The distinct design universe which Carlo Mollino's imagination occupied was honoured only after his death. The complexity and craftsmanship of his pieces were overlooked during his lifetime when industrial production grew rapidly and Italian design series became established worldwide. The fashion for machine-made was not the appropriate context to gain recognition.

blog To the left Carlo Mollino, photo via leroi.torino.it  To the right coffee table by Carlo Mollino (1949), Brooklyn Museum

A man of many passions

Carlo Mollino was born in Turin in 1905. His father, Alberto Mollino, was a prominent civil engineer who designed, among other things, the local Molinette Hospital. Carlo followed in his father’s footsteps and enrolled in the Faculty of Engineering in 1925. Mollino was not destined to be an engineer, however, and after one year in the program, he transferred to the Royal College of Architecture at the Albertina Academy in Turin (today Polytechnic University of Turin) to achieve his creative ambitions.

blog (1) Museum Casa Mollino in Turin, photo via euro-places.com

Mollino's career as an architect, designer and photographer mingled with his many private hobbies (motorsport, aviation, skiing, mountaineering). Characteristic of his oeuvre is his remarkable ability to represent his many passions so seamlessly in his artworks. The creations and the man were intrinsically linked, so much so, that once combined they became difficult to differentiate. Mollino was an eclectic, ironic, eccentric man whose unconventional lifestyle included good wine and beautiful women alike.

Architecture, design, photography

The idiosyncrasies of Mollino’s private life are represented throughout his projects in his hometown of Turin, and it would be the peculiarities of his creations that would ultimately lead to prominence. The bold shapes of the Palazzo degli Affari’s façade, as well as the undulating curves of the Teatro Regio and the Rai Auditoriums, are clear examples of the technical and formal innovation that established Mollino as one of the foremost architects from the city.

blog Turin Commerce Chamber building, photo via Wikipedia

Mollino’s transition from architect to furniture designer was not a rapid or organic progression. However historic his furniture may be now, at the time it was considered illogical to eschew the norms of mass and serial production.

blog (2) Table "Reale", photo via Penccil.com

The torturous lines of the tables and chairs designed by Mollino are reminiscent of a sexual echo and thorough knowledge of materials - many of his pieces are based on the curves of a woman’s figure. The human form was one of his greatest design inspirations, along with the spirit of surrealist and futuristic artworks. All too often his pieces were defined as erotic, however, some designs reflect his other interests. The wooden base of the Reale table, for example, alludes to aviary forms.

blog (3) To the left, Carlo Mollino, Untitled, 1962-73, image Phillips. To the right, Carlo Mollino, Devalle settee, Italy 1939/1994, image Wright.

Read more about the surrealist movement here.

Always a constant in Mollino's life was photography, having been one of his most enthusiastic pursuits since his youth. Ever-present in his work is a juxtaposition between the artistic canon and the dynamism of experimentation.

blog (4) Carlo Mollino, photograph, Italy ca. 1938, image Wright.

...and beyond

As a man always looking to expand his creative horizons, architecture, furniture and photography gave way to automotive design. In 1954, he designed a surrealist-inspired bus, the Nube d'Argento for Agil-Gas.

blog (5) The bus "Nube d'Argento", photo via Bau-House

Building on that success, the following year he was commissioned to create the Nardi 750 Bisiluro, a racecar that was ultimately selected for the 24-hour race.

blog (6) The "Bisiluro", photo via Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia

Carlo Mollino passed away suddenly, in 1973, at the age of 68, but his eclectic designs and passionate ingenuity have left a legacy for the ages.

Search for Carlo Mollino on Barnebys.

Comment