Italian painter and Illustrator.
Borgoni, a young Italian artist who had been born in 1869 in
Pesaro (on the eastern coast of Italy) and studied at the
Neapolitan Art Institute, where he later taught Ornament for
many years, was an early practitioner of the fresh new style. As
his pairs at the then revolutionary Italian Liberty Movement he
had such gifted graphic artists as Giovanni Mataloni and,
especially, the German immigrant Adolfo Hohenstein.
1900 he started freelancing for the Neapolitan printer Richter &
C, becoming its artistic director around 1906. In his posters
for Richter, Borgoni often used a particular Liberty design
solution by which he separated the image in two parts: i) a sort
of dark cursive frame in the foreground, that often included the
lettering and, at times, an observer a scene as viewed
from the window thus formed.
style, as applied to hotel labels by him or other artists under
his direction, became a sort of trademark of Richter & C that
was widely imitated and upon which rested the company's
worldwide success as a supplier of labels to the hotel trade.
Borgoni made a career as a bona-fide artist and
painter-decorator, but experts say that his art lacks depth.
Whatever they may mean by that, it is undeniable that he was a
superior draughtsman of the human figure and is justly
remembered for his sensuous treatment of women in some of his
best poster work. He has probably designed many labels early in
his career but soon he concentrated on posters, some of which
were reduced for use as labels. These often carry his monogram
(the letters "Mbi" in a circle).
some indication that, non-withstanding his talent, Borgoni did
not consider himself a true artist, possibly because so much of
his work was graphic: in 1916, when Enrico Gianelli did a
compilation of biographical notes on Neapolitan artists, Borgoni
left unanswered a request for data on himself, which Gianelli
attributed to an excess of modesty but more likely stemmed from
a lack of self esteem for his own work.
clue to his feelings can be found in the fact that, unlike other
artists, he often did not sign his poster work. It is likely
that his few known signed labels were originally designed as
posters and then reduced for use as labels.
Borgoni left Italy for the United States where (at 61!) he
started a new career as publicity and fashion illustrator. He
returned in 1936 to die in Naples, where he had worked for most
of his life.
main contributions to hotel label art were the double-plane
style, the elegant Liberty lettering and his "degradee"
treatment of the early morning or evening skies. The proper
lithographic rendering of his reds or oranges softly fading into
yellows requires a high level of workmanship and its widespread
use in hotel labels is characteristic of Richter alone.
Borgoni was and remained primarily a poster artist. The fact
that most (if not all) of his known (signed) labels are
scaled-down posters is apparent: Borgoni's treatment of detail
and light in the large lithographic posters is often impossible
to render accurately, by the same technique, at the reduced
scale of a label. So, several of his labels were either
reproduced photographically from posters and printed by the
3-color process (which lowers considerably their interest and
value), or else they were lithographed at the cost of a
noticeable loss in graphic quality. For labels printed by the
3-color process, examine that of the Nettuno Hotel in Pisa (above,
far right) and that of the National Hotel at the top right side.
Compare this label with the same design on a later lithography.
influence was decisive at the onset of the First Golden Age of
hotel labels. His style was the artistic pillar of Richter's
success, and the ubiquity of Richter's labels made of Borgoni's
style the standard by which all others would be measured.
himself never adapted to the modernistic deco trends and Richter
was at a stylistic dead-end by the time he left. But even so, he
remains the most influential hotel label artist. Actually, the
only one without whom the history of this field would certainly
have been different.