The Walt Disney Family Museum is currently presenting an exhibition depicting modern artistic renderings of Lewis Carrolls’ Alice in Wonderland. The main focus of the exhibit is the current creations by Camille Rose Garcia. To add historical perspective, Alice in Wonderland concept paintings by Disney artist Mary Blair from the Museum’s collection are included. This optimum delight to the visual senses are on display through November 3rd.
Disney’s conceptual artistry of the 1940s -1960s was primarily due to the imagination of Mary Blair. Her creations permeated Walt’s animated productions and theme parks. Critics have often compared the post-modern influence in her work to the iconic Lost Generation painters who lived in Paris during the 1920s.
Born in McAlester, Oklahoma, Blair won a scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. After graduation in 1933, at the height of the Depression, she took a job in the animation unit of MGM, rather than pursue her dream of a fine arts career. In 1940, she joined the Walt Disney Studios and worked on a number of projects. In 1941, she joined a Disney expedition that toured Mexico and South America for three months, and she painted watercolors that inspired Walt to name her art supervisor on Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Blair’s unique styling greatly influenced many of Disney’s postwar productions, including Alice in Wonderland, Song of the South, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, and Peter Pan.
In 1964, Walt asked Blair to assist in the design of the It’s a Small World attraction. Over the years, she contributed to the style of many exhibits and attractions at the theme parks in California and Florida, including fanciful murals in the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Walt Disney World Resort.
She was credited as the color designer on the 1968 cinematic version of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Mary Blair died in 1978.
Though her art veers away from naturalism toward abstraction, Blair was one of Disney’s favorite artists. He personally responded to the use of color, naïve graphics, and a storytelling aspect in her pictures. Her bold and ground-breaking color design still inspires many of today’s contemporary designers and animators. She was recognized with a posthumous Disney Legend award in 1991.
The vibrant exhibit transcends multiple visions of a legendary literary story, and each artist compliments the other. The Walt Disney Museum is at 104 Montgomery St. at The Presidio in San Francisco.
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