If you’ve ever seen an Alien landscape, downtown New York city, or a busy airport in a film, chances are you were tricked. Since we can’t actually visit Alien planets and airports and city’s are often further away than producers would like to let the crew travel to get the shot; there have always been Matte paintings.
Long before CGI and Green screen technology became readily available, Matte paintings have been used to tell the story and set a location in Cinema and on TV. From as far back as early Chaplin films to the more recent I Am Legend; these paintings of Cityscape’s and various locales provide directors and their audiences with a look that is just as real as actually being there. Never seen one up close?Â Well LA, here’s your chance. From now until May 31st, The Linwood Dunn Theater (1313 Vine St in Hollywood) has some of these great masterpiece on display for free viewing to the public. Open Saturdays only from noon till 6, Playing God: The Art and Artist of Matte Painting has featured artwork from such great films like Spartacus, The Wizard of Oz, and North by Northwest.
Very rarely do you get the chance to see something like this up close and personal. The amount of time and dedication it takes to create such scenes can range from a few days to a year. With technology moving forward so rapidly in the entertainment industry this is definitely a dying art. That having been said, you owe it to yourself to check out how cool this old school method of creating background is.
Everything from an artist actual workstation, to the skylines that needed to be copied can be seen here. Oscar winners, along with multiple biographies of those who continue to work and those have passed away in the entertainment industry, are available to view. 20th Century Fox along with many other studios in the 1950’s, had entire departments devoted to this craft alone. Nowadays you’re more likely to see Matte paintings used on TV for background specific locations on your favorite sitcoms; but more often then not they came out of a giant printer instead of an artist’s hand.
Also on display are some very nostalgic original movie posters. Some dating back to the 1930’s. Such great stars from the past including Sophia Loren, John Barrymore, Veronica Lake, and even Tom and Jerry are all here. It’s amazing to see just how talented some of these artist were. Creating everything from Nickelodeon posters to giant size replicas of the Old west, and even your favorite scene from Star Wars.
Think you have what it takes to spot a Matte Painting? Go visit the artwork, then after your done head on over to the Arclight Theaters which is right down the street. Pick any one of the new releases, say Iron Man. Then see if you can make out a real background, or is it just a Matte? One things for sure, the entertainment industry would not be where it is today without these often under-appreciated works of art.