There are many things one can learn from old magazines, not the least of which is the existence of once popular and now comparatively forgotten illustrators and designers who contributed great talent to their respective periodicals. Ezio Anichini is an Italian artist/illustrator (born in Florence; 1886–1948) whose versatility, craft, and stylistic mastery were equal to many of the more well-known of his era. He could be Leon Bakst in one picture, Aubrey Beardsley in another, and a bit of Coles Phillips too—but the pictures were always Ezio’s own. It is a gift to discover him by chance, only to find that he was extremely prodigious during his lifetime.
And yet, little is known about him. Anichini studied at the Academia di Belle Arti in Florence in 1902. He began his dedicated illustration work in the Art Nouveau, Symbolist, or Stile Liberty style as early as 1903. Shortly afterward, he became one of the primary cover artists for the Italian monthly Scena Illustrata (founded in 1865), and for a dozen or more other periodicals. Anichini also created complex compositions in a Pre-Raphealite manner, as posters for performances at the Teatro Romano in Fiesole. His proudest work appears to be illustrations for the Laura Orvieto book Stories of World History, Greek and Barbarian and for the first Italian edition of Peter Pan from R. Bemporad publishers. He later worked with Umberto Brunelleschi on projects, too.
Anichini’s work does not fit the modern zeitgeist that swept through Italy’s art scene after World War I, but in light of today’s return to ornament, his drawing, painting, and lettering have a curiously contemporary aura. What’s more, his sense of how to manipulate positive and negative space is impeccable.
You might also like Steven Heller’s The Education of an Illustrator, available from MyDesignShop.com.