Aurelius Battaglia (January 16, 1910 – May, 1984) was an American illustrator, muralist, writer, and director. He was born in Washington, D.C., in 1910 and he died in Provincetown, MA in May, 1984. He was the son of Giuseppe and Concetta Battaglia, who had emigrated from Cefalù, Italy. Aurelius attended the Corcoran School of Art. He graduated as one of the Corcoran’s most promising students, winning $50 in a Corcoran-sponsored art contest.
Battaglia migrated west in the late 1930s and worked for the Walt Disney Studios from 1937 to 1941. He contributed most notably to Dumbo, Fantasia, and Pinocchio and is credited as one of the writers of the latter. In the mid-1950s, Battaglia joined United Productions of America, a studio staffed by some of the industry’s most accomplished, forward-thinking animation artists. Perhaps his most outstanding UPA contribution was the short film The Invisible Moustache of Raoul Dufy. Battaglia directed the film, which was nominated for a BAFTA award.
Battaglia was also a prolific children’s book illustrator. His picture book work in the 1950s and 1960s differs significantly from the deco-inspired circus animals of his depression-era murals. They feature bold, solid colors and striking, stylized pen and brush work indicative of the looser, more abstract mid-century cartooning style that he helped pioneer. Notable examples include "Cowboy Jack, the Sheriff", "The Fire Engine Book", "Little Boy With a Big Horn", "When I Met Robin", "Captain Kangaroo’s Read-Aloud Book" and "The Fireside Book of American Folk Songs". He contributed to the Childcraft book series published by Field Enterprises.
Battaglia moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he continued to work until his death in May 1984.
In the 1930s, Battaglia worked in a flowing, deco-influenced, organic style informed by classic European illustration. His later children’s book and animation work was emblematic of the radical, more abstract stylization prevalent in the 1950s and ‘60s, a trend he helped to establish.
In 1934, the Works Progress Administration commissioned Battaglia to paint murals in the children’s section of the library in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington where he resided. The result was a stunning, whimsical panorama of anthropomorphic animals at play. It still hangs in the alcoves of the building’s second floor. The Mount Pleasant Library is located at 3160 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20010.
- http://www.cartoonhalloffame.org/2006/02/battaglia-aurelius.html accessed January 27, 2009
- http://www.animationarchive.org/labels/mural.html accessed January 27, 2009