Born and educated in Italy, Alessandro Mastro-Valerio (1887-1953) was highly regarded as a painter when he moved to Chicago where he had a brother and uncle who edited an Italian newspaper, to establish himself as a commercial artist. He found a lucrative niche painting portraits of the elite around Chicago. In 1919 he settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he found appeal in the quiet atmosphere of a small mid-western town. He married and taught at Eastern Michigan University. In 1930 he was introduced to printmaking and began experimenting with drypoint, etching, softground and aquatint. In 1933 he visited an exhibit of mezzotints at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago. Seeing this medium as the best way to yield the images he was seeking, he taught himself mezzotint engraving, publishing his first prints in 1934. His preferred subject was the female form and mezzotint enabled him to give his figures rich depth and luminosity.