Having an interest in art history and a Providence upbringing, Edward Giarusso developed a curiosity for the artist Edward M. Bannister. In 1978, local Providence news focused attention on the artist, prompting Ed's mother. Mrs. Pauline Giarusso, to show him the two Bannister paintings their family had long owned, stored in her attic. Mr. Giarusso had these paintings authenticated at the Vose Gallery in Boston and began researching Mr. Bannister at the Providence Public Library and other institutions across New England. Very little was known about the artist Bannister.
While researching Bannister, Giarusso met another Bannister researcher, the late Mahler Ryder, Professor of Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. Mr. Giarusso and Professor Ryder worked together to uncover many facts about Mr. Bannister and Rhode Island art in general. Professor Ryder believed most of what was known of Bannister was a rehash of material published shortly after the artists death in 1901. Ryder's opinion was based on his personal research in restoring the gravesite of Mr. Bannister at the Old North Burying Ground in Providence. It was clear that a new source of material was vital for an updated history of Edward Bannister and his work.
To find this new material, Mr. Giarusso began to systematically search newspapers printed from 1880 to 1901 for mention of Mr. Bannister and other Rhode Island artists. The result was a picture of an art community long forgotten and facts about Mr. Bannister that revealed him to be more interesting than anyone at the time had imagined. Edward A. Giarusso has contributed research material to many fine art catalogs. They include:
Charles Walter Stetson: Color and Fantasy, by Charles C. Elderidge, 1982, formerly the Director of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Sharing Traditions: Five Black Artists in Nineteenth-Century America catalog, (1985) by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, then Curator of the National Museum of American Art.
1992 Free Within Ourselves exhibition of Black artists at the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
In November 1991 and June 1992 Mr. Giarusso contributed original research material to Kenkeleba House, New York City and the Whitney Museum of American Art for an exhibition of Mr. Bannister's work. A catalog produced for the joint exhibition acknowledged him but did not detail his contributions.
Mr. Giarusso was a guest lecturer at the Smithsonian, sharing his expertise on Mr. Bannister. Notes and excerpts from this popular tour along with other examples of Mr. Giarusso's research on Edward Bannister are posted on this website.
Mr. Giarusso continues to assist interested individuals in understanding Edward Mitchell Bannister, his art, and contributions to Rhode Island Art History.