The Art of Eyvind Earle at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Originally published in the Marina Times San Francisco in May 2017

From May 18th through January 8, 2018, The Walt Disney Family Museum presents Awakening Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle. Best known as the lead stylist for Walt Disney’s classic film Sleeping Beauty (1959) and for concept art that shaped Disney favorites Lady and the Tramp (1955) and Peter Pan (1953), this exhibit explores his traditional fine art, commercial design and filmmaking endeavors in the first complete retrospective of his life’s work.

Born in New York City in 1916, Earle lead an adventurous and prolific artist’s life. At the age of 11, his father challenged him to read 50 pages of a book or paint a picture every day; Earle chose both. Earle’s productivity continued while he traveled with his father through Mexico and France over a period of years during which he developed his trademark simplicity and directness in his art. Earle began regularly exhibiting his paintings, influenced by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Norman Rockwell and Georgia O’Keefe, at the Charles Morgan Gallery in New York City.

During the Great Depression Earle worked as a sketch artist for United Artists (UA). He also bicycled across the country from Hollywood to New York in 1937, selling his watercolors along the way. Earle, after repeatedly applying to work at Walt Disney Studios, finally joined the Disney crew in 1951 as an assistant background painter, ultimately advancing to color stylist for Sleeping Beauty (1959). Reflecting on his time at the Walt Disney Studios, Earle once said, “I consider my six or seven years at Disney the greatest art school in the whole world, because I worked hard and fast with the very, very best men in the industry.” In 1961, Earle started his own animation company, Eyvind Earle Productions, Inc. His company developed a reputation for its distinctive trademarks and logos, film trailers, advertisements and television commercials.

In 1966, Earle returned to painting his alluring, dreamlike canvases full-time. In 2015, the Walt Disney Company gave the artist a posthumous award, the prestigious Disney Legend Award, for his work on Sleeping Beauty and his contributions to animation.

“Eyvind was an honest and humble man, yet he was constantly challenging himself to push the boundaries of his own artistry with this enduring passion to explore, create and innovate,” said one of the show’s curators Ioan Szasz, who began working with the artist in 1988. “Whether it was through a modest snowy landscape for a Christmas card or a more intricate background concept for films like Sleeping Beauty, Earle brought magic to everything he touched.”

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