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Monday, August 26, 2013

Mark Marchioni, Pulp Artist

Who knew? Certainly not I nor any other photographer.  But our own Mark Marchioni of Tiltall fame was first a well trained and well known "Pulp Artist" who began commercial illlustration from the mid 1930s on into the 1940s. (Click to enlarge examples)

Here is what Mark's nephew, Bill Kellen, recalls when I asked him about Mark's "secret" life:

"Mark was an illustrator in the 30’s. Then, when the war came, he and Caesar worked machining war goods. Bendix, as an example, was one of the companies they machined goods for. Caesar liked photography, and that is one of the reasons that Mark came up with the design of the Tiltall Head and Tripod. Once the war was over, they started making the tripod which became one of the most famous and best in the world. I still run into people every once and a while that have a Marchioni original and they love it. When Mark began working on the Tiltall, he stopped illustrating and really never talked about his early career. I never knew about it until I was in college and only by accident, when I saw some of his drawings in the attic at 51 Chestnut Street, the family home. So it is not surprising that Leitz or others did not write about it."

Bill sent me a link to a well-researched history about Mark Marchioni together with examples of his illustrations written and preserved by "pulp art" historian, David Saunders, son of the illustrator, Norman Saunders - read on:

"Marco Enrico Marchioni was born October 23, 1901 in Manhattan, New York City. His father, Franco Marchioni, was born 1868 in Vodo di Cadore, Italy. His mother, Angela Marchioni, was born 1878 in the same village. His parents married and immigrated to America in 1898 and settled in Brooklyn. They had eight children, of which he was the second born: Caesar (b.1900), Marco (b.1901), Ricardo (b.1904), Fiorenza (b.1908), Giovanni (b.1910), Elena (b.1911), Dora (b.1914), and Madeline (b.1917). They lived at 98 Vernon Avenue in Brooklyn.

"His parent's hometown, Vodo di Cadore, is a mountainous municipality in the province of Belluno in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, which is north of Venice and south of the Austrian border. Vodo di Cadore is famous for ice cream. His father and his uncle, Bartolo Marchioni, opened an ice cream factory at 21 Ann Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1903 they invented and patented the world's first mechanical device for manufacturing ice cream cones. In 1912 the Marchioni family returned to Italy and spent one year in Vodo di Cadore, where his parents hoped their children would learn the traditional lifestyle of their ancestral village.

"At that time in Italy a radical new art movement called Futurism was causing a sensation in the Italian press. The Futurists rejected the Old World lifestyle and embraced a revolutionary vision of a mechanized society that was brutally fast-paced and unsentimental. It is interesting to consider the impact of these radical ideas on an impressionable young artist, whose own work curiously reflects the Futurist's visionary fascination with awesome mechanical complexities. In 1914 the Marchioni family returned to Brooklyn, where the prosperous ice cream business permitted them to leave the unhealthy squalor of NYC and buy a home in Rutherford, New Jersey at 51 Chestnut Street. He attended public school in Rutherford.

"During the Great War he was too young for military service. In June 1920 he graduated from high school in Rutherford. During the 1920s he continued to live at home, but he began to commute to NYC to study at the Art Students League of New York, where George Bridgman (1865-1943) and Frank Dumond (1865-1951) were his most influential teachers. In 1928 he studied at the Grand Central School of Art, where his drawing teacher was Arshille Gorky (1902-1948), the founder of the modernist art movement, Anamorphic Abstraction. One of Gorky's other art students was Willem DeKooning (1904-1997), who became America's foremost Abstract Expressionist, and always acknowledged his debt to Gorky.

"Marco "Mark" Marchioni's fascination with complex machinery found a grateful audience in the innovative field of science fiction. He sold his first illustration to Hugo Gernsback's Air Wonder Stories in 1929. He went on to draw black and white story illustrations for most pulp magazines in the science fiction genre, including Astonishing Stories, Astounding, Startling Stories, and Thrilling Wonder. He illustrated a regular three-page feature in Thrilling Wonder, called SCIENTIFACTS, which presented a variety of "incredible but true" science facts. Besides illustrating science fiction pulp magazines he also worked for a variety of art agencies that produced newspaper and magazine advertisements.

"During WWII he was over forty and not selected for military service. His lifelong interest in machinery lead him to invent a coin-sorting machine, for which he and his older brother Caesar won a patent in 1944. In 1946 he and Caesar invented and patented a sturdy but maneuverable aluminum camera tripod, which they called the Tiltall. Rather than sell the design to a manufacturer, they started a small factory in the family garage and placed ads for the Tiltall in photo magazines. As its reputation for superior performance grew orders flooded in, and the brothers hired five full time employees.

"According to Caesar Marchioni, 'Always we hoped to catch up so we could get the time to expand, to plan a factory and so forth, but always the orders kept coming in.' The hired five full time employees and managed to produce five thousand units a year. Finally in 1973 they sold Tiltall to Leica, the famous German camera company. In 1975 he retired and moved to 18035 Citron Avenue in Fontana, California.

" According to the editors of Thrilling Wonder, "Mark Marchioni is a serious, dark-eyed chap, who likes good books and music. His favorite hobby consists of fooling around with mechanical gadgets. His favorite authors are Eando Binder, Dr. Keller and Edward Elmer Smith, Phd." Mark Marchioni died at the age of eighty-five at his home in San Bernardino, CA, on October 15, 1987."

Curiously, I am writing this post in San Bernardino CA.