Michael Insinna


Michael Insinna, was a very talented painter on the New York art scene in the 1940's and 1950's .

That was a most interesting time for creative arts everywhere, but especially in New York!

The Art Student's League was THE school for the progressive painter.
Michael and Cappi met there while studying with Robert Brackman, a direct disciple of the most wonderful portrait painter and teacher, Robert Henri.

Greatness is measured by heart and soul, as well as by accomplishments!

Michael was a terrific artist and an unusual father, which benefited his children and expanded their horizons in many ways while they were growing up.

Every summer he would take them separately to the Museum of Natural History, and visit the Paleontology department where he worked as an artist.

He instilled in them a life-long love of the natural world, of the mineral and animal kingdoms, along with a curiosity and a respect for the world of color and form. Gemma became an artist by building on that foundation that he began.

Michael Insinna - A Self Portarit
Michael Insinna
A Self Portrait

Michael Insinna's Biography

" If you are to be an artist, you must first learn to draw and draw expressively. You must do this before you can paint. Only then will you be able to make yourself, your aims, and your thoughts fully understood "

This is what Michael would tell his students at the Famous Artists School , in Westport Connecticut in the 1960's, where he was one of the "Famous Artist's" stable of instructors.

Born in Passaic, New Jersey, he was only a boy when he realized he wanted to be a painter and spent his entire life in the pursuit and realization of that dream. He had his heart set on attending one of the most famous fine old art schools in the eastern USA, Cooper Union, in New York City. He was overjoyed when he'd been accepted, but almost immediately he had to face a serious problem. His family was experiencing financial hardships, and he had to do his share to keep it afloat economically.

At night he attended classes at Cooper Union, and by day worked at a soda fountain, as a clerk, or did any job he could find.

"Getting my art education was a struggle" he used to reminisce "I had to fight for it all the way!"
Finally he developed his skill to such a degree that he was awarded a scholarship at the Art Student's League. Here he studied with Robert Brackman, the noted portrait painter, among many other famous artists.

But the United States was already embroiled in WWII, and Michael was called into the Army. When his military duties allowed, he worked at his art, and with the end of the war, he was able to resume his studies at the Art Student's League.

Robert Brackman's teaching again brought enrichment. Michael learned much too, from William Zorach, the famed sculptor and Ivan Olinsky, the portraitist. He was already selling portraits.

The image below is from the 1940's and shows that even at this early stage in his career, he was already considered a highly talented and respected artist.

Michael Insinna,
named in Art Digest review of best works in Painting in the United States

A good artist can make a good teacher. After completing his formal art training, Michael was offered a teaching job with the Franklin School of Professional Arts, in New York City.
He taught anatomy, drawing, and painting - and every spare moment, he painted!

Soon his work was being exhibited at the National Academy of Design and The Carnegie International Show in Pittsburgh, PA, by personal invitation from Homer Saint-Gaudens. Participating in this show were such renowned artists as Salvador Dali, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Esther Williams and Andrew Wyeth, to name a few. He participated with Portrait of an Artist.

At this time he was very active in various shows and galleries in New York and New Jersey, including the prestigious Montclair Art Museum

He spent one summer in Mexico, along with Cappi Insinna his new wife, also an accomplished painter in her own right, attending classes at the San Miguel de Allende Art Institute.

After five years of teaching, Michael moved to the Museum of Natural History, where a fascinating job awaited him.

For four days a week he studied and drew fossils--dinosaurs, fish, and other ancient life forms - which were used in museum publications - and he did illustrations for Natural History Magazine and Novitates, the Museum's News Journal.

The other 3 days he drew and painted. He aquired freelance accounts in the book publishing world; Harcourt, Brace and World, John Wiley and Sons, McGraw-Hill and others, illustrating juvenile as well as adult books.

He illustrated the very popular book, Dinosaur Hunt by George Whitaker and Joan Meyers.

When after fourteen years at the Museum, his love of teaching reasserted itself, he joined the Famous Artists School. "I really enjoy working with young people" he would say.

Michael continued to paint all his life and his passion never faded. He was an avid collector of art books and of knowledge until the very end of his life in 1976, when he died in his home in Westport, Connecticut of a heart attack, at the age of 64.

His art lives on and is as vibrant and powerful as when his brush touched the canvases. His legacy and passion for form, although figurative, became increasingly more abstract in the 1970's. His fascination with the colors and figures of Mexico, from that distant summer, lived on in his memory and now in ours. His many Mexican inspired canvases continued to fascinate him and the theme evolved from realism to an abstract expressionism.

His Life in Pictures

The Video Below shows snapshots of student life at The Art Students League, through various show directory highlights of early career, early book illustrations, on to the Museum of Natural History works, and Dinosaur Hunt, and finally to the Famous Artists School, the final photo.


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