It’s a celebration of cinematic forgery.
A new display of vintage Florida film backgrounds has cinephiles clambering up Mount Rushmore with Cary Grant and looking out at Ancient Rome with Charlton Heston – all in one afternoon.
The Boca Raton Museum’s “Art of the Hollwood Backdrop” presents 22 immense canvases of classics such as “North by Northwest”, “The Sound of Music” and “Ben Hur” that were rescued from a musty basement of MGM Studios.
“The exhibit celebrates Hollywood’s masters of illusion and perspective, who have thus far received little recognition for their talent or applause for their vital role in making movie magic,” the museum said on its site.
The wallpapers, which are on loan from the University of Texas at Austin, were used in films from 1938 to 1968, while some are not linked to specific films.
Curators Karen Maness and Thomas Walsh also searched for the forgotten artists behind each piece.
The duo spent hours sifting through oral histories and other records and were able to identify about a dozen of the canvas makers.
Maness, a professor at the University of Texas, wrote a book on the history of film backgrounds in 2016 and hosted a similar exhibit at the college.
That exhibit regularly sold out, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with attendees marveling at the giant canvas of Mount Rushmore featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic thriller.
“I wear it with love for painting, but also as an advocate for these artists to help them be seen in history. They deserve to be recognized and honored,” Maness told the Palm Beach Post.
Irvin Lippmann, head of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, reached out to Maness to take the pieces to South Florida.
While modern filmmakers often rely on CGI to immerse viewers, Lippmann said the backdrop makers of yesteryear had to master optical magic without the help of technology.
“These are artists who understand the art of illusion,” he told the outlet.