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How to put yourself in an iconic Hollywood movie

Movie backdrops exhibit set to open at Boca Raton Museum of Art
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Posted at 2:31 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 09:16:13-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Hollywood's iconic larger-than-life scenic backdrops are going to be on display at an exhibit opening at the Boca Raton Museum of Art on Wednesday.

"The 22 backdrops we have... all created by MGM for great movies from the 30s to the 60s," said Irvin Lippman, Executive Director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

The oversized paintings of Hollywood's most iconic locations are perfectly preserved.

"They were rolled up and hidden in plain sight," said Karen L. Maness, who is the co-curator of the 'Art of the Hollywood Backdrop' exhibit.

The well-known scenes are from some of the biggest blockbusters.

"Sound of Music, Singing in the Rain, some of the largest scenic paintings ever made," Lippman said.

"I'm in front of Salzburg, one of my favorite places," said Thomas A. Walsh, Co-Curator of the 'Art of the Hollywood Backdrop,' as he stood in front of the Alps from where the hills were alive.

"When I first saw this painting, it was like seeing an old friend," said Maness.

Row Boat scene from The Sound of Music

"How can you not want to sit on the sofa? Where Donald O'Connor sang make you laugh in Singing in the Rain, or Mount Rushmore which is 90 feet wide. 30 feet high... or the Rome of Ben Hur," Lippman said.

Make 'Em Laugh - Singing in the Rain

Mount Rushmore Scene - North by Northwest

Walsh is the former president of The Art Directors Guild. He is ambitious about preserving Hollywood's artistic past from a group of scenic artists who painted backdrops but never appeared when the credits rolled.

"It was insulting you know. It was all work for hire. So they knew what they were doing. They knew that was the deal," said Walsh.

"I'm so honored to help these artists be seen," said Maness.

The curators want to make sure skills and techniques of the past are not lost to the future.

"Because what these [scenic] artists have to teach artists is critical and is almost lost to a contemporary generation who hasn't learned how to paint and draw from observation," Maness said.

"I'm hoping that this encourages the next generation of artists to follow in the footsteps of the masters from before little time machines," said Walsh.

"I feel like I'm a conduit from this old generation, especially through my Gen-X lens and eyes and hands and skill set to the next generation because they should be digitally and analog fluid they need to be to be successful without one you'll always be lacking," said Maness.

"We were very concerned about losing the collective memory of being a scenic artist," Walsh said.

They hope fans will get creative with their social media photos.

"This place is going to be Instagram heaven," said Maness. "[You could go to] Vienna you could go to Rome, you could be in Paris. You could be at the Westminster Abbey. You can be at Mount Rushmore," said Maness.

The 'Art of the Hollywood Backdrop' exhibit opens to the public on April 20 and runs through Jan. 22.