Lucia Vernarelli was born December 13 1920 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn,
the youngest child of an Italo-American family, her father a tailor,
her mother a seamstress. She had an early interest in art and
began attending an after-school drawing class at the age of thirteen.
After high school she moved to Manhattan to study painting at
the American Artists School, where while modeling for a life study
class she met her future husband, Ernst Hacker, a refugee from
Nazi-controlled Vienna. He, already an accomplished woodcut artist
with an interest in the north European moderns (the Worpswede
group, particularly Paula Modersohn-Becker, was to be an influence
on Vernarelli), was soon to be stationed in Japan with the American
Army. There he met and studied printmaking with Koshiro Onchi,
whose work and friendship was to remain an influence on Hacker
and Vernarelli. Their collection of modern Japanese woodblock
prints was the subject of a 1996 exhibition at the British Museum
that detailed the visit of Hacker to Tokyo. The collection, along
with a large selection of prints by Hacker, remain in the collection
of the British Museum, a gift made by Vernarelli shortly before
Traveling in Italy with Hacker, who was studying town planning
on a Fulbright Fellowship, she added another abiding interest
to her artistic life in the work of the early Renaissance and
the architecture of the old Italian cities--Florence and Venice
Her collages and monotypes of recollected views of these places
stay in the memory as privileged glimpses of magic spaces removed
from us by historic time and unsullied by the clichés of
modern technology and travel.
In 1958 Vernarelli designed the sets and costumes for a ballet
set to Stravinskys Pulcinella Suite, which was presented
at the inaugural season of the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds.
The sets were based on her work in collage, a group of which were
the subject of a one-person show in Florence at that time.
During the 1950s and 1960s she lived with Hacker in a skylighted
loft at 146 Fifth Avenue. Here she developed her painting, which
among many facets included her belief that the right mark or brushstroke
had a magic that no amount of work could achieve. This quality
and a balance between the real, from which she always began, the
particular demands of the medium and the abstract inform her more
In the late 60s, now living independently at 109 Waverly Place,
indignant with the American war in Vietnam, she joined the Greenwich
Village Peace Center, located nearby at the Washington Square
Now her commitment to the use of art to serve the common good
took flower in the many posters and leaflets she produced for
peace marches and antiwar rallies. This work culminated in a series
of six panels for the doors of that church. Working within the
narrow confines of the old red doors, she created a work that
sprang not only from her heartfelt sympathy for the besieged people
but also from the frescos of the Tuscan churches she had so often
studied. The panels, sadly damaged by revelers during the nations
bicentennial, were removed in 1976 .
In 1974 Hacker retired from the City Planning Commission to a
condominium he purchased at 15 Piazza dei Ciompi in Florence,
where he and Lucia had many friends dating back to the first travels
they had made together after the war; and Lucia took over the
apartment in Westbeth, where they had been among the first group
of artist residents in that state-supported artists housing.
Dividing her time now between Florence and New York, she did some
collaborative woodblock printing with Hacker and made a series
of lithographs at the Westbeth Printmaking Workshop. These lithos,
done with ink on metal plates, proved to be an excellent vehicle
for her sensitive brushwork and imaginative yet perceptive vision.
At this time she exhibited at the Westbeth Gallery, of which she
was director for a period.
Always interested in the portrait, Vernarelli worked on paintings
of friends and often casual acquaintances throughout her life.
With this subject matter she created many works that touched on
the psychological and the representative without resorting to
caricature, which so often haunts twentieth-century portraiture.
Her still lifes, with an occasional nod to Morandi and Bonnard,
were truly her own. Her cast of characters--tea tins, mirrors,
fans--so familiar to visitors to her studio, took their place
in the work as abstract elements never becoming stock shapes and
colors but transforming to serve the needs of each particular
Collage was for her an addiction; she squirreled away scraps of
colored paper, stamps, and tinsel, which she used in a tiny theater
of ephemera where she could lose herself in a childlike trance.
Once seen, this world is as memorable and idiosyncratic as a Jackson
Her life was cut short on april 30,1995 by a misdiagnosed malady.
Vernarelli will be remembered not only for her artistic achievements
but also for the intensity of her commitments to friends and causes
alike. Her ashes were scattered over Pelham Bay on Long Island