Fortunato Depero and his pencils’s American success

In an early-1930s publication titled “Incredibile storia vissuta di… matite”, Fortunato Depero (1892-1960) tells a personal anecdote related to some advertisement illustrations he had been asked to create by a Milan-based company in 1926.

He had been commissioned four subjects: “Pencil Factory”, “The Pencil-animal”, “The Pencil-man” and “Bundle of colored pencils”. But finally the artist did not consider the fee satisfactory and took his drawings back, deciding to look for better clients.

“I offered them to another Milan-based company. I arranged for an order of 100,000 postcards, and the colored illustrations were produced. When the company showed them to some provincial clients who did not appreciate them, the order was put on standby. They reimbursed my expenses but the job went up in smoke.”

In Depero’s story, more proposals and more refusals are described, until his pencils finally find their fortune in the United States:

“In September 1928, they sailed with me on the Augustus. In New York, they saw the windows on the Fifth Avenue, the Galleries on Madison and Park Avenue, and the workshops of the American Lead Pencil Co. in Hoboken. As I write, they are showcased in all of their originality in my sixth show in New York, at the Advertising Club on Park Avenue” (translated from “Depero. L’uomo e l’artista”, by Maurizio Scudiero, Egon, Rovereto 2009).

Here is a selection of wonderful “advertisement pencils” by Fortunato Depero.

Photos via: ©Casa d’Arte futurista Depero, ©Eredi Depero

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"Pencil-man with a Mustache", 1926, collage, Galleria Fonte d'Abisso, Milan

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"Pencil-man", 1928, collage, Studio 53 Arte, Rovereto (Trento)

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"Pencil through the Nose", 1927-28, collage, Studio 53 Arte, Rovereto (Trento)

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"Pencil Factory", 1928, collage, private collection

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"Pencil Advertisement Kiosk", 1926, collage, Galleria Fonte d'Abisso, Milan

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"Venus Pencil 1929", 1929, India ink, private collection

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

Two projects for Venus Pencil, Fondo Depero at Mart, Rovereto (Trento)

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"Pencil-woman" for Venus Pencil, ca. 1931, Fondo Depero at Mart, Rovereto (Trento)

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"10c. Venus Pencil", a project for an advertisement window-stand, 1929-30, collage, Fondo Depero at Mart, Rovereto (Trento)

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

"Pencil-bay", for Venus Pencil, 1929, collage, private collection

Le matite di Fortunato Depero

Project for a box of Venus Pencil pencils, 1929, Fondo Depero at Mart, Rovereto (Trento)

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