Andrew Bucci, May 2013. (Photo by James Patterson)

Andrew Bucci (1922-2014) was an abstract artist whose prolific career spanned nearly eight decades. He worked primarily in watercolors and oils and drew inspiration from a variety of sources, especially nature and the human face and form. His modernist style has been described as eclectic, lyrical and calligraphic.

One of Bucci’s early fashion-themed drawings, 1930s. (Mississippi Dept. of Archives & History)

Bucci was born on Jan. 12, 1922, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and graduated from St. Aloysius College (High School) in 1938 at age 16. During high school, he took art lessons from Mary Clare Sherwood at All Saints College in Vicksburg.

Bucci’s military portrait, 1943. (Mississippi Dept. of Archives & History)

In the fall of 1938, Bucci enrolled in Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and majored in architectural engineering. While working summers for the Mississippi Highway Department in Jackson, he began taking watercolor lessons from Marie Hull, one of Mississippi’s most prominent 20th century artists. It was the beginning of a close and artistically enriching friendship that endured until her death in 1980.

After graduating from LSU in 1943, Bucci was accepted into the Army Air Force’s weather officer training program at New York University. During World War II, he drew weather maps for the 18th Weather Squadron on air bases in England and Scotland. While stationed at Orly Air Base near Paris after the war’s end, he studied life drawing at the Académie Julian.

Bucci at Orly Air Base in Paris, March 1946. (Mississippi Dept. of Archives & History)

Bucci returned to Vicksburg in 1946 and joined the staff of the local U.S. Weather Bureau. In the fall of 1947, with support from the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During the summer of 1950, he studied and painted with the art colony in Ogunquit, Maine. He graduated from SAIC with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in June of 1951.

Bucci’s earliest drawings reveal a strong interest in fashion and theatrical motifs. After completing his undergraduate degree in Chicago, he moved to New York City and studied fashion illustration at Parsons School of Design for several months. Over the course of his career, fashion-themed figures were focal points in many of his drawings and paintings.

Bucci in New York, Oct. 1951 (Mississippi Dept. of Archives & History)

In 1952, Bucci was called back into military service during the Korean War and was stationed at Lockbourne Air Force Base near Columbus, Ohio. After his release from service in 1953, he returned to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting in June of 1954.

Bucci’s military training in meteorology led to a career with the National Weather Service near Washington, D.C., where he settled in 1956. He became active in D.C.-area art circles and served as president of the Washington Water Color Association from 1963-65. He also maintained a steady presence in the Mississippi art scene. In 1967, his magnolia design appeared on the U.S. postage stamp commemorating Mississippi’s 150th anniversary of statehood. Through the decades, he exhibited work and led painting workshops with the Mississippi Art Colony.

Bucci in his Maryland studio, April 1990. (Mississippi Dept. of Archives & History)

Bucci moved to Fort Washington, Maryland, in 1972 and retired from the National Weather Service in 1979. In 1983, he was artist in residence at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, for the fall semester. He continued painting, drawing and exhibiting artwork in museum and gallery exhibitions for the remainder of his life. Later in his career, Bucci began working in needlepoint and created a series of wool-on-canvas artworks inspired by his paintings and early silkscreens.

Bucci painting in Bovina, Mississippi, May 2013. (Andrew Bucci estate / Photo by Margaret Bucci)

Collections featuring Bucci’s art include the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Johnson Collection, the Arkansas Arts Center, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, among others.

In 2009, Bucci received a Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for lifetime achievement in the visual arts from the Mississippi Arts Commission and Gov. Haley Barbour; and in 2012, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. His painting Figure in Green was selected as the signature image for the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition.

Bucci died on Nov. 16, 2014, shortly after resettling in Vicksburg. He was 92.

“About pictures, I don’t know what my conceptions are,” Bucci once wrote. “Guess the word that best explains what I look for is ‘felicity.’ It doesn’t have to be abstract or realistic, or loud or subtle. Just what seems to have been the right idea done the right way.”