The American-born Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) is one of the most influential figures in cinema history. In a succession of innovative, effects-laden movies, from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms 1952 to Clash of the Titans 1981, Harryhausen created fantastic worlds and creatures that have inspired generations. He is acknowledged as the master of stop-motion animation techniques, involving models being moved and filmed one frame at a time to create the illusion of movement.
Harryhausen attended art classes as a young man, and readily acknowledged his debt to earlier painters and illustrators. The epic scenery and towering architecture of 19th century artists Gustave Doré, and John Martin were especially important to him, and he collected prints and paintings by both artists. As Harryhausen states:
Many artists have directly and indirectly affected and influenced my work, but none more so than Gustave Doré, Charles Knight and John Martin, all primarily painters of fantasy subjects. Throughout my films there are tributes to these three men.
Together with the prehistoric scenes of the American artist Charles R. Knight, whose murals at the Los Angeles County Museum Harryhausen visited as a child, these images fuelled his imagination throughout his career. The work of such artists was often dismissed by critics as too populist – and Harryhausen felt that his own films faced a similar fate.
The drawings and paintings of Doré, Martin, Gandy and Knight showed me that, given the skills and the talent, it was possible to put on paper almost any scenario you could imagine.
Throughout the display, Ray Harryhausen’s words are quoted from the books he wrote An Animated Life 2003 and The Art of Ray Harryhausen 2005.
Curated by Martin Myrone in collaboration with The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation (Charity Number SC001419)