Friday, February 18, 2011

Dean Cornwell Paints

Here's some archival footage of American illustrator Dean Cornwell at work as he paints an illustration.

The oil painting is from The Robe, by Lloyd Douglas: "And now, with a deft maneuver, Marcellus brought the engagement to a dramatic close."  Click on the image below for a very large scan of the final artwork (Thanks, Joe).

 
The footage was shot by Frank Reilly in 1947, part of his "Artists at Work" series. According to Reilly himself, the purpose of the film "is to impress upon us the accomplishments of those among us now and to perpetuate their memory for the inspiration of those who are to follow.”

Thanks to Mr. Reilly, and thanks to the individuals and institutions who have preserved Reilly's legacy. If anyone knows where the original motion picture film copies are, please let me know.

Correction, March 5, 2013: According to one of Cornwell's grandchildren, "Dean was actually ambidextrous and could actually paint with both hands and apparently sometimes did so simultaneously (I would guess only if it wasn't great detail). Not a lefty; an ambi."
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Dean Cornwell on Wikipedia
Previously on GurneyJourney:

36 comments:

Scott Altmann said...

Thank you again James. I can't tell you how grateful I am to see these!

Dave Rapoza said...

Wow, that was great! Thanks for the video!

Sean McMurchy said...

super cool! I feel like I'm learning a little bit after each one of these wicked videos that you are doing. Thanks!

Raymond said...

Again,wow. Thank you Mr.Gurney

Erik Bongers said...

Thanks for sharing.
Professional introduction:)
I couldn't help noticing a book on Gustave Doré - the French engraver.

grobles63 said...

Wow!!! I really appreciate these videos. If only they were longer and of better quality, but I'm glad they survived even as is.

=shane white= said...

Dude...that's so freaking cool.
He's one of my favorite early illustrators. What a treat to see him paint.

Thanks for putting that together.

=s=

Christopher Moeller said...

I can't believe what I'm seeing! I saw the Harvey Dunn clip yesterday... like being in a time machine... really fascinating and humbling.

Jennifer G. Oliver said...

What a wonderful find Jim! Thanks so much for putting this together and sharing it with us.

Mark Tedin said...

It's amazing looking at the confidence of his brushstrokes when he's blocking in that painting!

Marc said...

That was great! Thanks for putting this together. I always feel like I learn so much more by watching someone work. Seeing Cornwell's brush handling was humbling. His accuracy, confidence and speed wouldn't be conveyed by just seeing still process images.

JonInFrance said...

The Robe's a nice book. A number of painters flick the brush like that - why?

Fraser McTaggart said...

What a superior artist. His work oozes with confidence.

Daroo said...

Thanks so much for this.

Its fun to see him work -- I wonder if that brushstroke flourish leaves a softened or tapered edge or if it is more of a mental/ muscle memory technique so that he's always making strong choices and not just mushing paint around?

I've thought about using ink to refine the underdrawing but I've wondered about migration? When he's applying the umber tones, the drawing doesn't appear to be inked -- did he reseal it with something semi- opaque?

Just curious, did you add the projector sound back into the audio mix?

Thomas Denmark said...

To see such a great master of illustration at work is inspirational, mind blowing, and so educational. Thanks so much for posting these!

Vinod Rams said...

This was amazing. Keep em' coming!
I loved seeing his thumbnails and studies.

Larry said...

These glimpses are priceless.

maxwest said...

It's neat to see how an artist works. I'm fascinated though that Cornwell was open to being filmed while he worked. Some famous artists like Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock didn't feel comfortable with being filmed at work. It was too "revealing".

Brenno said...

Thanks for posting this, James! Since Frank Reilly had a whole project in mind when he shot these artists at work, I wonder if there is more archival footage left of each artist, and whether there is any plan to make it available?

Gordon Napier said...

Thanks for digging these out. Very interesting.

Eric Braddock said...

What a fantastic post and brilliant process. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, James!

I especially enjoyed the little mention of the flicking of the brush after each stroke, interesting little tidbits like that are the jewels in things such as these.

Claire said...

Oooo... I like! Thanks very much! :)
Makes me hungry for more...

Aaron Miller said...

how many more treats do you have up your sleeve for us!?

Thanks for putting these together.

James Gurney said...

Glad you all liked it.

Daroo, yes, I added the projector sound, because it didn't seem right without it. I wondered the same thing you did: why the ink line seemed to be missing when he went in with the umber washin. Maybe an exposure thing.

Maxwest, Cornwell and Reilly were really close, by all accounts. In those days the cameras and lights would have been pretty obtrusive.

Brenno, there's just a bit more, but most of the rest really suffers from generation losses in the media transfers: film to VHS to digital, with serious exposure losses. I don't think any release would be commercially viable, unless someone could find the masters. I'll try to put more out there, but it might be a while.

Andy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy said...

This felt to me like a pilot for a Gurney Journey PBS series. If only that were true..

Logan Maxwell Hagege said...

Great footage. Is there any additional footage out there or was that all of it? Was that edited down?

Angresano said...

Great Blog James!! Years ago I acquired this very same tape more or less silent but ohhh how instructional! The imagination balanced by nature (the model) and back to the imagination lighting color design. Also Harvey Dunn in very rare footage at his Tenafly NJ studio home was featured as well .... a great artistic SHARE thank you.

Le_fish said...

Big thank you for sharing both the Dunn and Cornwell clips!!

Humza Khan said...

Thanks for this helpful post!

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www.humzakhan.blogspot.com

Paul Hassett said...

I'm just wondering what's keeping you from uploading the full footage?

Thanks!
Paul

James Gurney said...

Paul, it just runs too long, longer than the YouTube limit. I've edited it down and sped up very slow long holds on each stage.

Paul Hassett said...

http://www.stevenkloepfer.com/

Steven Kloepfer, showed me and others the full footage of this film. He stated he wouldn't put this on the internet out of fear of copyright laws, but Kloepfer is an Illustration History Instructor at Academy of Art in San Francisco. He may know something about this archival footage.

James Gurney said...

Paul, whether or not there are people who want to claim copyright on this material, it was clearly stated by Reilly himself that he intended for the films to be available for free to his fellow artists. (Please see the comments after the Harvey Dunn post). I believe Mr. Reilly would have been very eager to see these films on YouTube.

In any event, my presentation of the material is covered by the U.S. copyright law's .
fair use provision post), since it is offered for comment and learning.

I want to mention that I have nothing to gain financially from the presentation, and have turned down YouTube's invitation monetizing the posts.

Rob Howard said...

It was generous of you to post this
...RH

David Apatoff said...

Like Eric, I was intrigued by your pointing out that Cornwell flicks his brush upward after painting a stroke. I have seen this in other painters, and we also see it in great musicians. When Glen Gould plays a Beethoven piano concerto, his hands leap back from the keyboard as if it is a hot stove after he has completed a passage (even if the passage itself was slow and delicate). It almost seems as if, after a moment of careful control and focus, the artist needs to put a punctuation mark on it, and cleanse their thinking so they can approach the next part with a fresh mind.

I join the other commenters in thanking you for putting together this fascinating piece of history.