Born in Sorio, in the province of Venice, Italy, Giorgio Cavallon immigrated to the United States in 1920 after the death of his mother four years prior. In 1920 the teenage artist received private art instruction in Worcester, Massachusetts and in 1926 enrolled in the National Academy of Design in New York. He began as a figurative painter but began exploring abstraction in the 1930s. Like other Abstract Expressionists, he did not make the full transition to abstraction until the late 1940s.
In 1936 Cavallon joined other like-minded artists in founding the American Abstract Artists group, with whom he exhibited yearly until 1957. A charter member of The Club, in 1949 he participated in the legendary Ninth Street Show, and the following year Leo Castelli selected his work to appear in the exhibition, Young Painters in the U.S. and France, at Sidney Janis Gallery. As part of the FDR’s New Deal program, Cavallon participated in the Easel and Mural Division of the WPA Federal Art Project, serving as Arshile Gorky’s assistant.
In the 1930s, the artist’s work received public attention and critical acclaim. In Venice in 1932, Cavallon had his first solo exhibition, and two years later he received another one-man show, at ACA Gallery, New York. In the 1940s and 1950s, the artist continued to refine his signature style. Cavallon exhibited with several New York galleries, including Egan, Kootz, A.M. Sachs, Gruenebaum and Jason McCoy. Cavallon’s work was the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, and he participated in several important group shows, including Documenta II, the 1959 Whitney Annual, and The Museum of Modern Art’s 1951 exhibition, Abstract Art in America.
Cavallon was known for his self reliance. He preferred to do everything by himself, by hand. He was known to make his own paints, and even made his own freezer. He had a reputation as an excellent cook and mushrooms were a particular passion. His trips hunting for mushrooms with the composer John Cage and his recipe for spaghetti with clam and anchovy are legendary.
Cavallon’s works are included in numerous museum collections in the United States;including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Boston, MA. In 1988 the artist was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and in 1990, Cavallon’s work was the subject of a retrospectives at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, NY in 1977 and again at the William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT in 1990.
Cavallon enjoyed a long career. He lived and worked in New York City until his death at age 85 in 1989.