Pope Mansion / Ursuline Academy
Oil on canvas, 20″ x 16″, plus included frame
Pope Mansion / Ursuline Academy, 1898
The Ursuline nuns purchased the home of Mrs. E. F. Pope for a boarding and day school for girls, Elmhurst Academy, in 1898. The property had 10 acres of lawns and a garden, another 12 acres being used for dairy cows and chickens. Enrollment dropped off, so in 1952 the last class graduated and the land divided for sale. The Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School occupies the site of the mansion and the cow pasture is a housing tract. The Main Street frontage was purchased by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which was constructed in 1962.
Born in San Francisco in 1957, Layla Fanucci’s artistic talent was first expressed in music. Fanucci, along with her brother and sister, was encouraged by her parents to study multiple instruments, learning to play the piano, clarinet, guitar. She went on to teach the guitar, putting herself through San Francisco State University by giving lessons. She pursued a degree in sociology, and graduated in 1981. Fanucci had married her husband Robert the previous year and in 1981 they moved with their infant daughter to New York City, where he attended law school, and where they had a second daughter. Four years later they also had a son. They returned to California after two years in New York and eventually the family settled in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley where Robert practices tax law and produces wine, and Layla has her painting studio.
Beginning in 1975, Fanucci taught music and guitar both privately, and in schools, ranging from the elementary to the high school level. She became the director of music at the St. Helena Catholic Church, and wrote and directed concerts at the church’s elementary school. Fanucci has noted that of her many roles, it was composing music that gave her the most gratification. In the next stage of her creative life, this impulse for artistic invention was to be given full reign. In 1998, she found herself wanting some “big, live art” (as she describes it) for her home. Finding nothing to her liking, she bought some art supplies and created a large, colorful abstract painting.
By the year 1999, she was ready to stop teaching music and devote herself full-time to making art. She followed her first painting with a version of Matisse’s The Red Studio, followed by two other works inspired by the same artist. Then she began to create portraits of her family, still lifes, city scenes, and abstractions with figures. These paintings, while diverse in character, often had vibrant color, bold forms, energetic brush strokes, and a sense that whatever the style, the painting was charged with underlying emotion.
Fanucci’s next challenge was to develop a style of painting that no one paints, in the world. She found her voice and that style in her cityscape paintings. Applying layer upon layer of paint on her canvases, searching for the colors that best communicate the mood that gives the truest essence of the city. When the paint finally dries, she takes a brush and in black, draws the outlines of the buildings, bridges, streets and people, imbuing the painting with life and adding particulars that will make the city unique and distinctive. Painting city upon city, her paintings have two, three or four full paintings/cities underneath the final works.
Luminous, striking and intriguing, her works have been exhibited in top galleries and museums all over the world. Notably, The Walter Wickiser Gallery in New York, The Christopher Hill Gallery in Saint Helena, Andrews Art Museum in North Carolina, Chasen Gallery in Virginia, Le Musee de Marrakech in Morocco, Samuel Gallery, Lisa Freedman Fine Arts, 750 Wines Studio, VAM Art Inc. Gallery. The Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, France. She has received many commissions and her work is in numerous private collections.