Alfonso Iannelli

Italian-American artist, sculptor and designer Alfonso Iannelli was born in Andretta, Italy in 1888 and immigrated to the United States as a small child. Somewhat overlooked, he spent most of his life in Chicago, working with noteworthy architects, designers and artists, and is only recently garnering long-overdue recognition for his prolific and noble body of work.

Early in his career, Iannelli was invited to collaborate with Frank Lloyd Wright on sculptures of the Midway Gardens project. The young artist created several of the Sprite sculptures for gardens, which Wright would ultimately take credit for. Authorship issues aside, the Midway project marked Iannelli’s first explorations in fusing organic sculpture with the geometric forms of architecture, believing that the movement of the sculpture must flow from the structure itself. Alongside his artistic practice, Iannelli was a talented designer, producing hundreds of posters early in his career for the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, illustrating his distinct aesthetic and deft skills as a draftsman.

In 1924, he visited Europe and was introduced to the radical style of Fernand Léger, Oskar Schlemmer and the Bauhaus movement. The experience greatly influenced Iannelli and by the 1930s his sculptures had evolved into more simplified, modern forms. His studio in Park Ridge, Illinois—opened with his wife and illustrator Margaret—grew to become a gathering place for the local artistic community, spurring numerous collaborations and forays into commercial design and advertising. The C-20 Coffeemaster vacuum coffee maker and an electric toaster for Sunbeam Products are among his most well-known industrial creations, however, Iannelli remains best remembered for his remarkably prolific career as devoted artist and designer.

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