In a 1967 interview with Kate Wurm, Bosa declared that “An artist should first of all be himself." In Bosa’s case especially, there appears to be little distinction between the artist and his art. Words like ‘quirky’, ‘whimsical’, and ‘mischievous’ appear frequently in descriptions of Louis Bosa’s character, of which there are many. Such language aptly describes Bosa’s paintings as well; best known as a painter of street scenes populated with an array of unusual characters, Louis Bosa’s work is perceptive, individualistic, highly stylized and difficult to categorize.
Louis Bosa was born in 1905 in Codroipo, a small town in Italy not far from Venice. Bosa's interest in art began at an early age; he began to draw seriously at 10 years old, and at 15 he enrolled at the Academia Delle Belle Arti in Venice. Bosa left Italy at 18, joining one of his brothers who had settled in Hamilton, a small town in Canada. Bosa's time in Hamilton was short lived, and before long Bosa relocated once again to Buffalo, New York, where he fell in love with a German-Polish woman named Theresa Krakowska. The two wed in 1926, and in 1931 the couple’s first and only child, Anna, was born.
In the 1930s Bosa moved his family to New York City, enrolling at the Art Students League. He worked odd jobs on the side while training under John Sloan, then-director of the League and noted member of the Ashcan School. Sloan would have a profound influence on Bosa, perhaps most evident in his gritty paintings of New York City from the 1930s-40s. Bosa was given his first one man show at the Contemporary Arts Gallery in 1936, and his first major award came two years later, when Bosa was awarded the John Wanamaker Prize at the Washington Square outdoor exhibition in 1938. Bosa would go on to receive accolades from the Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Academy of Design, Audubon Artists, and the Legionnaires of Pennsylvania, and in 1948 Bosa was featured in the 1948 Whitney Museum Annual.
By the time Bosa graduated from the Art Students League, the Great Depression was already under way and jobs were hard to come by. Fortunately, Bosa was offered a teaching position at the League upon graduation, which he was happy to accept. Both a gifted painter and a natural instructor, Bosa loved to teach and was adored by his students. In addition to his classes at the Art Students League, Bosa began teaching summer classes at the Cape Ann Art School in Rockport, Massachusettes. Bosa began teaching summer classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1949, and before long Bosa accepted a full-time position as an instructor at CIA. By 1953, Bosa was the head of CIA’s painting department, remaining at CIA until his retirement in 1970.
In 1951, Bosa was approached by Life Magazine and sent to his home town of Codroipo on assignment. Having media coverage in a hugely popular national publication was a turning point in Bosa’s professional life, and his homecoming carried personal significance as well. Bosa had not returned to Italy since immigrating to Canada, and he was glad to have an oportunity to reconnect with his family--especially his mother, who was on her deathbed by that time. She passed away shortly after Bosa returned to the States, and Bosa channeled his grief into a funeral scene titled Procession, one of Bosa’s most famous works.
By the mid 1970s, Bosa’s own health had declined considerably. Louis Bosa passed away in Doylestown, PA in 1981, leaving behind an artistic legacy of unparalleled ingenuity. Today, Bosa’s work can be found in over 20 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.