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Leo Lionni papers

 Collection — Box: 1-3
Identifier: CSC-0099

Scope and Contents

The Leo Lionni collection at RIT consists of visual documents representative of his commercial work from 1942 - 1995, including proofs, tear-sheets and various other printed materials. Bibliographic materials in the collection include published writings on or by Lionni.


  • Creation: 1942-1995


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

Innovative American graphic designer, art director, painter and renowned author and illustrator of children's books, Leo Lionni was born in Amsterdam, May 5, 1910. His education included the University of Zurich (1928-1930) and the study of economics at the University of Genoa (1931-1935, Ph.D., 1935). He married Nora Maffi in 1931; together they had two sons: Louis and Paul. He emigrated to the United States in 1939 and became a naturalized citizen in 1945.

Lionni studied painting under the Italian Futurist painter Filippo Marinetti. He worked as art director at Motta, an Italian food supplier, from 1933-1935. There he produced advertisements for Domus and Casabella magazines among others. After emigrating to the United States, Lionni continued his work in art direction and graphic design in various capacities.

Retiring from Fortune in 1961, Lionni continued his career as an author and illustrator of children's books. His philosophy of the visual arts is best conveyed in his own words:

"When, as a child, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was simply, 'an artist.' During the seventy years that followed, I have remained loyal to that early promise ... I am interested in the full range of artistic experience, of which design is an integral -- not a separate -- part. I believe that through first hand-experience in all the arts, the problems of vision, both real and imaginary, can be seen in a sharper focus and solved with greater freedom"-- Leo Lionni

Leo Lionni's work has been widely exhibited and is featured in the permanent collections of many internationally recognized museums. A full bibliography of his publications, together with a listing of publications on Lionni and his exhibition history are included in Contemporary Designers (St. James Press, 1990).


3 Linear Feet (1 Document Case 1 Storage Box 1 Oversize box )




The collection consists of bibliographic and client files related to graphic designer Leo Lionni. A large portion of the collection represents his time at Fortune along with his career as an author and illustrator of children's books.

Physical Location

Graphic Design Archives, Cary Collection Annex

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Leo Lionni Collection was given to Rochester Institute of Technology in June 1997 by Leo Lionni.

Accession number(s):1997:001

Processing Information

Collection processed by Carole Ann Fabian, Heather Sutherland, and Lauren Furushima.

Finding aid encoded by Lisa Witt, September, 2015. Re-encoded by Kayla Jackson, March, 2019.

Leo Lionni papers
Cary Graphic Design Archives
Lisa Witt
16 September 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection Repository

Rochester NY 14623 US
(585) 475-2408