenue each day is Cantini’s three-story-tall bronze and steel sculpture “Man,” mounted on the Parran Hall façade at the Graduate School of Public Health. Two equally eye-catching Cantini works are displayed in the Posvar Hall lobby.

Near 1500 Posvar, visitors who look up will see the imposing “Skyscape,” a 1965 creation of steel rods and multicolored glass. Cantini’s enamel-on-steel work “Enlightenment and Joy” is near the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs/economics library on the first floor of Posvar. The colorful wall-sized work was completed in 1977.


Between Posvar Hall and Hillman Library stands an important 1974 work by architectural designer, painter and sculptor Tony Smith. The bright yellow painted steel piece, “Light Up,” commissioned by Westinghouse, originally stood in downtown Pittsburgh.

The 20-foot-tall sculpture was donated to the University and re-installed on the Pitt campus in 1988. The well-traveled work was loaned briefly to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City where it was displayed in front of the Seagram Building as part of a 1998 Smith retrospective.


A number of photos, engravings, watercolors and mixed media works — many of them gifts from the Consolidated Natural Gas Foundation — hang on the second and third floors of Mervis Hall in the Katz Graduate School of Business. Other treasures in the building include a kinetic sculpture, “Twin Circles Geared Together” by Willi Gutmann, located on the second floor. The aluminum piece, done in 1971, was a gift from ALCOA.

On the third floor, the Salvador Dali lithograph, “Cosmic Athlete,” a gift of business professor and spouse Prem and Asha Prakash, is among several works gracing the hallways.


In addition to housing the University Art Gallery, the Frick Fine Arts Building is home to a series of more than 20 reproductions of 15th-century Italian Renaissance paintings, including Alessandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.”

Russian artist Nicholas Lochoff was commissioned in 1911 by the Moscow Museum of Fine Arts to travel to Italy to reproduce the famed works. His paintings were purchased and donated by Helen Clay Frick and now hang in the Nicholas Lochoff Cloister area of the building.


Health Sciences Library System’s Falk Library in Scaife Hall has a unique collection of paintings donated by Ralph M. Kniseley.

A 1943 graduate of Pitt’s School of Medicine, Kniseley completed a residency at the Mayo Clinic and later became chief of research and training at the Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Kniseley also was director of the International Atomic Energy Association’s life sciences division in Vienna. An accomplished artist, Kniseley periodically donates his works to the library. Today, nearly four dozen of them are displayed in the library’s public areas, conference rooms and staff offices.


An elevator ride to the seventh floor lobby of Alumni Hall leads to Felix de la Concha’s “One a Day: 365 Views of the Cathedral of Learning.”

From 1997 to 1999, the Spanish-born artist painted different views of the Cathedral until he had completed one for each day of the year. The stunning paintings span the seasons and portray the Cathedral in all sorts of weather from viewpoints near and far.

First displayed in a 1999 exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the paintings were brought to the University thanks to a donation by alumnus Milton Fine and his wife Sheila.


Sculptor Giuseppe Moretti’s 1897 panther sculpture resides in a paneled wood case in the Grand Lounge on the first floor of the William Pitt Union. Additional Moretti works — his monument of Stephen Foster in Schenley Plaza and his Panther Hollow Bridge panther sculptures — are nearby.


In addition to the selection of Audubon prints on view in the library’s ground floor display case are many graphic and sculptural works nestled among the stairways and study areas on the building’s upper floors. Many are on loan from the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Cantini fans will find several of his works in the library, including a wood and metal sculpture of an arrow-pierced St. Sebastian, located in the first floor stairwell.

Flanking the wall opposite the first floor reference desk are two abstract works: “Modern Warfare” by Kes Zapkus and “Arcing Light” by Albert Stadler.

Among the works on the second floor are a large bust of Confucius by Chinese artist Li Guangyu and a stone sculpture, “The Sound of Autumn,” by Masayuki Nagare.

Near the special collections reading room on the third floor is a selection of early 20th century illustrations in watercolor, charcoal and crayon created to accompany the work of mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Pittsburgh-born author’s manuscripts and books, donated by her family, are part of the library’s special collections holdings.

Also on the third floor are works by winners of the 2005 A.J. Schneider Studio Arts Award, selected from among entries in the annual student exhibition. Winners agree to allow their work to be displayed for one year in the reading room created in memory of Schneider, a Pitt alumnus killed in a 1996 military helicopter accident in North Carolina.


An environmental-themed mural, done in acrylic, graces the natural sciences building, Fisher Hall. It was painted by assistant professor of art Kong Ho and his summer 2002 mural design class. Ho also is the artist who created a decorative sea-themed bench on display in Blaisdell Hall.

The T. Edward and Tullah Hanley Library houses nude figures in bronze donated by Tullah Hanley. The male figure was created in 1898 by H. C. Anderson. The female figure was made in 1899 by Mercatali Brothers.

Another bronze work, purchased by the University in 1991, is featured in the library. “The Eye of the Storm” was created by former Bradford resident Dave Hodges, a noted sculptor of Western scenes.


Millstein Library features a painting n loan from the Westmoreland Museum of American Art: Robert Qualters’s “Greensburg, Pa., 1971,” done in oil and acrylic on canvas.

The stained glass work, “Upward to the Light,” which represents Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is installed on the library tower. It is the work of UPG graduate Terry Bengel.

In The Exchange coffeehouse Located in Village Hall is “Campus Life” by Ruben Alfonso Lopez Nieto of the University of Guanajuato, Mexico. Nieto, an exchange instructor on the UPG campus in 2003-04, painted the work as a gift to the campus.


UPT’s Helene Barco Duratz Plaza features a four-sided, lighted clock modeled after a Seth Thomas pedestal clock that once stood at the entrance to a Chicago stockyard. Made by Meadville area artisan Gary Coburn, the cast aluminum clock with brass accents is decorated with ornamental lions’ heads and rosettes.

Given by James J. Duratz of Meadville as part of a $250,000 gift to create a plaza in memory of his wife, the ornate clock has been in place on the Titusville campus since 2002.

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