‘Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle’ was an exhibition I was lucky enough to visit whilst I was in San Francisco in 2017. The aforementioned exhibition was held at the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall of The Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio of San Francisco, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Eyvind Earle, Concept painting, c. 1950, Sleeping Beauty (1959)
The original retrospective gloriously showcased the life and work of Eyvind Earle. Earle is best known as the lead stylist for Walt Disney’s classic feature Sleeping Beauty (1959) and for concept art that shaped such beloved animated film favourites as Lady and the Tramp (1955) and Peter Pan (1953).
Concept painting, c. 1959 Sleeping Beauty (1959)
“I consider my six or seven years at Disney the greatest art school in the whole world, because I worked hard and fast with the very, very best men in the industry.” – Eyvind Earle
Layout artist McLaren Stewart, Walt Disney, and Eyvind Earle at The Walt Disney Studios during production for Sleeping Beauty, c. 1959 photo: Courtesy of Eyvind Earle Publishing, LLC
The museum retrospective features more than 250 works, including intricate thumbnail concept paintings for Lady and the Tramp and evocative large-scale concept artworks for Sleeping Beauty. Alongside Earle’s work for The Walt Disney Studios is an extensive showcase of his fine art, including elaborate and lush landscapes, unique scratchboards, rare examples of sculpture, companion poetry, and commercial illustrations.
Concept paintings, c. 1959 Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Earle’s non-Disney related work took me by surprise. Graphic but mystical, vibrant yet enigmatic, Earle’s truly unique & visually arresting work is a treasure trove of subtle and shimmering contradictions. Earle’s oeuvre never fails to please the eye and engage the imagination.
Eyvind Earle, A Touch of Magic, serigraph, 22″ x 30″
Eyvind Earle, The Shadows Deepen, Oil on Masonite, 24″ x30″
Eyvind Earle, Ancient Forest, 1989, oil on masonite, 24″ x36″
Earle painted truly dazzling oil works of the natural world, capturing the rolling hills, lacy and voluminous trees, and crashing blue waves of California in a nearly transcendental light. On closer inspection of Earle’s paintings, it is clear his deceptively simplistic use of brushstrokes, dots & lines in combination with a bold usage of black is done so in an incredibly exacting manner.
Eyvind Earle, Alamo Pintado, serigraph, 8″ X 10″
Eyvind Earle, A Sounding of Surf, serigraph, 24″ x 36″
While Earle’s brushstrokes can be seen to share commonalities with the Impressionists use of a brush, Earle’s work does not have the spontanaeity of painters such as Monet & Renoir. Earle’s work is exacting & precise, almost scientific in its implementation & effectiveness. What is most interesting about this museum retrospective is seeing Earle finding his artistic style, & then exploiting it to its full potential.
Concept painting for Lady and The Tramp, 1955, by Eyvind Earle
A moving and lyrical writer, he often accompanied his mesmerizing landscapes with equally meditative and intriguing poems. For those of you who missed seeing the exhibition, I highly recommend the book from this exhibition to lovers of Fine Art, Disney History, and the film Sleeping Beauty.
As I mentioned above, I feel extremely grateful to have seen this exhibition & be exposed to Eyvind Earle’s work. It was a very inspiring day spent at the museum, & looking back at photos of his work immediately stirs those same feelings of inspiration in me as I felt on the day I stood in awe of this mans work.