Beverly Hills, CA — Fine art illustrations created during the production of “Bambi” (1942), “The Birds” (1963), “The Graduate” (1967), “Dick Tracy” (1990) and dozens of other films from the late 1940s through the early 1990s will be highlighted in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new exhibition, “The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator: William B. Major, Harold Michelson and Tyrus Wong,” opening on Friday, September 28, in the Academy’s Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.
Featuring more than 110 color and black-and-white storyboards, sketches and watercolor renderings, the exhibition will honor an essential but rarely publicized member of the moviemaking team: the illustrator.
As the tools available to motion picture artists continue to change, particularly with the widespread use of computer programs, the impressive skills of Major, Michelson and Wong define an era when the film industry prized art school training and an ability to paint and draw quickly at the highest professional levels.
Motion picture artists sketched and painted countless scenes for each film, drew hundreds of pages of storyboards, and illustrated key sets: they enabled production designers to convey their ideas to directors, facilitated set construction, and helped directors and cinematographers alike visualize their most important shots.
Major and Wong attended Otis Art Institute, while Michelson studied at the Art Students League and Pratt Institute in New York. A formative early experience for both Major and Michelson was working in the Paramount art department on Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” (1956). Major spent 30 years at Paramount and enjoyed a brief stint at Universal before his death in 1991.
While Michelson became an art director and production designer starting in the late ’60s and earned Academy Award® nominations for “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” (1979) and “Terms of Endearment” (1983), he continued to accept illustration assignments throughout his career. He passed away in March 2007.
Wong worked for three years at Disney, where his distinctive watercolor style shaped the entire look of “Bambi” (1942). He then went to Warner Bros., where he illustrated for three decades. He continues his personal artistic pursuits to this day.
“The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator” will be on display through Sunday, December 16. The Academy’s galleries, located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, are open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. The Academy will be closed during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend – Thursday, November 22 through Sunday, November 25. For more information call (310) 247-3600.