Domenico Mortellito papers1950-1979
Domenico Mortellito (1906-1994) was a designer, muralist, and sculptor noted for working in plastics and other synthetic materials. The majority of the materials in this small collection deal with the design and execution of the DuPont Pavilion at the second New York World's Fair in 1964-1965, including correspondence, studies, drawings, and photos of the take-apart model of the original design.
- Mortellito, Domenico, 1906-1994 (Person)
1.2 Linear Feet
Domenico Mortellito (1906-1994) was a designer, muralist, and sculptor noted for working in plastics and other synthetic materials.
Mortellito was born on September 1, 1906, in Newark, New Jersey, and graduated from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1926. He then joined the studio of Mack, Jenny & Tyler in New York, where he was employed until 1932. This early work consisted of traditional architectural murals and ceiling decorations in both fresco and oils, including work for the Morgan Library annex. From 1932 to 1942 he operated his own studio in New York. During 1934, he did some Works Progress Administration work, but in the main was able to build a new career as a decorator of public buildings and commercial displays and expositions. The nature of this work moved Mortellito in the direction of non-traditional materials, including carved and lacquered linoleum and rubber-based paints. This phase of Mortellito's work culminated in the decoration of pavilions at the New York World's Fair, including the Food, Sports, and Fashion buildings, and the buildings of Heinz, Ford, and DuPont, the latter including the first wall decorations to be made of Lucite, Plastacele, and other plastics. In the same year he had several works in carved linoleum exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art.
Mortellito served in the Army Air Force during World War II, supervising graphic presentations to General "Hap" Arnold and his staff and designing publications. On the basis of his World's Fair work, Mortellito became a design consultant to DuPont's Advertising Department after the war, and a full-time employee in 1950. In addition to murals, decorations, magazine covers, and trade show exhibits, he also created product symbols such as "Mr. Neoprene" and "Mr. Teflon," as well as the DuPont 150th anniversary memorial now on the grounds of the Hagley Museum. From 1957 to 1979, he chaired the DuPont Color Council, a unit of the Advertising Department that promoted the use of DuPont dyes. Perhaps his largest project of this period was the DuPont Pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. After his retirement from DuPont, Mortellito continued to produce murals and sculptures, chiefly in synthetic materials, for both public and private installation. He died on July 31, 1994.
Scope and Contents
Domenico Mortellito's papers are a small fragment that primarily document his work for the DuPont Company.
The majority of the materials deal with the design and execution of the DuPont Pavilion at the second New York World's Fair in 1964-1965, including correspondence, studies, drawings, and photos of the take-apart model of the original design. The files reveal Mortellito's dissatisfaction with the final result and the fate of some of his design concepts at the hands of his superiors in the Advertising Department.
There are also a number of reports and recommendations for DuPont on a variety of design issues; the organization of the Color Council; a clippings file on the 150th anniversary monument; paste-ups for presentation books on Corian; a company corporate identification manual, and the use of DuPont colors in kraft paper and tissue paper; sketches for a heraldic shield for DuPont Menswear; and designs for oval-shaped containers.
There is also an extensive file on what Mortellito termed "growing shelters synthetically," a project to have housing or building units produced on-site from extruded or molded plastics such as urethane foams. Such processes are used to produce structures that are cellular rather than rectilinear, resembling honeycombs, shells, fruits, and other organic forms, and the designs somewhat resemble the work of the architect Bruce Goff (1904-1982) and his followers.
The papers also include talks by Mortellito, miscellaneous sketches and artwork, and a patent for a system of exhibit panels.
This collection is open for research.
Language of Materials
Domenico Mortellito photographs (Accession 1995.223), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
A model of the World's Fair Pavilion, along with artwork in Lucite and Teflon, are part of the Hagley Museum Division Collections. For access, please contact the Curator of Museum Collections. Advance notice is required.
- Mortellito, Domenico, 1906-1994 (Person)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Domenico Mortellito papers
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- 2020: Laurie Sather