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Don Cincone

Don Cincone: An Oral History

In 2018 the Arts Council received a Rebirth Grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities to conduct an oral history of Don Cincone.  As part of that effort Don was video interviewed on several occasions, in several different settings, where he discussed his life, his work, his technique, and his philosophy.  The results of those interviews are available for viewing through the Arts Council’s YouTube channel.  You will find over 40 individual interviews conducted primarily by Kay LaFrance-Knight.  Interviews at the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum were conducted by Art Edwards.

Additionally, the LEH grant provided an opportunity to assemble a listing of Don’s work that could be located, documented, and authenticated.  That will be an ongoing project.  The most up to date listing can be found below.

The Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana owns 28 separate pieces of artwork by Don Cincone.

Twenty-six of these pieces are original paintings created in the 1950s and 70s. Twenty were donated to the Arts Council by Mr. & Mrs. Kurt Schon of New Orleans in 2002 - eight were donated to the Arts Council by Mr. James D. Bennett of Arkansas.

On loan to the City of West Monroe, eighteen originals from the Schon collection are displayed on the first floor of West Monroe City Hall. The Bennett collection is on permanent loan at The Northeast Louisiana Delta African-American Heritage Museum in Monroe.

The remaining two pieces were donated to the Arts Council in 2018 by the City of West Monroe and the Masur Museum of Art.  One of these is a watercolor.  

This program was funded under a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The opinions expressed in the programs do not necessarily represent the views of either the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Don Cincone Biography

Born in 1937 in the small town of Alto, southeast of Monroe, nurtured artistically by a teacher at Monroe Colored High School, a young Don Wills earned an art scholarship to Southern University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree that opened the world and a life in art to him.

While stationed in Europe, serving in the Army, he studied art viewing works of the masters firsthand.  The great museums of Germany, France, and Italy became his classroom and he absorbed the lessons and inspiration he found there.

Completing his service to his country, Don found himself in California where he prepared for a career in fashion illustration at the San Francisco School of Fashion Design.  Supporting his young and growing family during the day, through an art agency producing art on demand, he spent the evenings developing and honing his personal style.  

His time in California led to earning a commission for 85 paintings to be used in the Dick Van Dyke film “The Art of Love”, but he received no film credit for his efforts.  California is also where Don Wills became Don Cincone.

Leaving California, Don learned the business side of art and began exhibiting his work while living in south Texas.  The call of northeast Louisiana was strong, though, pulling him and his wife Katherine back to raise their family in the small town of Eros, his gift nurtured by the peaceful hills and pine trees.

Initially working in oils and watercolors, acrylic was soon the preferred medium due to its flexibility and superior permanency.  In 1979 Cincone Gallery and School of Painting opened on 18th Street in Monroe to instruct, exhibit, and encourage artists. In the process of teaching art, Cincone discovered that verbalizing what he had learned brought him a greater understanding of the artistic process.  

His journey as an artist has been marked by exhibitions in Paris and New York and California.  Local exhibitions in recent years have included the Masur Museum in Monroe, the Schepis in Columbia, the Snyder in Bastrop, the Old Post Office Museum in Winnsboro, the Museum of Art and History in Farmerville.  

Recognition of his great talent has earned him numerous awards through the years including the Silver Medal of Arts and Sciences in Rome, Italy in 1970.  Walt Disney, James Garner, Henry Mancini, Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson, and Leonard Bernstein are a few renowned individuals who have purchased the artist’s works.

Numerous museums and corporations include Cincone paintings in their collections while many local residents showcase Cincone canvases on their walls, as do the City Halls of both Monroe and West Monroe.

“I think of my work as being about relationships and that all art comes from the same well, the soul”, Cincone states.  That’s not surprising considering Don is an ordained minister.  Focus of many of his paintings is on family ties.  Spirits of ancestors can often be felt hovering around the paintings subjects.

Don Cincone is an icon.  Don has influenced and inspired countless individuals during his long career.  To know Don Cincone is to know a man who is humble yet bold.  A man who has overcome countless obstacles yet risen to heights only a few reach.  Don is a man who in an instant becomes your friend because he believes in relationships.