slaytonf

Art in Movies

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Watching The Moon and Sixpence I recorded from yesterday brought this idea to mind.  Art comes into movies in two ways.  One is based on real artists and their work, and understandably it is good.  Naturally, otherwise they would not have been the subject of the movie.  In the other way, the artist is a  fictional character and the art made up for the movie.  Almost universally, this art is wretched.  Even in movies where a big deal is made about a famous contemporary artist being commissioned to create work(s) for the movie, the results are at best unremarkable.  There used to be only two movies I knew of where the art made for the movie was any good.  But Moon/Sixpence also has some good painting. It's specifically avoided until the end of the movie when it appears in technicolor, meant to be a stunning change from the previous black/sepia and white.  The movie, being a loose representation of Gaugin's life, it's fitting that the painting in the movie is also a loose representation of his work.  I could not find a still of the paintings, done originally by an uncredited Dolya Goutman, but I found the next best thing.  A painting done by a painter (Luc Tuymans) from stills of the paintings in the movie (sheesh!):

 

tuymans_allo-v1a.jpg

 

The two other movies I can recall with art that is decent include Age of Consent, a movie directed by Michael Powell and starring James Mason as an artist who, feeling his wellsprings of creativity dried up, removes himself to a remote retreat, there encountering a young Hellen Mirren, who gets them going again.  Simultaneous with this process, we watch him progressively paint the interior of his hermit shack with playful, unaffected murals.  The art was done by Paul Delprat.  I couldn't find any pics of the shack walls, but there were some paintings-watercolors?-he did which can give you an idea of the mood he created:

1933804_1127820323895490_307371274520287

 

Last is a 1968 Yugoslav movie by Serb director Aleksandar Petrovic called in English, It Rains in My Village.  A number of things go on in it, but the important thing here is that an itinerant lady teacher/painter comes to a village to teach/do painting.  I can't find the name of the real artist, but the works in the movie have a subconscious/free associative feeling to them reminiscent of Marc Chagall:

 

2vuhj6g.png

 

 

Are there others?  I'll look for them.

 

Oh, The Moon and Sixpence?  It was a good movie.

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Slayton, thank you for posting those images for us. I remember liking the murals on the palace walls in BLACK NARCISSUS, and the paintings in THE HORSE'S MOUTH seemed appropriate for the artist Gulley Jimson played by Alec Guinness.

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Slayton, thank you for posting those images for us. I remember liking the murals on the palace walls in BLACK NARCISSUS, and the paintings in THE HORSE'S MOUTH seemed appropriate for the artist Gulley Jimson played by Alec Guinness.

 

 

What about the portrait of Laura?

 

I'll check 'em out.

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Slayton, I so enjoyed reading your post. I find that often in a well made film, that the art on the walls might be there for help in an interpretation of the characters.

 

In "The Apartment" one sees the artwork of Henri Rousseau in the abode of  C.C. Baxter [Jack Lemmon]. The painting that one sees during the stay of Fran Kubelik [shirley MacLaine] is "The Sleeping Gypsy" and I think that its theme of the gypsy lying on the ground with the lion looking over the seeming corpse is indicative of Fran's deal with her boss, Mr. Sheldrake [Fred MacMurray].

 

I think great directors often pick art in their films which elucidate parts of the exegesis.
 

I actually enjoy films with art, but that are not about artists more, because the biopics are more obvious choices for the art, though "Lust for Life" or some like it can be the exception.

 

Great topic!

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As far as I know, I'M the only one amongst my particular circle of friends who's ever noticed s h i t like that.  Glad to find others who do. 

 

Now, I'm not that familiar with the art world in order to notice which obscure and ambient painting on some wall in some movie is a work by whichever artist, but I do take notice if it's seemingly out of place in a home or apartment of some character we've been led to believe by either the script or actor as being someone who wouldn't have that sort of "art" on their walls.

 

 

Sepiatone

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I went to my DVD of Laura to get another look at the portrait, but not being able to put it on a big screen, couldn't get a good look at it.  It seemed like a good portrait of Gene Tierney.  So I searched the Web, hoping to find a pic--preferably in color, as I could not access On the Riviera.  And, hey, I found this:

 

http://theartofilm.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-laura-portrait.html

 

From which I get this critical quote:

 

Now, about the painting itself. First, it's not a real painting. It's a photograph, colored with oil paint of Gene Tierney. The photograph was created by a Fox photographer, Frank Polony, who did many photographic portraits of famous actresses. I believe that the director, Otto Preminger, chose the painted photograph over an actual painting so that the portrait would be almost photographically realistic and otherworldly. Well, it is a photograph, so he certainly got the effect.

 

 

I'll be looking up Black Narcissus and The Horse's Mouth, which reminds me, there's a portrait painting scene in Odd Man Out.  Wonder if that artist finished his painting of the dying protagonist?

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You can see the portrait of Laura in color in On the Riviera.

 

And coincidentally, also on the wall of yet another film character of Clifton Webb's...the automobile company president in 1954's WOMEN'S WORLD.

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Slayton, I so enjoyed reading your post. I find that often in a well made film, that the art on the walls might be there for help in an interpretation of the characters.

 

In "The Apartment" one sees the artwork of Henri Rousseau in the abode of  C.C. Baxter [Jack Lemmon]. The painting that one sees during the stay of Fran Kubelik [shirley MacLaine] is "The Sleeping Gypsy" and I think that its theme of the gypsy lying on the ground with the lion looking over the seeming corpse is indicative of Fran's deal with her boss, Mr. Sheldrake [Fred MacMurray].

 

I think great directors often pick art in their films which elucidate parts of the exegesis.

 

I actually enjoy films with art, but that are not about artists more, because the biopics are more obvious choices for the art, though "Lust for Life" or some like it can be the exception.

 

Great topic!

 

 

 

Thanks for your comments, CaveGirl.  You've hit on another overlay for the way art appears in movies.  Either as examples of the featured artist, or as commentary on the business at hand.  Of course the two are not exclusive, so an artists work could be used in the imagery as a way of enhancing the director's take on the main character.  As with any other element in film, the use of artworks can reinforce, serve as counterpoint (ironic or otherwise), or add subtle twists of meaning to the themes.

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I think this short movie clip would be quite germane to this discussion...

 

Stop talking about me just because I'm a painter!! (my name is Germain haha)

 

I just spotted Maxfield Parrish's humorously titled male nude THE DINKEY BIRD in GOLDIGGERS of 33 the other night:

 

maxfield-parrish-the-dinky-bird.jpg

 

Very often you can spot Parrish, Louis Icart and Turner prints on the walls of WB films. They were popular "art" prints of the day. I once owned the print of the Japanese girl in a garden seen in the Skeffington household.

 

One of my favorite Mystery Science Theater quips was the guys would spontaneously quack. I finally realized they quacked every time the scene took place in a doorway and you saw duck prints on the hallway wall!

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Two films:

 

"Where Love Has Gone" (1964)--a rather awful painting of Bette Davis gets it during the film;I don't know if it still exists, but a photographed copy with water damage(?) is on sale at ebay for $21.50 plus shipping.

 

"The Sandpiper" (1965)--Elizabeth Taylor plays a mother who paints for a living.  I remember the paintings as being bad, but art.com is selling a print of at least one for $20.00.

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 I remember liking the murals on the palace walls in BLACK NARCISSUS, and the paintings in THE HORSE'S MOUTH seemed appropriate for the artist Gulley Jimson played by Alec Guinness.

 

 

I went back and took another look at Black Narcissus, and the murals are fine, at least to me.  They have both a primitive and refined quality to them.  Maybe it's the refinement in the artistry that allows them to appear simple portrayals without looking crude.  There is one painting of a seraglio scene that has the same frenetic energy of Indian temple sculpture.  I would guess that was intentional on the part of Alfred Junge, the production designer.  As to who did them, there is no mention, but I suspect it was among the team of artists under him.  Here's a good article on the set design and matte paintings:

 

http://silverscenesblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/set-design-black-narcissus-1947.html

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 the paintings in THE HORSE'S MOUTH seemed appropriate for the artist Gulley Jimson played by Alec Guinness.

 

 

I think TCM has aired the movie, but I neglected to record it.  I found some clips of it on YT with paintings and a search of the film yields some more images.  The painter who created the work in the movie is John Bratby.  Here is an example:

 

PaintingsinFilm-theHorsesmouth.jpg

 

 

I have to say, it's not to my taste, but I can see it's well done--as far as I have anything to say about what's good.  There's a big mural I like that shows what looks like an Africa collage (I assume also work by Bratby):

 

horsesmouth6.jpg

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Hmmmm...how about...

 

giphy-facebook_s.jpg

 

This of course would be Art Linkletter in CHAMPAGNE FOR CAESAR.

 

(...sorry slayton...I just couldn't resist) ;)

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Two films:

 

"Where Love Has Gone" (1964)--a rather awful painting of Bette Davis gets it during the film;I don't know if it still exists, but a photographed copy with water damage(?) is on sale at ebay for $21.50 plus shipping.

 

"The Sandpiper" (1965)--Elizabeth Taylor plays a mother who paints for a living.  I remember the paintings as being bad, but art.com is selling a print of at least one for $20.00.

Where Love Has Gone had a sculpture of Deforest Kelley's head in the movie too, if I remember correctly. 

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Where Love Has Gone had a sculpture of Deforest Kelley's head in the movie too, if I remember correctly. 

 

Damn it, GPF! He was a DOCTOR not a sculpture!!!

 

(...sorry again) ;)

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Hmmmm...how about...

 

giphy-facebook_s.jpg

 

This of course would be Art Linkletter in CHAMPAGNE FOR CAESAR.

 

(...sorry slayton...I just couldn't resist) ;)

 

 

Hmmm. . . . Arts and Letters. . . . . 

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Hmmmm...how about...

 

giphy-facebook_s.jpg

 

This of course would be Art Linkletter in CHAMPAGNE FOR CAESAR.

 

(...sorry slayton...I just couldn't resist) ;)

 

The only art is what the kids do. :lol:

 

R-2309128-1275952076.jpeg.jpg

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In Where Love Has Gone (1964), Susan Hayward's profession as an artist provides the pretext for the introduction of some art.  Can't find any clips, but I found a few stills, all of which are discouraging.  We get a portrait of Miss Bette Davis:

 

34no401.png

 

The less said about that the better (surprised Miss D permitted it in the movie at all, let alone appear next to it for comparison).  There's also some sculpture:

 

WHERE-LOVE-HAS-GONE.jpg

 

I think Miss Hayward's expression is most eloquent on that score.  Miss Hayward provides a better example of sculpture herself:

 

Susan%2BHayward%2B1949-1.jpg

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And on a more serious note here...

 

hopper-ross-nighthawks.jpg

 

The upper image is Edward Hopper's famous 1942 painting "Nighthawks", and the lower is a still from the 1981 movie PENNIES FROM HEAVEN starring Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters, and an obvious homage to the painting.

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