Born Lorenzo del Giorno to an Italian father and a Scottish mother in Philadelphia, where he spent most of his life, Day served in the Pacific campaign of World War II, after which he attended college on the GI Bill. He graduated from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in 1949, also earning a degree in education there the following year. Almost immediately thereafter, he began his career as an instructor, briefly in the Philadelphia public schools, but primarily as an anchor figure in the painting department of the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) from 1953 to 1988 and the graduate school of the University of Pennsylvania. Day was revered as a “guru” by his peers and students.
Day, who practiced abstraction in the 1950s and showed his work with members of the New York School, contributed to conversations in American art that refocused attention on figurative representation. His work explores the manner in which art gives shape to everyday life and prompts questions about the interface between personal subjectivity and civic identity. His paintings are admired for their dual qualities of subtle precision and formal dynamism. Likewise, his drawings are prized for the strength and delicacy of his draftsmanship.
Day’s work is represented in numerous museum collections, including the British Museum, London; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Woodmere Art Museum.