Jean Cunningham Marcellino was born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut. She graduated from Cooper Union’s Art School in 1960, tied with Fred Marcellino (later her husband) as having the highest grade point average. While CU was primarily a fine arts school, she was able to take some courses in graphic and advertising design, which presented the prospect of combining a love of words with a love of images. She was intrigued by “the concept of a concept.”
After some initial jobs in advertising, publishing, and sales promotion, she became an art director/designer at Columbia Records, creating ads and album covers for many popular acts. During the early ‘70s, in addition to raising a son, she and her husband formed a graphic design studio, specializing in book jackets, record albums and corporate identity development. For three years Jean headed the advertising arm of creative services for Arista Records.
In 1980 she joined Lord Geller Federico Einstein, a prestigious, highly creative advertising agency, achieving a vice-presidency two years later. During her nearly seven years there, she worked on many accounts, including Tiffany and The New Yorker. For six years her primary account was IBM’s corporate division, for which her work earned many industry awards, from the One Show, Communication Arts, Stephen Kelly, The Art Directors Club, Clio, Andy, AIGA, International Festival, The Creativity Show and many others.
In early 1993, she struck out on her own. After a brief submersion in computer courses at The School of Visual Arts, she began to free-lance as both an art director and graphic designer. She worked as an Art Director/VP in a number of agencies, eventually landing at J. Walter Thompson as Senior Partner and Creative Director, working exclusively on the Merrill Lynch account.
Jean ended her advertising career in 2003. She then rediscovered her love of drawing and painting, rebelling against the education she’d received during the era of abstract expressionism. She set about the task of trying to create representational images in a manner that was in harmony with the art that most attracted her in museum visits. Ever since, she has regularly attended drawing sessions at Spring Studio in SoHo, working mostly in pastel. In 2005/06, she studied tonal drawing with Ephraim Rubenstein at the Art Students League, continuing on there to take courses with Costa Vavagiakas in painting.
At the same time, she joined the Painting Group, then headed by David Levine and Aaron Shikler. Sandra Day O’Connor, upon retirement, agreed to pose for that group in October of 2006. All of the paintings produced on that occasion were presented in a group exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. A film by Neil Leifer was also produced during the portrait session, which was aired on Cinemax, becoming a runner-up for an Oscar in the documentary category. Alone among the paintings, the NP Gallery acquired Jean’s portrait, where it was on display in the Contemporary Americans Gallery for five years. It is now in the permanent collection.
Jean has attended the American Academy in Rome on three occasions as a Visiting Artist, her project in each case being “simply to draw sculpture.” Additional trips to Italy have afforded the opportunity to continue her project on her own.
Jean’s work has been widely displayed, appearing in juried exhibitions at the Staten Island Museum, the Salmagundi, the National Arts Club, A.I.R. Gallery, a solo show at Spring Studio, in group exhibitions annually at the Century Association, and in several Chelsea galleries, among them The Highline Loft, Rogue Space, NoHo 55, and Atlantic. She has won first place Curator’s Choice Awards from Barebrush on twelve occasions. In Paris, she is represented by Dorothy’s Gallery on Rue Keller in the Marais.
Making Quick Progress with a Confident Hand
by Bob Bahr
Cover of American Artist “Drawing” Magazine, Winter, 2010
This article was published in 2010 in American Artist “Drawing” Magazine
Jean Marcellino’s recent history is startling. In January 2005, she started attending a sketch night with predictable results as a newcomer. “The first few times I went, my drawings were beneath contempt — they were dreadful,” she recalls, “but I gave myself permission to be bad.” As a retiree, Marcellino had plenty of time to devote to her improvement in drawing and painting, and she soon found herself creating art every day. In October 2006, the artist was part of a group who invited retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to sit for a portrait. Marcellino’s oil painting was chosen by the National Portrait Gallery for its collection, and it currently hangs in that Washington, DC, museum. From “beneath contempt” to hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in less than two years? Marcellino’s story is even more interesting and complex than that timeline implies.
She was an art major at The Cooper Union, in New York City, in 1960 when Abstract Expresionism held sway and students were “all trying to copy De Kooning,” according to Marcellino. “I was not in love with AbEx, but i had to please my teachers…” >> Read more