Marina Cashdan
Sep 13, 2012 4:08PM

Caio Fonseca has said that he paints Baroque music because he wants to reveal what he believes is a timeless, universal harmony and order present beneath the surface of our everyday, perceivable surroundings.

In this excerpt from a Vanity Fair story on Caio Fonseca, the writer says: 

... In fact, it was Caio's oddball flair for mimicry that led him to study music, his passion second only to painting. When he was a child of about seven, his parents overheard him whistling a near-perfect rendition of Schubert's “Trout” Quintet—he also does a mean cell-phone ring—and started him on piano lessons. Since then, he has studied piano intensively, most recently with Leonid Hambro, former principal pianist of the New York Philharmonic.

Last winter, at a Christmas party thrown by the hotelier André Balazs in the apartment of his ex-wife, Katie Ford, Caio spotted a piano situated, like an engraved invitation, in front of one of his paintings. So there in a room bursting with actors, models, writers, and musicians—including, I noticed, Michael Stipe—he proceeded to play, silencing the festivities and, for a few minutes, holding the guests in rapt attention. Soon thereafter, Balazs called to say that in the divorce Ford had gotten the Caio. Could he commission another?

Caio might have become a musician. He might, as he says, “have gone into business or become a stockbroker. I'm not such an artist type that I can't handle the real world. I read the financial pages, because most people don't talk about art.” Incidentally, his maternal grandfather, Jacob M. Kaplan, owned the Welch Grape Juice Company, so a career in business wasn't out of the question. “But,” says Caio, “my father was just such a towering example of this other life.”

His father, who died in 1997, was the great Uruguayan sculptor and painter Gonzalo Fonseca. Indeed, all the elders in his immediate family were involved in the visual arts. His mother still paints in Gonzalo's old studio in the family's Greenwich Village town house, which early in the 20th century belonged to Daniel Chester French, the American sculptor who created the figure of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. His older sister, Quina, is a designer. It was Bruno, though, his older brother by 11 months, who provided the closest model in his own generation. A figurative painter of enormous gifts, Bruno died of AIDS in 1994, at age 36; in 2000, the Brooklyn Museum of Art gave him a posthumous retrospective titled “The Secret Life of Painting.” Only his sister Isabel, the youngest, eschewed the plastic arts—she became a writer.

Marina Cashdan