Joseph Stella, born Giuseppe Michele Stella near Naples, Italy was born on June 13, 1877. At the age of 18, he arrived in the United States via Ellis Island. He briefly studied medicine and pharmacology before turning to his passion for art at the Art Students League of New York, where he subsequently studied under William Merritt Chase. Although his training was more classical in nature, Stella was greatly influenced by the cubist and Italian Futurist works he saw on a trip to Paris and Italy in 1909. He quickly adopted their modernist style and belief in the idea that an artist’s work should be a reflection of their own time, in Stella’s case, the burgeoning industrial American scene.
Stella participated in The Armory Show of 1913, and it may have provided him with greater impetus to experiment with modernist styles. The nature of these experiments is made clear in Vesuvius, where Stella’s skilled draftsmanship is utilized to express a vibrant and dynamic Italian landscape scene.