Playing God: The Art and Artists of Matte Painting

Matte painters are highly specialized fine artists who work in a popular visual medium and yet are generally unknown to the public. An integral part of the motion picture production process since the silent era, matte painters have helped to create some of cinema’s most memorable images by painstakingly hand-painting on glass or wood panels vast landscapes, dense cityscapes and even entire fictional settings. Their visionary works and amazing powers of illusion have enabled filmmakers to transport audiences to places and times impossible to travel to, too costly to re-create or open only to the imagination.

The exhibition focused on the life and work of masters Peter Ellenshaw, Albert Whitlock, Matthew Yuricich and others, artists who endowed each of the films they worked on with their own distinctive style. It also showcased the matte artist’s cinematic “tools of the trade” and featured several stunning pieces created for such classic films as “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), “Spartacus” (1960) and “The Birds” (1963).

The Butcher's Wife

Scene from “North by Northwest” (1959).

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