Lights, camera, action: Hollywood backdrop art on display

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Producer and director Thomas Robsahm. Photo courtesy of Thomas Robsahm

In the days before computer-generated graphics (CGI), the backdrop provided scope for many films – the canvas on which new countries, environments, or imaginary worlds could be played.

The backdrop is either a large photographic support or a painting representing the background of a scene, used in filmmaking. It can be a view seen from outside a window, a landscape, mountains, etc. Backdrops were normally painted directly onto flats (composed of plywood or fabric).

For photographic backdrops, these were often large curved backdrops, as could be used to represent the sky. These are known as cyclorama.

Considered by most to be important but long forgotten, many sets have been destroyed or recycled. However, a number of them remain and they are an innovative art form, which has not been explored in greater detail before.

The world premiere of a series of massive hollywood backgrounds take “large-scale” and “immersive” takes place in April 2022 in Florida, USA

The exhibition features a series of rarely seen masterpieces that, at the time of construction, were never intended to be seen by the public in this way. For decades, these expressive art forms were kept secret by Hollywood studios, intended only for the eye of the camera lens and not for the human eye.

Works on display include scenes from Mount Rushmore, Ben-Hur’s Rome, the Von Trapp family’s Austrian Alps, and street views that made Gene Kelly’s iconic Parisian street dance possible.

Along with the art exhibit, many backdrop treasures were rescued from the studios and saved from forever loss by a group of Hollywood insiders, including curators Thomas A. Walsh and Karen L. Maness, who led the rescue efforts.

This exhibition will provide a fully immersive experience with interactive video reels created by some of Hollywood’s leading digital designers. Soundscapes designed especially for this show will surround visitors with atmospheric sound effects tied to classic films and those giant panoramic views.

According to film critic Leonard Maltin“This exhibition of movie sets is not to be missed… These monumental paintings have been essential to cinema for almost a century, and were never intended to be seen by the public with the naked eye. Having this rare opportunity to experience these American masterpieces up close is long overdue.

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop opened April 20 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. .com

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