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Discover a Disney legend's paintings in a Glendale cemetery

Discover a Disney legend's paintings in a Glendale cemetery
Photograph: Courtesy Eyvind Earle Publishing

A cemetery seems an unlikely location for an exhibition of bright artwork bursting with life. But there's something about Forest Lawn Glendale, with its rolling green hills and replica European churches, that lends itself to the fairy tale-like landscapes of Eyvind Earle.

Pastoral and slightly fantastical settings would become Earle's go-to subject. An early career in realistic watercolors gave way to impressionistic pieces and a string of one-man gallery shows, which was enough to get him noticed by the Walt Disney Studios in the 1950s. It was there that he created the memorably dreamy, medieval backdrops for Sleeping Beauty's CinemaScope-sized kingdom.

The Forest Lawn Museum has assembled those works and others in its just-opened Eyvind Earle: An Exhibit of a Disney Legend. The show brings together 65 works from the late artist, including three background paintings from Sleeping Beauty. The free exhibition runs through the end of the year.

Where Eagles Fly, 1993. Eyvind Earle.

Photograph: Courtesy Earle Family Trust

 

 

 

Paradise, 1973. Eyvind Earle.

Photograph: Courtesy Earle Family Trust

 

Earle's peaceful settings and flattened dimensions recall classical landscapes, but his bold color blocks could've only come from a mid-century eye. The three Sleeping Beauty backgrounds in the exhibition are instantly recognizable to anyone who's seen the 1959 Disney movie, though here you can take a nose-to-the-glass look at their thickets of slender tree trunks and dramatic dots of light. As iconic as those may be, the exhibition's most impressive pieces are Earle's post-Disney paintings. The artist continued to work into his '80s, and the gallery draws primarily from striking scenes created late in his career, all coated with a heavy lacquer that heightens both color and clarity. 

The exhibition mostly lets the paintings do the talking, with the exception of a didactic about Earle's childhood—a surreal tale of paternal kidnapping and a cross-country bike ride—and a video loop near the museum's entrance. That video is worth a watch; Earle sits at his drafting table and sketches in broad brush strokes that transition to strong, decisive lines and delicate, impossibly small details. He insists he only draws from memory, which makes the process seem that much more magical and effortless.

Blazing Glory, 1989. Eyvind Earle.

Photograph: Courtesy Earle Family Trust

 

 

 

Purple Fog, 1998. Eyvind Earle.

Photograph: Courtesy Eyvind Earle Publishing

 

Earle's storybook style has become such an aspiration for contemporary animators and illustrators that it's hard to believe he simply conjured his scenes out of thin air. Like all good fairy tales, his artwork and legacy have just the right balance of believability and whimsicality.  

Eyvind Earle: An Exhibit of a Disney Legend runs at the Forest Lawn Museum until January 1, 2017. Tue-Sun, 10am-5pm. Free.

 

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