William A. Gannotta, 64, an artist who ran a moving-van business for artworks, died of lymphoma May 16 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He lived in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Mr. Gannotta, who was raised in the city's Frankford section, graduated from Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in 1962 and served in the Air Force Reserve from 1965 to 1969.

"He learned photography from a family friend in high school . . . and that's what inspired his love for art," said his wife, Kristina Haugland, associate curator for costumes and textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

At McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County, "he was a staff photographer," she said, "and in that position, he was supposed to turn up all spit-and-polish."

But that didn't suit his free spirit, she said, and he was reassigned.

While in the Reserves, Mr. Gannotta studied at the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial in South Philadelphia in 1968 and at what is now the University of the Arts in 1969, before earning a certificate in painting in 1977 from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

While a student, Haugland said, Mr. Gannotta earned a Cresson Traveling Scholarship in 1977 and Cadwalader Landscape Prizes in 1977 and 1978, all from PAFA.

In 1978, he earned the Philadelphia Mayor's Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Fine Arts.

With the Cresson money, Haugland said, "he traveled throughout Europe in the summer of '77 - Italy, Switzerland, Germany in a VW bus - seeing as much art as possible."

But painting wasn't his only art interest, Haugland said. While still a student, he had set up William Gannotta Fine Art Services.

"He bought a truck and began being asked by others to move their art for them," she said, "for institutions and collectors."

His moving business did well, she said, because he understood the dangers of damaging artworks.

In 1978 and in 1982, he studied Siddha Yoga at an ashram in Ganeshpuri, India, Haugland said, and in 1989, he earned his second-degree black belt in Shotokan karate.

In more recent shows, in 2007, his paintings were in the annual Challenge Exhibition at the Fleisher and in a two-man offering at the Widener University Art Gallery.

Besides his wife of 17 years, Mr. Gannotta is survived by two sisters and his former wife, Deborah Deichler.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Landmark Building rotunda of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118 N. Broad St., Philadelphia.

A selection of his work will be exhibited there from June 6 to 28.

Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or

at wnaedele@phillynews.com.