An Unsung American Illustrator
Born in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Antonio Petruccelli (1907–1994) 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 illustrator in 1932; subsequently his work appeared on the covers of Fortune, The New Yorker, Collier’s, Today and House Beautiful magazines. The art director for Fortune, 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.” Throughout his life, Petruccelli won many important design awards including a U.S. Postage stamp for the American Steel Industry’s 100th anniversary and a Bicentennial medal for the state of New Jersey.
During his tenure at Fortune from 1933 to 1945 he created 30 covers, 28 of which were published. All displayed his characteristic precision and wonderful quality of touch. At the time, the Fortune cover was a large scale and lavish production, printed by the gravure process on heavy card stock. Petruccelli’s witty and imaginative contributions made full use of the potential for rich and dense color combined with a great repertoire of hatch, scratch and stipple. The images he devised were entirely his own and seemed to owe very little to the work of his contemporaries.
For Fortune’s first ten years the cover followed a clearly defined template or framing device and Petruccelli, above all others, exploited and played with this device to stunning effect. In compositional terms he favored oblique viewpoints and strong diagonals. His early training in textile design fueled his ability to create rhythmic and dynamic compositions and supplied him with an eye for the possibilities of repeated motifs. Many images suggest an intuitive understanding of the dynamics of Italian Futurism combined with an Art Deco sensibility. His covers and illustrations provided social commentary through the depiction of various aspects of American life, reflecting the social, economic and political atmosphere over several decades.