Some say painter and illustrator Mario Borgoni – who was born in Pesaro in 1869, received his cultural and professional education in Naples and died in Rome in 1936 – had little self-esteem despite his undeniable talent. He never considered himself a true artist, probably because most of his works were graphic illustrations.
Apparently, in the early 1900s, painter and professor Enrico Giannelli asked him to contribute to the material he had been gathering for his “Artisti napoletani viventi” (“Living Neapolitan Artists”, an important book published in 1916 with biographical information on 243 painters, 78 sculptors and 22 architects born on based in Naples). But Borgoni never answered with information about his personal background and career, presumably because he didn’t feel worthy of appearing in such publication.
Borgoni studied at the Fine Arts Institute in Naples, where he later taught Decorative arts. In the early years of the 20th century, he began freelancing for Richter&C, one of Italy’s biggest manufacturers of labels, postcards and posters, mostly targeted at the hotel industry; he became the artistic director of the Neapolitan company in 1906.
In his posters for Richter, Borgoni often used a special kind of liberty design, separating the image on the two planes of artwork and frame. The former envelops the iconographic element and lettering, while the latter includes the descriptive subject, giving viewers the feeling they are looking at the scene through a window.
Borgoni’s style soon became Richter’s trademark, and an icon of its success, easy to recognize and – therefore – often copied by others.
Here is a selection of Borgoni’s posters and luggage labels – which maintain the poster’s format – dedicated to famous Italian destinations.