A visitor to Cecil B. DeMille's office at Paramount Studios in the 1930s would have found the famed director's walls covered with sketches for films, many by Dan Sayre Groesbeck. The exhibition presents more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints and film visualizations by this self-taught artist whose extraordinary talent helped Hollywood greats such as DeMille envision their movies.
DeMille had discovered the artist's remarkable talent for 'visualizing' a dramatic scene and setting it down in detailed sketches and drawings while working on his epic film The Ten Commandments (1923). By 1926 DeMille was using Groesbeck's sketches of costumes and characters for the casting of Volga Boatman. This artistic collaboration is reflected in the great romantic, Biblical, and historical films made by DeMille over the next 20 years--King of Kings, The Buccaneer, Union Pacific, Reap the Wild Wind, Unconquered, Samson and Delilah--in the thousands of drawings and watercolors done by the prolific Groesbeck.
California born (1879), and self educated Groesbeck learned his skills as a newspaper, magazine, and book illustrator during the golden years of American illustration when the work of such artists as N.C.Wyeth and Howard Pyle animated famous tales with memorable images of romance, history, and adventure. Their vivid pictures were a major form of entertainment -- before movies and television -- and the pictorial tradition they established at the turn of the century influenced the pioneering new medium of film by the 1920s.
After returning from brief service with the Canadian forces in Russia, Groesbeck established himself as a successful painter and printmaker, exhibiting in major Los Angeles galleries beginning in 1919. His Russian subjects--Cossacks, picturesque peasants, exotic markets and churches--were extremely popular. They apparently caught the attention of DeMille who had emerged as a leading - more -
2 – Destined for Hollwood: The Art of Dan Sayre Groesbeck at SBMA
Hollywood figure after the success of The Ten Commandments. He credits Groesbeck's abilities and important contribution to his films in his Autobiography: He always knew what I wanted and he could capture character and drama in a few strokes of his brush, while his finished drawings…are worthy of a museum.
Unlike that of many Hollywood artists, an extensive archive of Groesbeck's work--paintings, prints, drawings, and film visualization sketches--has been preserved in private and public collections. Brigham Young University’s Film Archive houses hundreds of works by the artist and many others are in the collection of the Cecil B. DeMille Foundation. These include small preliminary sketches showing variant poses for a scene, story-board sequences for scenes, sketches to develop ideas for each individual character in a film, fully developed watercolors of many films scenes, and final after-production watercolors used for exhibition in conjunction with premier promotions--probably the most extensive representation of such work ever assembled in a museum exhibition.
Groesbeck's early development and career is represented by many examples of his illustrational drawings; paintings, watercolors, etchings, and monotypes; and documentation for his work as a muralist. Groesbeck created scenes from early California history in his murals for the Del Monte Hotel, Monterey (1925) and the vast panoramas in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse (1929) which trace California history from the arrival of Rodriquez Cabrillo in 1542 to the coming of John C. Fremont over the San Marcos Pass in 1846. These bravura larger-than-life scenes mark the end of a long tradition of romantic historical murals in California and are a perennial favorite of visitors.
This artist, once a prominent figure in the California art world, is virtually unknown today and, like many artists who continued to work in a realistic style after the advent of 20th century modernist art movements, his work has not been seriously studied. Yet, as this exhibition clearly demonstrates, Groesbeck was a pivotal figure in translating the great pictorial tradition of American illustration from the pages of books and magazines to the new medium of film. His brilliantly rendered sketches lie behind the memorable film scenes of one of Hollywood's most famous directors.
This retrospective of Dan Sayre Groesbeck is presented at the SBMA in conjunction with Every Picture a Story: American Illustration from the Collection of the Delaware Art Museum which surveys work by the major figures from the golden age of illustration.
Destined for Hollywood: The Art of Dan Sayre Groesbeck has been made possible in part by the generous support of
The Cecil B. DeMille Foundation
Fidelity National Title
Larry and Astrid Hammett