Athos Menaboni (1895–1990)
Italian-born artist Athos Menaboni arrived in Georgia in the late 1920s and remained active until his death at the age of ninety-four. His early career focused primarily on corporate projects, including the creation of murals for clients in Atlanta, before he turned to painting birds from life, usually in pairs and in their natural habitats. Today Menaboni is best known for his numerous paintings of more than 150 different species of birds native to the Atlanta region.
Early Life and Education
Athos Rodolfo Giorgio Alessandro Menaboni developed a profound respect for and love of nature from his early childhood in the seaport of Livorno, Italy.
Menaboni's artistic talent was evident in childhood, and at the age of nine he studied with Ugo Manaresi, a marine painter. Two years later the child became an apprentice to Charles Doudelet, a Belgian artist who specialized in painting murals. He then studied with the sculptor Pietro Gori and later attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy, until the outbreak in 1914 of World War I in Europe. The teenager joined the Italian army and served for four years.
Loath to join the family business after the war, Menaboni joined the crew of the U.S. vessel Colethraps under Captain John Hashagen, a friend of the family who sponsored Menaboni upon his arrival in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1920. This sponsorship allowed Menaboni to stay in the country, and he later became a citizen in 1936. He lived initially in New York City, where he struggled financially and socially because he barely spoke English. In 1924 he left New York to serve as art director and interior decorator for a resort on Davis Island in Tampa Bay, Florida, remaining there until the resort went bankrupt in 1926.
Career in Georgia
The couple settled into a small apartment and survived financially through commissions acquired through the prominent Atlanta architect Philip Trammell Shutze. Menaboni designed murals for Swan House, the home of Emily and Edward Inman that is now part of the Atlanta History Center. That work
The childless couple longed for a place of their own, surrounded by nature. After renting a home in the Atlanta suburbs, the couple purchased a six-acre parcel of land in Shady Springs in 1941. They named it Valle Ombrosa ("Shady Valley"), after a village northwest of Florence, Italy, where Menaboni had spent summers as a child.
The height of Menaboni's career occurred during the 1940s and 1950s, when he created yearly Christmas cards for Robert Woodruff, the president of the Coca-Cola Company. His work appeared in advertisements and magazines, which led to the publication in 1950 of the book Menaboni's Birds, with illustrations by Menaboni and text by his wife. He also illustrated the American
Menaboni died on July 18, 1990, from complications of a stroke. His wife died on August 10, 1993. The couple left their estate to Callaway Gardens, and their papers are in the collection of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University in Atlanta. In addition, papers relating to the holdings left to Callaway Gardens are located in the Troup County Archives in LaGrange.
The Albany Museum of Art opened an exhibition entitled Living on the Wind: The Bird Paintings of Athos Menaboni in 2001, and in 2009 an exhibition of Menaboni's work entitled Athos Menaboni: Portrait of a Painter opened at Kennesaw State University.
Athos and Sara Menaboni, Menaboni's Birds (1950; reprint, New York: C. N. Potter, 1984).
Barbara Cable Taylor, The Life and Art of Athos Menaboni (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2000).
Karen Towers Klacsmann, Morris Museum of Art
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.