Settling in America
Alfonso Iannelli was born in Andretta, Italy in 1888 before immigrating to America when he was 10. Iannelli spent most of his life in Chicago and is recognized for his creative achievements in conjunction with various noted architects, designers, and artists.
Mount Rushmore and Frank Lloyd Wright
Before embarking upon his career, Iannelli was formally trained under Gutzon Borglum, who sculpted Mount Rushmore. In the early 1910s, Iannelli designed advertisement posters for the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. Through this work, he befriended Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John, who promptly introduced Iannelli to his father. Wright invited Iannelli to join him in Chicago to contribute to the Midway Gardens project in 1914, for which Iannelli created several Sprite sculptures; one example is currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Midwestern Sculpture and Interiors
Another iconic building on which Iannelli worked is Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, completed in 1930 by architect Ernest A. Grunsfeld III. For the Adler, Iannelli devised a series of zodiac-themed, Art Deco-style plaques. He also teamed with the Prairie School architectural duo of William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie on the Woodbury County Courthouse in Sioux City, Iowa. With architect Barry Byrne, Iannelli executed several sculptural commissions for Roman Catholic Church buildings. In Park Ridge, Illinois, northwest of Chicago, Iannelli and his wife Margaret established Iannelli Studios, which became a popular spot for artists and designers to work side by side. Since 2006, Iannelli Studios has been occupied by the Kalo Foundation, which furthers the legacy of the renowned Arts and Crafts silversmith and jewelry making shop.
Shifting to Industrial Products
In the 1920s and 1930s, Iannelli focused on industrial, commercial, and interior design. His realized products include the C-20 Coffeemaster vacuum coffee maker and the T-9 electric toaster for Sunbeam Products; both were showcased at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Iannelli’s functional designs mostly fall under the international Art Deco style of Streamline Moderne.
Historic Design Recognition
Two interior spaces by Iannelli were listed on the National Register of Historic Places during his career: the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge, Illinois (1928) and the Catlow Theater in Barrington, Illinois (1927). Iannelli died in Chicago in 1965, leaving behind an important art and design legacy in the Midwest and beyond.Contact a Specialist View all Artists/Makers