Michael Aloysius Mennello, 87, Winter Park resident, businessman, collector, and the primary benefactor of Orlando's Mennello Museum of American Art, died Friday, December 18, 2020 after a brief COVID-19 related illness. Mr. Mennello is survived by his brother, Albert J. Mennello of Princeton, New Jersey (Kingston).
With his wife, The Honorable Marilyn Logsdon Mennello, he donated influential paintings of Earl Cunningham to the City of Orlando upon the founding of the Mennello Museum of American Art in 1998.
Throughout his life, Mr. Mennello’s passion had always been collecting, preserving, and donating art. In 2018, he donated paintings and sculptures to the Mennello Museum, including paintings by world-renowned American artists John Sloan, George Wesley Bellows, George Luks, John White Alexander, Louis Ritman, and Robert Henri.
One of those paintings, My House, Woodstock, 1924 by George Bellows was selected for the 2012 National Gallery of Art’s first comprehensive exhibition of George Bellows in more than three decades, organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Michael A. Mennello was born in Princeton, New Jersey on July 11, 1933. He attended the Hun Preparatory School, Rider College and New York’s Interboro Institute. As a young man, Mr. Mennello was always interested in art and purchased his first painting, Saint Sebastian by Guido Reni, at age sixteen.
He later worked for Sidwinn Schwinn, CEO of Advertising and Marketing Consultants in New York City. In 1959, Mr. Mennello moved to Miami, Florida where he served as Director of Store Control, Research, and Security for Food Fair Stores, overseeing the management of 113 locations.
In 1971, he accepted a position with Senator Sidney Carroll, Sidney Carroll Enterprises in the Bahamas as Vice President of store operations, and, in 1973, he worked for Nicholas Morely, CEO of Interra, LTD in Miami. While living in Miami, Mr. Mennello became a member and financial supporter of many arts organizations including The Vizcayans, Miami Opera, and the Lowe Museum of Art.
After moving to Winter Park in 1975, he bought and operated The Home and Hobby House stores for 15 years. During this time, Mr. Mennello married Marilyn Wilson, and the two of them shared a life together for nearly 30 years. They began collecting old master and French Impressionist paintings. In 1984, Marilyn encouraged him to find and preserve the work of Earl Cunningham, a St. Augustine folk artist. For the next 13 years, Michael and Marilyn presented their collection at over 30 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the High Museum in Atlanta, and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Williamsburg, VA.
In 1990, Mennello sponsored an exhibition and produced a major catalogue on the work of Isabelle Rouault, the daughter of French Expressionist painter Georges Rouault. The exhibition traveled to three venues in the United States, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. This groundbreaking show was the first time Isabelle Rouault’s work had been seen by an American audience.
Later, Mr. Mennello’s focus changed from collecting European art to collecting American Impressionist paintings. For Michael, collecting American art and, with his wife Marilyn, building the Mennello Museum were among the greatest pleasures of his life. He was exceedingly proud of his collection of art, furniture, and decorative arts. Mr. Mennello gave many paintings from his collection to museums including the Cornell Museum at Rollins College, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences, the Mennello Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Forming the cornerstone gift for the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art, which opened in 1998, the Mennellos gave major works of art by Earl Cunningham and other influential folk artists to the City of Orlando from their collection.
In 2018, Michael announced a personal $1 million bequest to the museum and the establishment of the Michael A. and The Honorable Marilyn Logsdon Mennello Foundation, which will further support the institution bearing his name and remaining the Mennello legacy for generations. Michael once said, “We have reached thousands of people with the understanding of what art really means, and what it brings to your life and I guess that’s our legacy, that we promoted the arts, we loved the arts, an ingredient that is needed in our soul.”
A Public Visitation will be held on Sunday, January 10, 2021 from 2-7pm at the Mennello Museum of American Art, 900 E. Princeton St., Orlando, FL. 32803. No services are planned at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The family hopes to bring everyone together at a later time to celebrate Mr. Mennello’s life.
In lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Mr. Mennello should be made to the Friends of the Mennello Museum of American Art, 900 E. Princeton St., Orlando, FL. 32803.
Please visit the online guest book at www.highlandfh.com.
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