Casenelli was born in New York City of Genoese parents. His first art studio was in Cincinnati. After it was destroyed by fire, he moved to Muskegon, Michigan in 1904 where he lived the rest of his life. He received no format art training. In 1929 he was commissioned by the National Lumberman's Bank of Muskegon to paint seventeen murals portraying that city's history. Consistent with his desire for historical authenticity, Casenelli sought out and spoke with older residents about life in early Muskegon, especially during the lumber boom era.
Casenelli was sensitive to the passing of the era of the lumberman which was being eclipsed by the rapidly emerging industrial age. Appropriately, Casenelli began the series with dawn and sunrise at Pigeon Hill, populated by Indians, and ended with sunset at the same site. The use of different times of day to reinforce a theme was used by Thomas Cole in his The Course of Empire, 1836, a series of five paintings using the "sunrise to sunset" motif.
Casenelli painted scenes from his travels in Europe as well. Regardless of subject, his works in oil and watercolor express a sincere love and understanding of nature, a dependence on observation, and a sensitivity to light and - especially - color. Casenelli was rather adamant about the value of formal instruction in art. The Grand Rapids Herald of October 19, 1930, quoted this artist as saying, "The real work is the thought that goes into it [the painting], the imagination, the conception, the composition."
His exhibitions include the Lake Harbor Hotel (Muskegon, 1911), Marshall Field Gallery (Chicago, 1911), and the Hackley Art Gallery (Muskegon, 1913 and 1951). The August 17, 1911 issue of the Muskegon News Chronicle, in its comments on the Casenelli exhibition at the Lake Harbor Hotel, referred to the artist as the "Foremost among the world's painters of the American Indian and the Indian life…."
Excerpted from the exhibition catalog: Early Michigan Paintings, Michigan State University, 1976.
Information provided by Edward P. Bentley, researcher from Lansing, Michigan