Robert FicanoPortrait exhibit shows work by former eastsider Robert Maniscalco

It could be said that artist Robert Maniscalco works in the family business.

Like his father — renowned portrait painter Joseph Maniscalco — he’s a portrait painter. And following in his father’s footsteps, he’s painting new generations of families that his father, and even he, painted years ago.

A retrospective of some of Robert Maniscalco’s many portraits over the last 27 years will be on display April 2-27 at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods. The show includes the public debut of a portrait of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, one of Maniscalco’s more recent works.

Besides well-known figures such as Ficano, Michigan Council of the Arts founder E. Ray Scott, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, TV star Chris Noth and news anchor Carmen Harlan, Maniscalco has painted thousands of other portraits.

Maniscalco is a “high-quality, classic painter,” said Jim Pujdowski, the Liggett gallery coordinator and an art instructor at the Middle and Upper School.

“Some artists will only paint established people,” Pujdowski said. “Rob paints everybody. He can do everybody. That’s a great strength.”

The youngest of four children, Maniscalco grew up in St. Clair Shores and opened an art gallery that bore his name on Detroit’s east side. He later moved the gallery, and his own address, to Grosse Pointe City. Two years ago, he and his artist and framer wife, Amanda, and their toddler son, Danny, closed the gallery and moved to South Carolina. Although he’s been back to create portraits and give talks, this is Maniscalco’s first solo show since he left Michigan in May 2005.

“I think that the work is getting deeper,” Maniscalco said of his painting. “Now that I’m away from the gallery, I’m able to focus on the portraits. They’re more psychologically captivating. I think I’m doing better work because I’m not distracted [by the business of running a gallery]. It’s nice to just be an artist again. … As much as I miss everyone in Detroit, it’s been a good move.”

In his new home, Maniscalco has also started a series of “low country” paintings in natural settings.

About 25 portraits — on loan from their subjects — will be displayed at Liggett. The artist is also giving a talk to students.

“I think it’ll be exciting,” Pujdowski said of the show. “He has a wide spectrum of work. … It’s an educational exhibit.”

An exhibit of portraits by Robert Maniscalco is on display April 2-27 at University Liggett School, 1045 Cook Road, in Grosse Pointe Woods. The gallery — in the Manoogian Arts Wing — is open during regular school hours, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The school will be closed April 6 and 9 for the Easter holiday. For more information, visit or

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