Nicholas Volpe

b.1911 - d.1992

We have a selection of original illustrations from both the Academy Award and Gold Record Collections available. Please see a sample below, and contact us for more imagery and information.


Nicholas Volpe was born in New Haven Connecticut in 1911 and showed early promise in both the arts and athletics. When he was in grade-school, his family sent him to Italy to study violin for a short time, but he returned to finish his schooling in the US and went on to study art at Syracuse University on a football scholarship.

Upon graduation he applied for and won the coveted Tiffany Foundation Art Scholarship, which allowed him to live and work in his own private studio at the luxurious Tiffany Estate on Long Island for the summer. From there he went on to teach fine-art at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in New York City for two years until he accepted the post of Dean of Arts at Jacksonville College in Florida.

After several years in Florida, Volpe traveled to California to seek work in Hollywood, designing movie sets, costuming and character makeup at the major motion picture studios. He was involved in many film projects over the subsequent twenty plus years, and began to make a name for himself in Hollywood early on with his exceptional portraits of all the biggest stars.

In the mid-1950s Volpe began working with The Brown Derby, drawing exclusive portraits of entertainers that would fill the walls of both the Hollywood and Beverly Hills restaurants. His beautiful renditions of the world’s biggest stars added a level of sophistication to the legendary Derby Collection, and further cemented the bond between the entertainment world and the Brown Derby.

As his reputation developed further, he forged a friendship with Frank Sinatra, whom he painted many times for various commissions including several of his album covers. In 1959 Nicholas Volpe was nationally recognized for his work at the very first annual GRAMMY® awards, when Sinatra was awarded in the category of Best Album Cover Design for a portrait Volpe painted.

In the 1960s his reputation earned him many commercial projects including several commissions with professional sports teams, and a weekly segment in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner called Byways which featured a unique illustration and prose written by Volpe about his travels around California.

When the Beatles first arrived in the US in 1964, Volpe was given direct access to paint their portraits in their NYC hotel, by famed manager Brian Epstein for a special commission with NEMS Enterprises. They sat for him a second time, so he could finalize the images, when they returned to the US for their first American Tour later in the year. The resulting portraits sold millions of copies to Beatle fans in the subsequent years and the original pastels were recently sold to a private collector.

In the 1970s Volpe went on to teach art at Pepperdine University and travel in his free time. He continued with many long-standing commissions well into his later years, including for the Brown Derby as it was revitalized in the late-1980s. Nicholas Volpe passed away in Oceanside California in 1992.