In 1947, when Antonio Masi was seven years old, he emigrated with his parents and siblings from Italy to New York City. Fifty years earlier, Masi’s grandfather, Francesco, had hauled steel as a part of the workforce that built the Queensboro Bridge. Francesco’s bridge-building tales were retold in the Masi family, and Antonio, who always loved to draw, was intrigued.
Upon his arrival in New York, Masi was deeply drawn by the beauty of the city’s iconic bridges, but most especially the Queensboro. And it wasn’t long before he knew that one day he would be an artist who would paint bridges.
His family settled on New York’s Upper East Side. Masi attended the High School of Industrial Art, majored in illustration, and was graduated in 1958. Antonio then received a full art scholarship to the School of Visual Arts and was graduated with honors in 1961.
Masi began his professional career as a commercial artist for numerous city publications and art agencies. In 1962, he married artist Elizabeth Jorg and soon began a family.
In 1966, Antonio returned to his high school alma mater to teach art. In 1973, he was named Art Chairperson. (SIA has since been renamed the High School of Art and Design.) He also enrolled in CUNY and received a BA in the History of Art in 1975.
Masi left Art and Design in 1979 and became a full partner at Ads ‘n Color, one of the city’s busiest and most respected graphic arts and printing companies. Clients included prestigious designers, art studios, major corporations, schools, and universities.
In 2000, after some 40 years of working, Masi sold his business. At last, he was ready, having put three children through college, to fulfill his boyhood dream of becoming a full-time artist.
For almost ten years, Masi has focused almost exclusively on painting NYC’s bridges, starting with the Queensboro. To date, he has completed more than 100 bridge paintings and named the series, “Bridgescapes.”
Masi is a watercolorist, but his paintings do not look like watercolor paintings. Watercolor, being a thin medium, organically allows expression of the most delicate subjects, but Masi has developed a novel way to use watercolor thickly, in the same way that others use oils thickly. It is an approach that produces exceptional results. Masi’s unique use of watercolor allows him to capture each bridge’s mass, power, and delicacy.
In 2006, The Artist’s Magazine chose his painting of the Queensboro Bridge, “N.Y. Tramway II,” as First Place winner in the Landscape category in the magazine’s “Best Art” contest. The magazine described “N.Y. Tramway II” as “dark and pulsating” and relating “a stirring, overpowering sensation.” The 2006 contest received some 14,000 entries. Many additional honors have followed.
Antonio Masi, is President of the American Watercolor Society and has had feature articles in The Artist’s Magazine, PBS – “Sunday Arts”, NBC-TV “Weekend Today in New York”. Newsday feature in Aug. 20, 08, “Bridgemaster” and in June 2009 a solo exhibition for The New York Centennial Commission of the Queensboro Bridge, and in 2010 a solo show at The Forbes Gallery in New York City, and The New York City Transit Museum in 2012, also at The Salmagundi Club of New York and The New York Times video, Sept. 2014 titled, “Living City: A Tale of Two Bridges”.
Fordham University Press published a book on his paintings titled, “New York’s Golden Age of Bridges”, with essays by Joan Marans Dim.
Fordham University Press published a second book titled, "Lady Liberty", paintings by Antonio Masi with essays by Joan Marans Dim.
In 2016, he was invited as a guest artist to demonstrate, teach and lecture for 3 weeks by the Qingdao International Watercolor Salon, in China.