Lost Art Is Found

Fine Arts Society of Sarasota Celebrates 50 Years—and a Surprise Return

A stolen painting by artist Jon Corbino comes home.

By Kay Kipling March 6, 2019

Palette by Jon Corbino, copyright Lee Corbino

The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, in the midst of its 50th anniversary celebration this season, recently held a cocktail party to mark the occasion—and to announce a big surprise about a missing piece of art.

The Society, which is responsible for the art collection on display at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall featuring many local artists, had suffered a loss back in 1991, when a painting by well-known artist Jon Corbino, hanging at the hall, was stolen sometime during the last week of November. (It was most likely taken during a performance by either the Gatlin Brothers, George Burns or the Sarasota Choral Society, in case that sparks any memories.) Corbino had been a successful artist for several decades, with work in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago Art Institute, Carnegie Institute and more museums; he moved to Sarasota in 1957 and lived here until his death in 1964 at the age of 59.

Artist Jon Corbino

But some things are not lost forever. A treasure hunter named Eric Bowyer, who frequents rummage sales by the dozens, came across a piece at an estate sale in the Palm-Aire community of Sarasota, recognized the artist’s signature on the painting, and bought it—for $25. He was told by the homeowner’s son that years earlier, a man had asked his mother to store some works at her house, but he never returned for them. With his find in hand, Bowyer approached Corbino’s daughter, Lee, who told him of the Fine Arts Society’s connection. And then Bowyer got in touch with the Society and presented them with the long-missing piece of art.

The painting, Palette, which dates from the early 1960s, is painted on an artist's wooden palette. It will soon be rehung in a prominent place in the collection at the Van Wezel. In the meantime, the Society is offering free, docent-led tours of the other 50 or so artworks on display at the hall, with April 2 and May 7 the next scheduled dates.

By the way, the 50-year-old Society also has a scholarship program providing funds to students in the visual arts, dance, writing, music, theater and architecture. And it awards outreach grants to support arts organizations, schools and children’s programs. If you’d like to learn more about these programs, or join the Society as a member, visit fineartsrq.com.


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