Piero Fornasetti was born in Milan in 1913 and he grew up with an insatiable desire to draw anything and everything. He won a seat at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, but was promptly expelled; his creative spirit did not match the harsh discipline of the academy. He forayed into the realm of fashion and began designing silk scarves with his soon-to-be signature motifs of roman ruins, suns, and flowers. In his furniture designs, Fornasetti worked in an incredible range of materials to create a dizzying array of decorative arts imbued with both wit and theatricality. Struck with the beauty of the famed Italian opera star Lina Cavalieri, Fornasetti created an entire series called “Themes and Variations” with more than 300 versions of Cavalieri’s face. With tongue in cheek irony, Fornasetti depicted Cavalieri in a variety of guises ranging from the humorous to the surreal. In 1959, Fornasetti won the Neiman Marcus award for his significant contributions to the field of fashion, joining the ranks of Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel. Fornasetti died in 1988, leaving behind thousands of imaginative designs and forever changing the field of Italian decorative arts.
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Gio Ponti excelled at painting as a child and expressed a fervent interest in the arts. Feeling that a career in architecture was preferable to that of a painter, Ponti’s parents encouraged him to pursue the former and in 1914 he enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano. His studies were interrupted by war, and in 1915 he was forced to postpone his education. He served as a captain in the Pontonier Corps until 1919, earning multiple military honors. After graduating in 1921, Ponti married Giulia Vimercati, the daughter of local aristocracy and started an architecture firm. During this time, Ponti aligned himself with the neoclassical movement, Novecento and championed a revival of the arts and culture. In 1928, Ponti founded Domus, a periodical tailored to artists and designers, as well as the broader public. A shift occurred in the 1930s when Ponti took up a teaching post at his alma mater, the Politecnico di Milano. In search of new methods to express Italian modernity, Ponti distanced himself from the sentiments of Novecento and sought to reconcile art and industry. Together with the engineers, Eugenio Soncini and Antonio Fornaroli, Ponti enjoyed great success in the industrial sector, securing various commissions throughout Italy. In the 1950s, he gained international fame with the design of the Pirelli Tower in Milan and he was asked to be a part of the urban renewal of Baghdad, collaborating with top architects from around the world. His 1957 book, Amate l’architettura, is considered to be a microcosm of his work —an incredible legacy spanning art, architecture, industrial design, publishing and academia.
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