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Severo Antonelli papers


Held at: Woodmere Art Museum [Contact Us]9201 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19118

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Woodmere Art Museum. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Severo Antonelli (1907-1995) was an internationally known Italian-American photographer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who is often associated with the futurist movement. In 1938, he founded the Antonelli Institute, a photograph and graphic design school, and remained its president until he retired in 1974. Antonelli was active in the Philadelphia arts community and Antonelli's work is part of the permanent collection at Woodmere Art Museum.

Antonelli came to Philadelphia from Italy with his family in 1921. His father worked as a cabinet maker for the Victor company, but died when Severo was around seventeen years old. Severo left school to help support his family and attended classes at the Graphic Sketch Club in Philadelphia (now Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial).

In 1925, Antonelli opened a studio in Philadelphia and a few years later, when he was 22, became the youngest person to win a gold medal in an international competition for excellence in photography. His work received critical acclaim and awards at shows across Europe and Asia in the late 1920s and early 1930s and earned him a reputation as a "futurist" artist and photographer, as well as a "photo-picturalist." He was also successful in industrial and commercial art endeavors. Antonelli's work was exhibited on two separate occasions at the Smithsonian, the largest one-man photography exhibit ever to be held there.

Active in Philadelphia's arts and Italian-American community, Antonelli was one of the founding members of the Da Vinci Art Alliance, still active as of 2016. In 1938, after recognizing a need for training for photographers and military photographs, Antonelli opened the Antonelli School of Photography at 4th and Chestnut streets in Philadelphia (now Antonelli Institute, located in Erdenheim, PA). He served as president of the Institute until his retirement in 1974.

In 1985 Antonelli married Kay Mauchly, one of the first computer programmers and the widow of computer pioneer John Mauchly. That same year, the Woodmere Art Museum held a retrospective of Antonelli's works. Antonelli was a long-time supporter of Woodmere and in 1986 he donated more than one hundred of his photographs to the Museum. In 1987, Antonelli donated a large sum of money to the Museum for renovations. Severo Antonelli passed away in 1995.


Antonelli Institute. "History." 2016. Accessed August 18, 2016.

"Photographer Contributes $100,000 to Woodmere." Chestnut Hill Local (Philadelphia, PA), February 5, 1987. Item viewed in collection.

World Heritage Encyclopedia. "Severo Antonelli." Accessed August 18, 2016.

The Severo Antonelli papers, circa 1919-1980s, consist of photographs, printed matter and publications, letters, ephemera, artifacts and other materials relating to Antonelli's activities and work. There are also materials from the Antonelli School of Photography, now the Antonelli Institute.

Photographic material in the collection includes photographs and negatives taken by Antonelli of individuals and various female nudes. There are also a number of negatives and working proofs of brides by Antonelli. Other photographs in the collection are of Antonelli at speaking engagements and images of his studio. There is one glass plate negative of Antonelli, 1927.

There are some publications with articles that reference Antonelli or his work, as well as publications featuring his photographs. There are also photocopies of articles written by Antonelli.

Other materials in the collection include a small amount of letters written by Antonelli, 1930s-1968; handwritten sheet music with lyrics in Italian; drawings of geometric shapes, 1919; greeting cards featuring his work sold by Woodmere; programs from dinners where he was honored; materials from the Professional Photographers Association of Pennsylvania; and ephemera from his studio.

Artifacts in the collection include medals and awards Antonelli received from a variety of photographic professional organizations and juried exhibitions.

Also available in the collection are materials from the Antonelli School of Photography, now the Antonelli Institute, 1938-1980s. The materials include catalogs, course materials, newsletters, photographs of student exhibits, negatives of commencement, blank diplomas, graduation programs, and magazine with articles about the school.

Gift of Severo Antonelli, 1992

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Woodmere Art Museum directly for more information.

Woodmere Art Museum
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu and Anastasia Matijkiw through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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