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Morris Museum Presents an Exhibition of an Unsung American Illustrator: Antonio Petruccelli
Antonio Petruccelli, Board Room, Fortune Magazine Cover, October 1939. Photo: Courtesy Petruccelli Family Collection.

MORRISTOWN, NJ.- The Morris Museum opened a new exhibition, Antonio Petruccelli: An Unsung American Illustrator. Antonio Petruccelli (1907-1994) was a prolific, innovative 20th century illustrator. The exhibition features over 65 works, including covers and illustrations for Fortune, The New Yorker, Life and other magazines, as well as paintings, maps, and textile designs. All of the works in the exhibition are drawn from the Petruccelli Family Collection. Antonio Petruccelli: An Unsung American Illustrator is on view through March 20, 2011.

Antonio Petruccelli was born in Fort Lee, NJ. in 1907 and was a longtime resident and active member of the Mount Tabor, NJ community, from 1938 until his death in 1994.

Petruccelli developed his artistic talent at an early age and began his career as a textile designer. After winning several House Beautiful cover illustration contests, he became a freelance artist in 1932. Petruccelli was a successful illustrator, whose work appeared on the covers of magazines including Fortune, The New Yorker, Collier’s, Today and House Beautiful.

Antonio Petruccelli worked extensively with Fortune Magazine, which led to other magazine commissions. The Art Director for Fortune Magazine, Francis Brennan, said of Petruccelli, “Tony was Mr. Versatility for Fortune. He could do anything, from charts and diagrams to maps illustrations, covers and caricatures.” He created 24 covers for Fortune magazine, more than any other artist, from 1933 to 1945.

Taking inspiration from the Art Deco and the Futurism movements, Petruccelli’s magazine covers and illustrations provide social commentary through the depiction of various aspects of American life, reflecting the social, economic and political atmosphere over several decades. Petruccelli provided mainstream access to inspiring, thought-provoking and detailed artwork to thousands of Americans on a weekly basis.

His textile training and work created a foundation in pattern design which had a strong influence on his artwork, especially in the use of diagonals and repetition, combined with vibrant and contrasting colors. Much of Petruccelli’s work also reflects a good sense of humor, for example in the Fortune magazine Oct. 1939 cover Board Room [image attached], which presents nine identical suited men, seated at a round table, each pointing his right index finger at the man to his left and in The New Yorker cover Movers in Stairway,[image attached] September 28, 1935, which shows two movers carrying a heavy chest descending a narrow walk-up stairwell as another mover, on his way up the stairs, approaches the same landing.

Throughout his life, Petruccelli worked as a freelance artist, winning many important design awards. In 1957 Petruccelli’s design was issued as a U.S. Postage stamp for the American Steel Industry’s 100th anniversary. His design was chosen for the official Bicentennial medal for New Jersey, which is on display in the exhibition.

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